ATLANTA—Almost 40 years ago, Anna Foote (B.I.S., ‘83) answered the phone at the reception desk for the Council for Battered Women and found herself plunged into a crisis.
The woman at the other end of the line was crying hysterically. She said she was crouched down in a phone booth. Her abusive husband of 30 years had a gun and was trying to kill her.
Foote, a volunteer, knew she couldn’t put the woman on hold. From her seat at the front desk, she screamed for help. A counselor responded, even getting into her car to go search for the woman in distress.
“I felt like I was that woman’s lifeline,” said Foote, who was a 20-year-old Georgia State student at the time. “I felt like it was just the two of us in this moment of complete crisis. It was horrifying.
“That was the moment I realized that horrible things happen to people who do not have a lot of resources. I also realized how important community-based organizations and nonprofit organizations were.”
Foote, who focused her studies on the newly formed Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies program at Georgia State, said the experience also helped her understand that she couldn’t handle the emotional toll of being on the front lines of delivering social services. Instead, she decided to look for other ways to use her resources, privilege, and influence to make a difference.
Today, Foote is the Southeastern Regional Director for Inclusiv, a nonprofit organization that supports community development credit unions across the US with a mission of serving low- and moderate-income people. She focuses a lot of her time in communities on Atlanta’s westside.
In April 2017, Inclusiv launched the On the Rise Financial Center to work with residents in Atlanta’s Vine City, English Avenue and Castleberry Hill communities. Foote oversees the On the Rise Financial Center which helps clients learn financial survival skills and get access to financial resources that are lacking in these communities of color and severe economic inequality.
Foote said her work now is more important than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to inflict disproportionate illness, death and economic harm on minority and lower-income communities. At the start of the pandemic, the center averaged 30 clients a month. That average has grown to more than 60 per month due to the virus, Foote said. “And I think it will double again before the end of this year.”
“We’re trying to provide financial resources, financial education and one-on-one financial coaching,” Foote said. “We want to help them become financially stable and ultimately move into financial resilience, so that no matter what happens, they can be resilient through times of emergency.”
Foote said On the Rise also had to adjust due to COVID-19. On March 12, Foote sent her entire staff home out of concern for their health and well-being.
“We had to make calls to get in touch with all 600 of our clients to run assessments and see how they were affected. You can’t control things like (COVID-19). But we’re making sure that the people we work with have savings and assets so they can weather the storm and help them build intergenerational wealth,” Foote said.
Foote said her organization is trying to prepare their clients for the long term, with some forecasts saying that unemployment is likely to remain over 10 percent nationally at the end of 2020.
“We know that in minority communities, that number could likely be doubled. We are working to reach our clients and see what resources they need,” she said. “There’s going to be a heavy economic tidal wave coming and we have at least two years of work to make sure our clients feel the way they did six months ago.”
Foote said her parents instilled in her a strong sense of giving back to the community. Her mother also worked in churches helping set up cooperative child care centers for women living in poverty. Her father was an English professor at Georgia Tech who spoke out against racism and xenophobia.
For decades, Foote has committed herself to helping underserved communities. She has served on 20 nonprofit boards and started two nonprofits in the last three years dedicated to supporting women running for public office. “If women aren’t at the table, then they are on the menu,” Foote says.
Foote is also a Board Chair of the Little 5 Points Community Improvement District in Atlanta and has served as executive deputy director of HOPE Atlanta, one of the largest providers of homelessness services in the metro-Atlanta area.
“I love trying to help communities by using my expertise in fundraising and finance to help nonprofits,” she said. “I’m not built for doing the one life at a time approach, but I can use my skills, access and my white privilege to be able to advance the work of helping these communities.”
— Story by Horace Holloman. Photo by Melanie Fan