key•stone (noun) : something on which associated things depend for support; the most important part of a plan, idea, etc. on which everything else depends
When you’re looking for change, it takes a village. It takes an idea for people to rally around, a vision of a better path, a different approach and a leader to direct the effort. The idea is the bright star.
The idea is the easy part.
It takes work. Hard work. Necessary work.
Understand the process of change and appreciate the effort it takes and you begin to understand the unique value of Lee Ann Eiland.
She gets things done. For herself, for her family and for her Austin community.
“How can I leave an impact on the world?”
It’s a common question for Lee Ann, who moved to Austin from Lakeview with her family as an 11-year-old. More than 30 years later, it’s still the people who fuel her determination to make an impact.
“There was more of a community in the Austin neighborhood,” Lee Ann said of her move and life in the community. “I’m inspired by ordinary, everyday people.”
Lee Ann is driven to succeed and she’s spent the past two decades working on herself so she can bring others along with her.
A degree in biochemistry from the University of Illinois Chicago and another in organizational management from Concordia University barely scratch the surface of her knowledge base.
“Exposure gives you a different outlook on life.”
For the better part of 20 years, Lee Ann has crafted a career in nonprofit development - a role not typically held by a Black woman - helping organizations working in social services, education and health care expand their capacity for programming, outreach and placing them on a path to sustainability.
Over the years, she observed, absorbed, and learned the nuanced decision-making processes that go into funding a nonprofit, a cause or initiative. That emotionally intelligent approach allowed her to see avenues that would allow her to bring that knowledge home with her.
“It forced me to put the lens on how I can bring everything I’ve been exposed to outside of my neighborhood back to my neighborhood,” she explained. “I never saw my career coming back to the neighborhood.”
But it has.
She saw the disinvestment in the community, a lack of fundamental services, and the social ills that inevitably followed. In true Lee Ann form, she acted, using the lessons she’s learned in the professional world to bring investment back to Austin.
Mama Needs Love Too is a group for women, specifically mothers, to come together in a safe space to share their experiences - the good, the bad and the ugly - as a parent and to access vital resources related to their social, emotional, mental and physical health.
“It gives people the opportunity to have a safe space to talk about the joys of motherhood and the not-so-great things about motherhood.”
Along with her co-founder, Lee Ann organizes the group and hosts a podcast. It’s the necessary work needed to aid an often overlooked group and caring for the caregivers.
“We want to make sure people understand that they’re supported, are heard and seen,” said Lee Ann, a mother of two, who says the idea stemmed from her own post-partum struggles. “I felt like there had to be other mothers going through similar emotions, feelings, situations.”
“If you truly are being seen as a person, then you can create the experiences you need to be a better you.”
With plans to expand programming to include professional therapy support services for parents, Mama Needs Love Too is the culmination of her personal and professional experiences that have put her unique skill set to work for the Austin community.
“My impact can still be big, but I like to focus on people who look like me, that live where I live and give them the opportunity to excel as well.”
She doesn’t clamor for the spotlight and you’re unlikely to catch Lee Ann going viral on social media. But keep your eyes open and you’ll see her as the engine that makes things move - whether she takes credit or not.
“I think that if we work together, we can have such a greater impact than if you work apart.”
Lee Ann also knows that you have a say is what happens to you and your community - you just have to work for it.
“You get to choose your own adventure. Choose wisely.”
Lee Ann Eiland is one of 18 up-and-coming Westside leaders selected to be a part of the inaugural cohort of Community Leadership Fellows. Community Leadership Fellows (CLF) is a leadership development experience that involves educational workshops, tactical training, collaborative learning, coaching, mentoring and networking. We believe that the investment in homegrown talent will lead to sustainable, vibrant communities.
Lee Ann Eiland CLF ‘23 is Co Founder of Mama needs love too and Principal of Eiland and Associates. Hear more about her mission to help mothers gain more support and wrap around services in the Austin Community on the latest episode of Community Leaders Podcast.