Welcome, Sandy! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Thank you! I’m very happy to be here. Before coming to NFCC, I served as the executive director of the Atlanta Children’s Shelter for 13 years. I have a law degree and have worked with vulnerable populations for much of my career.
Family is very important to me. I’m married and a mom to four kids: two teenage boys and two girls in college. We live in South Forsyth. My boys are very active in sports, so I spend a lot of my free time at the ball fields cheering them on at their games. As a family, we like to spend time at the beach in the summer and in the mountains in the fall. I’m a big fan of the outdoors and like to stay in motion!
I am a first-generation American and both my parents were born in Cuba. They came to the United States fleeing Castro and seeking a better life. They were very poor and did not speak English however they were very grateful for the opportunity to live a life of freedom. This is one of the reasons that I love NFCC’s mission so much, we are teaching English and GED classes to give those seeking a better quality of life a path to opportunity.
You’ve spent much of your career serving families who are experiencing homelessness. Where does your passion for this come from?
I witnessed through my work at the Atlanta Children’s Shelter how devastating homelessness is to family units, the dignity of single parents, and the future of young children. Children who grow up in poverty and homelessness are more likely than their housed peers to experience developmental delays, experience food insecurity, drop out of high school, experience teen pregnancy and come into contact with the juvenile justice system. I believe that more must be done to prevent underserved families from slipping into poverty, which can be damaging both for the families and their communities.
What attracted you to NFCC?
Primarily, the mission. NFCC’s mission aligns with my passion to serve families. Joining NFCC places me in a position to focus my passion, energy, and skill set on prevention with a team that has excelled in this space for decades.
NFCC is already doing such fantastic work in the community to ease hardship for families in financial stress and to help them create a path forward. With NFCC’s relatively recent addition of the Barbara Duffy Center and overhauls in the pantry and thrift shop, NFCC is poised to increase that impact in the community – serving more and serving better – and I look forward to leading NFCC into the future.
Finally, I have a strong desire to serve families in communities closer to where I live. This area has provided my family with a strong community of friends, teachers, coaches, and more. Joining NFCC provides me with the opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to my family.
How did you shift from the law to the non-profit world? How does your law background help in your current role?
I worked as an attorney with the Child Advocate Office in Dekalb County and saw too many children coming from broken families being victimized and entering the juvenile justice system. I then decided to work as an attorney for the Council of Juvenile Court Judges where I was given the opportunity to see the research and policy that informed laws related to children and families. I decided at that point that I wanted to influence the laws that impact Georgia’s vulnerable families which led me to the Georgia Department of Human Services where I collaborated on legislation with DFCS, Child Support, Mental Health and others.
While at the Capitol, I was able to meet nonprofit leaders and other non-governmental organizations that were informing legislators about the type of reform needed to make vulnerable families stronger. I realized that nonprofits were making a significant impact working directly with families in need and so my desire to lead a nonprofit was planted. I wanted to continue to advocate for families with children so I became the Executive Director of the Atlanta Children’s Shelter helping homeless families with young children reach long-term self-sufficiency. After working so many years on the homeless side of the spectrum, I wanted to impact prevention so I decided to join NFCC.
You’ve had a chance to experience many of NFCC’s programs firsthand– from the food pantry, thrift shop and education classes to our seasonal programs such as senior baskets and Toyland Shop. What has made the biggest impression on you?
Our clients have made by far the biggest impression upon me. I have been deeply moved by their appreciation for the NFCC team and they are beyond grateful for all of the services and assistance provided to them. I believe their gratitude is fueled by the respect, dignity and hope that each person at NFCC imparts to them. We provide families and adults with the tools and opportunity they need to thrive, to be self-sufficient and to contribute to our community. And, this fuels me.