Lloyd has served as the executive director of the Economic Justice Coalition in Athens for the past 10 years. The EJC is a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 that focuses on improving the health of families within the community. It strives to empower workers economically and politically with the aim of increasing their salary potential and access to benefits.
Lloyd’s passion for service stemmed from a humble upbringing in Dooly County, Ga. She was the daughter of a sharecropper and the youngest of 13 siblings. Although her mother had her hands full with her own household, she often devoted time to drive rural community members without access to transportation to the grocery store or the doctor.
“I love this work, and when I think back, I probably got this helping thing from my mother,” said Lloyd. “She just spent her time helping others.”
Lloyd’s world was turned upside down earlier this year when her mother, one of her most valued supporters, passed away. But her strong emphasis on family has helped her to continue working and serving the community.
“Family is very important to me,” said Lloyd. “Family is all we have, and strong families in the community make for a strong community.”
In addition to her mother’s influence, she attributes her continued dedication to service to her involvement with the University of Georgia’s School of Social Work. In 1979, she earned her master’s degree and suddenly, a “whole new world” opened up for her.
It was at UGA that she learned to write grants and become a social advocate for those who receive unfair treatment in the workplace. The lessons she learned in Dooly County and at UGA have brought her work full circle.
She returned home to create a summer enrichment program and after-school program in 2004. Both have had a substantial impact on her community’s success.
At the programs’ beginning, Dooly County had a mere 30 graduates from the public high schools where a majority of the black community attended. In 2010, the number rose to 72 graduates after Lloyd wrote and received grants for academics, skills training and drug education programs. Her programs served 500 kids and provided jobs for 50 people.
Lloyd also founded the Families First Empowerment Center to help local workers understand their rights in the economic system.
Her professional goals continue to reflect the lessons she learned at UGA. Raising the minimum wage for workers in the Athens area remains her top priority.
“I want to create a culture of people paying their workers right,” said Lloyd.
UGA’s payment practices have drawn her attention recently. The university is required to pay workers a full-time salary after six months of consecutive work.
“Since we’ve been fighting and advocating, UGA has made about 500 employees permanent workers, raising their wages from $12,000 to $23,000,” said Lloyd humbly about one of her “biggest accomplishments.”
Lloyd’s efforts to raise the minimum wage extend beyond UGA. She hopes to make that goal a reality by working with the EJC so it can be in a position to create grassroots leaders in the community that who in turn educate and engage others.
The EJC’s civic-engagement projects range from voter registration to the development of living wage jobs. The EJC has helped register 11,000 in the Athens community since 2004, aimed at electing the “correct people” in local governments, state legislation and Congress.
The Peachy Green Cleaning co-op is one of these jobs, and focuses on providing work for day laborers in Athens through residential and commercial cleaning. The program started after the EJC created Unity Cooperative Labor Partners as a social enterprise. They recruit handymen, lower maintenance workers and cleaning staff.
Her desire to serve others is evident in her other projects. Lloyd teaches at Athens Technical College in the Social Work Assistance department. She lovingly describes her work there as “her other baby.”
“[Teaching] allows me to impart onto others my career,” said Lloyd. “I tell my students, ‘It’s amazing to be in something for over 30 years and still love it as much as you did the first day,’ and that’s how I feel about social work.”
Her passion for teaching and love of social work have led many of her students to work for her, including her current intern from Athens Technical, Emma Barnett. Barnett describes her time with Lloyd as a “great learning experience.”
A co-worker, Laura Love, also emphasized the numerous lessons she’s learned from Lloyd while working with her, from grant writing to commitment.
“Ms. Lloyd knows her stuff,” said Love. “She’s earnest about what she believes in and it flows over in the office and the community.”
Lloyd’s motivation to keep working for the last 30 years and into the foreseeable future is driven by a simple idea: happiness. She often tells students that a billboard on Atlanta Highway inspired her to devote her life to others. The billboard reads, “Happiness is helping others.”
“That’s how I feel,” said Lloyd with a smile. “I’m most happy when I’m helping others.”