MIFA Unites Volunteers In Service

By Jeremy Park

Last week we reflected on Herschel Walker’s recent visit to Memphis, sharing examples of how giving back has opened doors and led to opportunities that have yielded great success in his business and personal life. This week let us spotlight an organization engaging our community to sustain the independence of seniors, transform the lives of families in crisis, and equip teens for success: Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA).

MIFA was founded in September 1968 by a group of ministers and community members who came together in the turbulent months following Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Out of their spirit of cooperation and determination to create positive change, those organizers, who were MIFA’s first volunteers, set the stage for an agency that would quickly mature to unite our diverse community and address the challenges of poverty. Over the last 44 years, MIFA has evolved from advocacy to direct service, from grassroots to a sophisticated professional operation, from a radical effort doomed for failure to a leader in the nonprofit community.

From the beginning, volunteers provided strategic guidance and used MIFA as an incubator to create new programs for the community. Some programs that started at MIFA later spun off and have remained independently successful, like The Mid-South Food Bank, The Best Times and Child Advocacy Center. Other ideas, like MIFA Transit, Meals on Wheels and Emergency Services have become mainstays in their current program lineup.

MIFA Transit started in the summer of 1974 with one driver and a borrowed Salvation Army bus. Today, a fleet of nearly 40 vehicles transports seniors to and from medical appointments, senior centers and on other critical errands.

MIFA Meals on Wheels started in 1976, and its success was contingent upon the availability of volunteers who could deliver meals to far-flung areas in Shelby, Fayette, Tipton and Lauderdale counties, in addition to the metro area. Today, between 80 and 100 volunteers deliver meals every day, and the program served more than 401,000 meals last year.

Emergency Services was established in 1975 to provide essentials like food and clothing to people in need. Today, it helps individuals and families in crisis with rent, mortgage and utility payments and provides food vouchers. Almost 15,000 people received aid last year.

There are many ways to volunteer and help the efforts of MIFA. Take just 45 minutes to deliver meals or consider a more specialized role, like board member or consultant. Get your hands dirty with MIFA’s Handyman program, building wheelchair ramps for low-income senior homeowners with no construction experience required. Then, instead of purchasing tickets to a fancy gala, plan on not attending their No-Go Gala and enjoy postcards featuring local artwork and activities with your family.

Learn more by visiting www.mifa.org and definitely check out their section on Something Good in Memphis.

Jeremy Park, director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, www.lpbreakfastclub.com, can be reached at jeremyp@lpinsurance.com or followed on Twitter at @lpbreakfastclub or @jeremycpark.