#Firestarter Nancy Dalton Finds Strength in Her Story

If you follow me on LinkedIn, you know that I recently completed my journey as Amazon’s head of Social Justice Policy & Partnerships, Public Policy. And you also know that I’ve been paying tribute to some of the people who made that journey such a rich and memorable one. Today I’m excited to tell you more about one of those people, Nancy Dalton. Nancy embodies so many of the ideas that we talk about here. She inspires me, so I wanted to share that inspiration with you.

‘There’s So Much More That We All Can Do’ 

Nancy is head of marketing and community partnerships for Amazon Consumables. I was honored to work alongside her, advocating for the federal FARM Bill, which ensures that families can access fresh produce and groceries when they need them most.  

“I have the privilege of leading our community experience and customer marketing team, specifically in the division Amazon Access,” Nancy says. “Amazon Access is a division that is focused on developing products and services for low-income families across the country. And it is just amazing because as you interact in the community and you understand the needs along with the social determinants of health, you realize that there’s so much more that we all can do to lighten the load, expand access and lower the cost of convenience.”

One of the things she’s most proud of in this role was working to enable SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients to use their benefits online instead of just at brick-and-mortar stores. This can make a big difference for families in need. To take just one example, imagine a single mom who lives in a food desert and has to take a couple of buses just to get to a grocery store. Buying food online and having it delivered puts hours back in her week — hours she can spend with her kids.

‘I Live With That Every Day’

Nancy’s work has deep meaning for her because she once walked in the shoes of the people she serves. When she was growing up in Hampton, Va., her mom, an educated woman who had once served as secretary to the mayor, fell on hard times. Nancy remembers her mother holding her head down as she paid with food stamps at the grocery store because she felt others were judging her.

In her first year of college, Nancy became a mother herself. She relied on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to make sure she and her son had healthy food.

At just 47, Nancy’s mother died of chronic disease and poverty. “I live with that every day and have such a personal passion for trying to lighten the load of single mothers, trying to ensure that people know what is available to them, the access that they have, where they can eat not just today, but tomorrow and the next day,” Nancy says.

‘You Don’t Know Where Your Career Is Going to Take You

I know that many of you in this community are looking for ways to make a social impact through your work. So I asked Nancy for her advice on this topic. Her first tip? Stay open-minded and flexible. “I never thought I would be doing this work,” she says. “You don’t know where your career is going to take you.”

Part of staying open is looking for ways to continue learning. I’m very proud to be part of Nancy’s story in this regard. I told her about the Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy at the University of Pennsylvania, where I earned my master’s. I am not surprised at all that this program was a perfect fit for Nancy. “It has opened my eyes to so many new tools and different ways to drive social innovation and impact,” she says. “And it introduced me to a community of world changers that I can brainstorm with and share best practices with.”

Nancy believes that her willingness to share her story helped lead her to the role she has now. “Share your personal passion; share your lived experience,” she says. “Elevate that as a strength, not something to be ashamed of.”

It’s also important to get involved with CSR or volunteer programs at your organization, Nancy says. “It gives you a chance to actually demonstrate your skill set,” she says. “And it also lets people understand who you are and what you’re interested in.”

‘You Can Elevate Your Voice’

If you share Nancy’s passion for helping underserved communities, there’s one essential skill you need: the ability to listen. Too often, would-be change makers approach problems by focusing on what the community doesn’t have and then telling them how to fix it.

“That, in my humble opinion, is the wrong way to think about it,” Nancy says. “Underserved communities, people who are struggling — they have assets. And when you come at it from an asset space, you understand that you can co-create solutions with them. By doing so, they are more sustainable.”

#Firestarters also need the ability to enlist others in their cause. And let me tell you: Nancy is amazing at this. “Helping people see the bigger vision for what is possible allows me to bring people along on a journey and get them to want to be a part of this,” she says. 

She emphasizes that everyone can make a difference. “Always be open-minded about the contribution that you can make, no matter how small you think it is, because it’s a ripple in the pond that continues to expand,” she says. Even if you are struggling yourself, “you can elevate your voice and you can be courageous in that, and that can help others understand where they can plug in.” 

‘It Will Rejuvenate You’

Nancy and I have more in common than our time at Amazon and our Penn sweatshirts. We both experienced #Me-Sets after medical emergencies. For me, the emergency was a traumatic brain injury. For Nancy, it was suffering a stroke in March 2022. Suddenly, this workaholic had to take months away from her job. During that time, she reflected on what was really important to her. Her Me-Set affirmed for Nancy the importance of her mission. But she also realized that she needed to prioritize her health — for the sake of herself, her family and friends, and the people she wants to help. 

“Your body is always telling you that there are things you can do differently,” she says. “There are signals in how you’re feeling or in the way in which you show up, and you’ve got to listen.” Today, she finds it easier to pause and take care of herself, whether through going for a bike ride, calling a friend or reading a great book.

Your #Me-Set might look different than Nancy’s or mine. “The most important thing is to understand the trigger and then do something with it,” she says. “Do the #Me-Set. It will rejuvenate you, it will open up your perspective, and it will allow you to be your best self.”

More Fuel for #Firestarters


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