We had the good fortune of connecting with DeAndra Jones and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi DeAndra, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I thought I knew balance until 2020. The pandemic forced me to slow down in ways I likely would not have otherwise made space for. I was very busy, and figured that was just part of how I had to live my life. The pandemic upset my work travel and literally brought me back to California within hours while I was in Ohio for a 2 month work project. It forced me to re-envision the Mid-City Meals model and how we distribute food and engage with the community. It also helped illuminate a lack of balance that existed in my life pre-pandemic, that caused a lot of stress and anxiety that I normalized. Now I view balance as a priority for sustainability. I listen to myself a lot more and make time to tap in and attune to my physical, spiritual and emotional needs. It’s certainly eliminated extra stress and anxiety, helped me to remain firm in my boundaries and focus more on gratitude instead of what’s lacking. I’m much happier here. 🙂

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
To give concrete context, my resume summary says the following:

“Proactive and forward-thinking Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 10 years of experience working in service programs for transition aged foster youth and public child welfare systems. Energetic and collaborative leader, dedicated to partnering with others to promote engaged and empowering social justice systems work. Successful in leveraging individual and organizational strengths to build relationships and cultivate shared learnings with a diverse range of stakeholders in dynamic and evolving settings.”

In so many words, I’m a people person. I enjoy working with individuals and groups and feel extremely blessed to have cultivated a career in social work that marries people skills, with a focus on equity work, as well as radical systems change. I wanted to be a social worker well before I became one because I knew I really enjoyed helping people in more ways than one. A career in social work has allowed me to provide support and services to individuals and groups from varying backgrounds, with varying identities, and across varying regions and settings. I graduated from graduate school in 2012 and did not imagine back then the level of flexibility I could manifest for myself in this field. Professionally, we are told the different jobs we can get with a particular degree, and essentially to pick one. I’ve always felt like my passions never fully fit one job or particular career path and that used to be disheartening. However, being a creative has helped me be inspired to create the pathway to service I thought was suitable for me to steward through Mid-City Meals. Interestingly enough, I still really love my day job. As mentioned above, I have worked in and very close to child welfare systems and programs my entire career. It’s a passion of mine and always will be. Currently I work for a national network of child welfare partners and love supporting our partners across states in navigating programming and services for young people in their respective states.

Over time, instead of limiting myself to “pick one,” I’ve instead worked to recognize the similarities and find ways to join them. In the past, I was able to leverage MCM resources to support pregnant and parenting young people at my job for example, and I look forward to creating additional opportunities to do so. My professional goals have always centered around helping the most vulnerable folks in need and critically evaluating the systems that leave folks oppressed. One of the hardest things I’ve had to navigate as a social worker is understanding that there is so much to be done, so many that need help, and as one individual, I cannot do everything I want to help. However, perspective is everything. Once I shifted my perspective to reflect what I COULD do and what I WAS capable of, I was more inspired and focused on achieving what I could. I compared less to others and instead became inspired by them. The journey here was not easy, and there is still more work and more lessons to be learned. However, self-care is everything and self-love is chief! Therapy works and balance is a priority. Regardless of career choice and the pacing in which professional goals are achieved, understanding who you are authentically, what your needs are, what you’re good at and what it is you’re passionate about really helps things fall into place for you.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
For the record, I could talk about stay-cation options and “my friend is visiting” local itineraries all day long. However, for the sake of time, I’ll keep my suggestion list brief!

Food and Drinks- anything with vacation vibes. I love Moonshadows in Malibu if you’re looking for something overlooking the water. Also, if we do brunch, I’ll ensure all options have mimosas or your brunch cocktail of choice!

A Nature Outting- the beach (if you have a pup, let’s do Rosie’s in Long Beach!), a hike (we have options, but we can hit Vasquez Rocks if you want to do some rock climbing), a flower garden (Descanso in Pasadena is my favorite)

Live Music- a personal favorite. Eventbrite is surprisingly helpful with identifying options.

Comedy Show – We’ve got options (pre-covid, especially)

Additional activities- Bike riding, parasailing in Marina Del Rey, sports games (depending on the season)

Night Life- that’s going to depend on the vibe of the friend. We can keep it “speak easy” low key, or take it up a notch and head downtown

I have a slew of other recommendations, but I’ll leave it there. 🙂

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to dedicate my shout out to the Mid-City Meals Advisory Board members- Hellen Hong, Russia Chavis, Kimberly Jones and Cedric Jones. These folks have provided support, consultation and thought partnership that continues to help strengthen the infrastructure of MCM so we can successfully drive our mission forward and ultimately, do more to help others.

Website: www.midcitymeals.com

Instagram: @midcitymeals

Linkedin: DeAndra Jones

Other: Email us at midcitymeals@gmail.com to join our mailing list!

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.