VOL. 129 | NO. 253 | Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Local Charities' Needs Visible During Holidays
By Bill Dries
Local charities get a lot of attention during the holiday season. But those running the nonprofits are quick to point out that their work goes on year-round. And the holiday season can be a time of great stress for those who rely on their programs, despite the extra attention.
“We’re more than a meal,” said Arnetta Macklin of the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association on the WKNO-TV program “Behind the Headlines.”
MIFA is best known for its Meals on Wheels program, which each day serves 1,200 senior citizens who depend on not only the meals but the human contact.
Most are elderly widows.
“We really need people to help assist them and provide more than a meal,” Macklin said. “The social interaction they provide helps prevent premature institutionalization in a nursing home, depression and isolation, which oftentimes leads to other medical issues.”
The program, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.
MIFA has nine programs that support families as well as senior citizens. The association’s emergency services program received requests for help from 15,000 people last year but was only able to help 3,500 of them.
“The reality is even with our senior Meals on Wheels program, the government funds have remained stable and have not increased,” she added. “Yet the need has continued to increase with the number of senior baby boomers increasing at an extraordinary rate.”
Miranda Harbor of Make-A-Wish Mid-South said the wishes for critically ill children the nonprofit have granted range from a meeting with the Pope to a dog or a first trip to the beach.
“It gives them something to look forward to and to kind of grab on and hold on to as they go through the most trying times of their lives,” Harbor said on “Behind the Headlines.” “The wish itself is a big healing process for a family to kind of start a new chapter if you will.”
Each Make-A-Wish regional group is a separate nonprofit. The Mid-South region – which covers West Tennessee, North Mississippi and all of Arkansas – is particularly busy because it includes both St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis as well as the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Ark.
“The way that it affects us is we actually need more people who are able to translate other languages because they are both international organizations,” she said of St. Jude and Le Bonheur. “When they get ready to refer a child into our organization, we jump.”
While the Salvation Army’s bell ringing and kettles are a part of the scenery of Christmas and a major annual fundraiser for the organization locally, the Salvation Army Memphis Area Command is also preparing to mark the second anniversary of the opening of the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center at the Mid-South Fairgrounds.
“The big idea of the Kroc Center is to be a facility that brings the community together with proactive programs,” said Capt. Jonathan Rich, the area commander. “Every economic strata, every racial class is enjoying the Kroc Center. … The women and children that we work with have an opportunity to enjoy the Kroc Center as well. Many of the homeless women in our classes participate in our Zumba class.”
The Salvation Army is the largest provider of services to homeless women and children in the city, with 115 women and children in residence at its shelters and transitional housing at any one time.
The Salvation Army’s reach also includes addiction counseling and services for men and women. The Renewal Place program provides up to two years of housing and counseling for women with substance abuse addictions. Rich said the work of recovery at Renewal Place often touches on issues of sex trafficking and domestic violence.
“You literally see their lives change from the day they come in to two years later,” he said of the program. “They are completely different people. … And one of the things we are able to do is help the traumatized child. … The mom and her kids get healthy together.”
Rich said the institution’s overall goal is to take on “generational issues of poverty to see people break through to sustainable lives.”