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UMOM New Day Centers selected as 2023 ASU MLK Jr. Servant-Leadership awardee

UMOM Leadership team with young children at one of their centers

The UMOM New Day Centers staff.

January 03, 2023

Editor's note: This a profile on one of this year's recipients of the ASU MLK Jr. leadership awards. This year's theme is “Every Story Matters. What’s Yours?” Read about the student servant-leadership awardee and the faculty servant-leadership awardee.

Phoenix nonprofit UMOM New Day Centers works to end homelessness and the circumstances that lead to it for many people in the community. 

The organization will be honored with a servant-leadership award at Arizona State University's MLK Jr. celebration on Jan. 19.

“There are very few leaders whose work, deeds and words can show up 50 years later and be absolutely applicable to today. We used to hear Dr. King say, ‘The time is always right to do what is right,’ and we just subscribe to that,” said Jackson Fonder, CEO of UMOM New Day Centers. 

“I would just say in general, across America, we're seeing (homelessness) happening more and more to all kinds of families that are falling through the cracks or falling on hard times. At UMOM, we believe that every family deserves the chance to rebuild their lives and we love doing this kind of work,” Fonder said. 

UMOM's programs are built around a simple formula: jobs plus housing equals ending homelessness. They work hand in hand with every person they serve to solve that formula alongside them. They work to create individually personalized goals and life plans for everyone they work with to help them walk toward a better future.  

“It's a bit of a unique approach, I think, because it's empathetic, it's connection-focused and it's very individualized to every single person. We don't just do it for them, we actively work side by side with our clients to address their individual needs to solve the housing crisis,” Fonder said. 

UMOM offers a full slate of vital services to families, single women, and veterans and their families, such as providing emergency shelter, affordable housing, nutritious meals, wellness clinics and more.  

Fonder acknowledges that helping the community starts with having a strong and well-connected team of employees that share UMOM’s passion and goals for helping the community. He strives to create a healthy work environment that doesn’t leave any individuals behind or forgotten. 

One of the first steps in each of our journeys through our individual journeys of advocacy revolves around listening and working with an open heart, and we're committed to that. We fully embrace the philosophy and the belief that a diverse and inclusive workplace is among an organization's greatest strengths,” Fonder said. 

Even with more than 16,000 people having received help in the last year from UMOM, the organization is looking to expand their operations to reach even more people.  

“I think about the barriers that exist for BIPOCBlack, Indigenous and people of color individuals in housing and in jobs because there are so many barriers that this population experiences that others do not. There’s more work to be done; we’ve hardly scratched the surface. We need to build more affordable housing and we need to do an even better job working with employers to find employment for the men and women of UMOM,” Fonder said. 

“We believe that we're leading the way to better community collaboration. We are not an organization that just sits idly by; we believe that when you're a leader in this space, it's your responsibility to continue to lead and ask others to come along with you."

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