Tender Foundation founder Jaycina Almond and Jahira Arias-Romo.

Jahira Arias-Romo was a single mother with a five-month-old baby when she lost her job at a trucking company in May due to COVID-19 cuts.

“That was basically my entire financial line at the moment,” she said. “That meant I didn’t have any sort of income coming in.”

While the Riverdale resident worked on getting public assistance, she was faced with some urgent needs. Diapers topped the list.

Searching online for help, she ran across The Tender Foundation, a group that helps mothers shift from crisis mode to stabilization with immediate “gap assistance” and connection to long-term resources.

To date, the fledgling Atlanta nonprofit has helped keep 60 families in their homes with rent assistance, paid 36 utility bills, and given grocery store gift cards to 39 mothers.

It serves up aid with a hefty side of tender loving care, starting  with the soothing tone of its website – part of what the foundation calls its “safe and compassionate space.”

Arias-Romo felt relief the moment she logged on to the site.

“The first thing I saw was something like ‘Do you need diapers and wipes?’ I was like ‘Oh, thank God,’” she said.

Within two days she met the organization’s founder to pick up a month’s supply of diapers for her daughter Paige, bigger diapers for down the road, and more diapers for a relative who was also in need.

The donation was a huge deal for Arias-Romo.

“It meant one less headache for me. It was such a relief,” she said.

It also meant a lot to her that The Tender Foundation’s founder, Jaycina Almond, is a mother, too. But not only is she a mom, Almond understands the financial struggle. She’s lived it herself.

Jaycina Almond and her daughter Syx.

It all began with a bassinet

Almond is a full-time model and single mom who’s worked internationally and has 50,000 followers on Instagram. But just a few years ago, her life was very different.

When her daughter, Syx, was born in 2017, Almond was a struggling 21-year-old enrolled in the state’s health insurance program for low-income pregnant women.

She left DeKalb Medical Center with more than her baby. She was given a bassinet. She didn’t know who left it for her, but the bassinet inspired her.

“I thought it was super intentional and thoughtful,” she said.

Enamored with the pregnancy/motherhood experience, Almond came up with the idea of selling items for expectant mothers through a subscription box service called Tender. With every order, diapers and wipes would be donated to a local mother.

Her modeling career was taking off and just as she was about to launch her business, Tender began to take a turn.

She realized she didn’t care about selling anything. “All I really cared about was how I was going to get those diapers and wipes to our moms,” Almond said.

While she was in New York in September 2019 for Fashion Week she chatted with a Lyft driver who told her about an organization she runs that supports low-income moms in Brooklyn with deliveries of car seats and strollers.

Almond took that interaction as a sign she was on the right path. She restructured, gathered a team of volunteers, and launched The Tender Foundation in January.

Emily Strongwater and daughter Archie.

It takes a village

Almond currently does all of the foundation’s intake, reading about the mothers’ needs and reassuring them that help is on the way.

“It’s heavy work because you wish you could change everything for everybody, but there’s also gratitude that … we’re able to do the work,” Almond said.

Emily Strongwater, a criminal defense attorney who represents many indigent defendants, was searching for help for one of her clients when she found The Tender Foundation online.

Grateful for the nonprofit’s assistance, the Midtown area resident later participated in the foundation’s “It Takes A Village” family and friends fundraiser in August that netted $35,000.

Since then, Strongwater – who is mom to Archer, a soon-to-be 4-year-old girl who prefers to go by “Archie” – has joined The Tender Foundation’s board of directors.

“Personally, I really struggled with the transition to motherhood and I had every resource available. I had health care. I had my parents 20 minutes away. I had paid maternity leave, and it was still incredibly challenging,” Strongwater said. “It changed my perspective on just how much support mothers need.”

She calls Almond a “true believer,” who deeply believes that the community can’t thrive unless its mothers are thriving.

“There’s a lot of excitement right now about politics changing, but I think what we have to remember is that an election’s not going to save us and politicians are not going to save us,” Strongwater said. “We really need to work together as a community, and I think that’s Tender’s main philosophy. We just happen to do that by focusing on the moms.”

Learn more about this organization at thetenderfoundation.com

Donna Williams Lewis

Donna Williams Lewis a freelance writer based in Atlanta. She previously worked as an editor and journalist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.