The model and Tender Foundation creator uses soulcare to show up for others.
– KEYS SOULCARE
One of the coolest parts about getting to know someone who is making a difference in this world is learning the heart of their “why’s” and “how’s.” Why do they embrace community-mindedness over self-preservation? How do they channel creativity and vulnerability to inspire change that’s bigger than themselves? And, how do they make this all work while taking care of themselves?
Today, we’re thrilled to share a convo with Tender Foundation founder Jaycina Almond, someone who’s done all this and more while nurturing a toddler and an in-demand modeling career. Read on for our talk about all of her roles and the heartfelt work that ties them together so beautifully.
Who are you and what do you do?
Such a loaded question! I’m a mom first. I feel like that’s always my most important job title. I model. I’m signed in New York, L.A., and here in Atlanta. And, I’m the founding executive director of Tender, which bridges the financial gap and provides a safety net for single moms living on the margins in Atlanta.
Through our core family stabilization programming, we provide financial assistance with rent, utilities, grocery store gift cards, and a diaper bank. We’re also starting to explore more long-term programming that plays with the idea of a guaranteed income. We’re still fleshing that out, but that is something on the horizon.
What inspired you to start Tender?
My original idea for Tender was a subscription box service tailored to each trimester of pregnancy; basically a self-care toolkit box delivered at the beginning of the first through fourth trimesters. Natural ginger lollipops, anti-nausea tea, and stuff like that. For every box that we sold, we would provide diapers and wipes to a mom here in Atlanta.
That was ready to launch. All I had to do was publish and roll out a marketing plan. But, I realized that I didn’t care enough to sell anything a year into it! My friends and people I was working with were excited… but I had to be honest with myself and with everybody around me.
I [was] spending all of my time figuring out the logistics of what we are doing with these diapers and wipes. I was passionate about the give-back aspect, [so] I said, “Let me focus on that, because that’s where my passion is.”
It turned into a deep dive of what we could do. What services could we offer? How could we restructure [it] into a nonprofit? I think I made the decision in September 2019 to really follow through, and we launched in January 2020.
When you’re in alignment with your purpose, and you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, the gears start moving!
Services like rideshare credits seem so intuitive and specific to mothers. How do you decide to offer them?
It’s really important when you’re doing community-based work to listen to the community you’re serving. How will a mom get to work? How will she actually go to the grocery store to shop for her family? That’s what we were hearing from our moms. When we offer any services with our moms, they get an anonymous survey where we ask open-ended questions about where we can improve — and take them into consideration when figuring out what we’ll do next.
What other mom-driven and community-driven orgs inspire you?
I really like Hike Clerb out in L.A. with Evelyn Escobar, who’s a new mom. They’re basically reclaiming the outdoor space for Black and Brown folks that we don’t necessarily see ourselves in. I always shout out Divine Love Givers in Brooklyn. She’s the epitome of mutual aid and very grassroots — providing things from fish fry plates to diapers and cribs. I also really love Umi Feeds here in Atlanta; another mom who is really just feeding our city. And she’s doing plant-based healthy [foods] and she’s doing it with intention and dignity.
What are some of your favorite soul care rituals?
I like to wake up pretty early. It’s important. My day is going to get off on the best foot if I wake up at 6:00 a.m. before my kid wakes up and I have time to drink my tea, start quiet, and rise up. I need that. If I wake up at 8:00 a.m. and my kid’s going to be up, I have to jump right into being a mom, and I don’t have the space to just exist.
Next is making sure I do my nightly skincare routine. My daughter and I still co-sleep. We read a couple of books and it’s so easy to just lay down next to her. It’s such a tricky time because you’re like, Wait, I’m relaxing myself. And I still have things to do. So, forcing myself after bedtime to get up and once again just do something for me.
What has motherhood taught you about vulnerability?
Motherhood has taught me that you have to be vulnerable. That’s something I still struggle with. I have made it a point journeying into motherhood to allow myself to be human in front of my daughter, and to allow myself to be vulnerable with her in an age-appropriate manner. If I’m sad, I’m sad. If I’m crying, I’m crying [and telling her,] “Mommy’s feeling this.”
That has been freeing. Personally, I didn’t see my mom as a human with outside desires and wishes and hobbies until I became a mom. My mom just took care of me, while working two or three jobs, and I just looked back and I don’t know how she did that.
Being vulnerable with other people has been a harder thing for me; I think it comes with a little bit of outside shame and stigma [surrounding] being a young mom at 20. You’re like, No, I’m going to prove everybody wrong. I can do this. I still struggle with being vulnerable enough to ask for help. But, I’ve been trying to get better. There [are] so many times [when] I wait until the last minute. I wait until my breaking point and I’m crying. And everybody’s like, “You have to tell us!” When you’re the only one with a kid in your friend group, it’s hard for people to understand because they don’t have the same experience. But, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to help you.
What has motherhood taught you about your own power?
Motherhood has taught me that a lot of times we’re willing to overextend ourselves and a lot of times that’s prideful. Like, I pour 110% into my kid and that’s my power. So there’s a tug of war between owning your power in motherhood and owning being soft and vulnerable. I think I’m still learning what power really means within a liberated, Black feminist lens.
Why does care for mothers mean care for us all, ultimately?
Once women are free, everybody’s free. Moms are raising the next generation, the future people who are going to be living in this world, the future leaders, [and] the future people who are going to be out working, interacting. Our world becomes a better place if they are cared for and supported.
Did our talk with Jaycina spark new thoughts or reflections on power, vulnerability, or community? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.