2022 Sue Wieland Embracing Possibility Award Honorees

The Sue Wieland Embracing Possibility Award is a special grant of $20,000 given annually to one of our grantee partner organizations. The selected organization demonstrates an outstanding ability to make a significant impact in the lives of women and girls through their ongoing work and by using an example of one individual that the organization sees as a shining example of their program.

The 2022 Sue Wieland Embracing Possibility Award winner is Girls Inc. of Greater Atlanta and the shining example is Jalisa Heard.

Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through direct service and advocacy. Their comprehensive approach to whole-child development equips youth to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

Girls Inc. of Greater Atlanta strives to create a warm, fun and nurturing environment where youth engage in programs such as STEM, Girl Empowerment, Literacy, Healthy Living, Leadership and Advocacy through their after-school program, summer camps, workshops and other events throughout the year such as Mother-Daughter Summit, the Thanksgiving Dinner for transient families, Brunch with Santa, and much more. Their camps include Business & Entrepreneurship, STEM, Dance, Sports, Art, Wellness, Literacy, Outdoor Adventures, Special Events, and more! Girls Inc. also provides wellness and Social Emotional Learning programs for parents through parent support monthly meetings, individual and family therapeutic services, mentoring, and community outreach efforts.

My story by Jalisa Heard

Jalisa Heard with 3 of her children
Jalisa Heard with 3 of her children

My name is Jalisa Heard, I am a 32-year-old, single mom. I have 5 children, three girls ages 11,9,6 and two boys that are 13 and 7. I left home right at 18 and was with the father of my children, we had a rocky history that included domestic violence which led to me leaving.

I knew at the time that I was not able to support the move financially, but I needed to do what was best for my kids. Initially, I was living with a family friend, who offered us a place to stay but the situation spiraled, and we were no longer welcomed to stay. We have bounced from hotel to hotel for the past year. I have had some challenges with employment due to my background, so it is a strain to pay for the hotel weekly, plus food and transportation.

Girls Inc. has allowed me to provide the girls some fun times and get away from the hotel room because they can’t really play in the room.

I encountered Girls Inc. at Marietta Economy Hotel. One of the drivers of the Girls Inc. van saw me when she was putting out flyers in the front of the hotel. She was very friendly, and we had a conversation all about Girls Inc. and how they could help my girls. She told me about the afterschool programs and the summer camp.  Initially I was apprehensive because I am very protective over my girls. So, I spoke to the girls, and they seemed to like the idea of Girls Inc., it was also a safe way to get the girls to and from school.

I can say my girls have learned a lot from Girls Inc., they have manners, respect, and act like young ladies. The girls really enjoy going and it has helped a lot because I don’t have to worry about them spending so much time in the hotel, they are also having fun and learning. Girls Inc.  has allowed me to provide something I was not able to provide for the girls. If they did not have Girls Inc., they would be stuck in the hotel room, which is not a great environment for anyone let alone kids.

I have referred two families to Girls Inc. because it is such a great program especially for people that may not have the means to send their child to afterschool or a summer program. I share how helpful it is for the girls to have something to look forward to, and how it gives me piece of mind knowing that the girls are in a program and safe.

The people in Girls Inc. are so helpful, they are always looking out for me and the girls, I can’t wait until they have a program that the boys can go to in this area. I would recommend Girls Inc. again and again because the program is good, and the people are so genuine.

In Memory of Sue Wieland

John and the late Sue Wieland
John and the late Sue Wieland

Last year, we lost beloved former AWF Board Member, Sue Wieland. She served on the board from 2000 to 2006 and remained an active supporter and donor to AWF long after her board serviced ended. Sue was known for her generous spirit and big smile and believed passionately in giving back to the community. She is famous for saying, “What you keep you lose and only what you give remains your own.” Thanks to a generous gift from Sue and her husband John in 2006 we annually recognize one of our grantees with the Sue Wieland Embracing Possibility Award.