Behind the Headlines – December 14, 2018

Behind the Headlines – December 14, 2018


– (female announcer)
Production funding for Behind The Headlines is made possible in part by: the WKNO Production Fund, the WKNO Endowment Fund, and by viewers like
you, thank you. – Organizations that help
during a season of need, tonight on Behind The Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] I’m Eric Barnes, president and executive
editor of the Daily Memphian. Thanks for joining us. I’m joined tonight
by Sally Jones Heinz, president and CEO of MIFA. Thanks for being here.
– Thank you. – Estella Mayhue-Greer
is president and CEO of the Mid-South Food Bank. Thanks for being here again.
– Thank you. – Pastor Keith Norman is pastor from the First
Baptist Church on Broad. Thanks for being here again.
– Thank you. – Along with Bill Dries, reporter with the
Daily Memphian. Thank you all for being here. You’ve been here and sometimes in
similar kind of roles or other shows that we’ve done with you all on. But around this season, we try to always do a show that kind of talks about
some of the programs, and some of the organizations that try to satisfy
need during this season. And I’ll start just
for each of you, and maybe I’ll start
with you, Pastor. You maybe have, as a church, have maybe the broadest mission, and the broadest
sort of connections with your community maybe. But what are those needs? What are the most pressing
needs that you see among your neighborhood, and among the people you serve? – Food, shelter, and clothing. Probably in that order. Healthcare would be
added to that list. And as public servants, we can be on the show at
different points in time simply because we
change our mission, or we adapt to the needs
around us maybe as a church a little bit more flexibly
than other organizations. But we see those needs, and we adjust, and we get out there and
do what we have to do to make it work. – Estella, you all maybe have
the most focused mission, and, I mean, maybe one of
the most important missions. That’s a hard thing to say ’cause ya’ll are
doing good work. But talk about Mid-South Food Bank
obviously is providing food and help throughout the year. Does anything really
change during the holidays or is there just more awareness
of it during the holidays? – There’s more awareness. But what changes
during the holidays that I think many
people don’t understand is that children
are out of school. And those children are
missing the two meals that they normally
get at school. And parents who are
struggling to make ends meet have to think about, how am I gonna feed my children? And so many of the people that we provide services to are people who are
working every day struggling to make ends meet. And so this is a time where they’re concerned about how am I gonna make
up those two meals that I don’t have to worry about when school is in. And of course our
partner agencies want to provide more food
during the holiday season. – And then I’ll come
back to each of you. But Sally, for you all, you all do Meals on Wheels. People associate MIFA with that. And then also just companion, not just, but you know, companion programs with seniors. But also a lot of
homeless outreach, rehousing people, families in crisis, all of that during the holidays. Does it get worse or is that we, the media and others just end up putting
more attention on it? – Well I think a
little bit of both. I think that this time of year, so many of us who
are blessed to have a warm home, and food in the
cupboard, and family take that for granted. And families who are
struggling with a crisis, or seniors who are isolated, that lack is just exacerbated
during the holidays. It feels more intense I think. – And we’ll talk a little bit how people can get
involved later on. But why don’t we go to Bill now. – All right, Keith, I think you
brought a prop with you to kind of show what this means in terms of meeting
people where they are that maybe some people
who are doing okay don’t think about. And that is that this
is about survival and this is about things
that the rest of us don’t normally think about. – Yeah, so one of our partners, Baptist Memorial Health Care and then also Christ
Community Clinic, we’ll do outreach
to homeless people, or to men and women who are
struggling to find shelter. We’ll include in these
backpacks warm socks, and a scarf around the neck, bottled water, all sorts of toiletries
and things to that effect. But it also goes
back to something that Ms. Estella
said a moment ago. We recognize that kids
are also caught up in this crisis as well. In Shelby County, we have a vast need to
make sure that those who are most vulnerable
are taken care of. And so there are
children oftentimes attached to these families
that we have to serve. And so when we’re
providing food and shelter, or just some of the basic
things like Sally mentioned that we enjoy every day, we’re trying to make
sure that those families have dignity as well, or they have some
means for enjoying the time that they
can have together without focusing on the needs that are missing from their life at that particular point. – And the backpack
speaks to the mobility. This may be someone who is
sleeping under a bridge. This may be someone who is
sleeping on someone’s couch. This may be someone who’s
in an abandoned house, just need to have a
roof over their head. – I think homelessness, and someone can
correct me on this, is defined as not having
a permanent place to stay for a consecutive
number of days. They may move from home to home or they may go from
place to place, even if it’s within
someone else’s home. That person is still
considered homeless. And so, you know, they don’t have a
permanent address where they can receive mail, or receive a utility bill
or something to that effect. And that takes place in Memphis. It’s one of the things that
we see with the school system. You hear all of the people
in the school system talking about that now, the challenges that they face. But it also takes
place with poverty, and joblessness, and all of the issues that these organizations
help to combat and fight on a daily basis. – Estella, in providing food for many, many agencies, is there the consideration
about what is ready to eat? – Oh yes, yes definitely. For example, in our backpack
program for children, we use shelf-stable product. Of course the backpacks
are more expensive for us to provide. But we have shelf-stable
milk in the meals because we know that
many of the children that are receiving our backpacks may be going to homes
with no utilities. And so it’s food
that they can eat if they’re not able to heat it. And it’s shelf stable. So we consider that. And even for our seniors that we provide
services to as well. We make sure that there’s
shelf-stable product. – Right, and there’s the
weekend to consider as well. Because even if school’s
out for the week, and they’re coming
back on Monday, what happens on
Saturday and Sunday? Two days is a long time when you don’t
have enough to eat. – Yeah, and our backpack program provides six meals
for the weekend so the children are not
returning to school hungry. And when there’s this
break during the holidays, we on that last
distribution at the school, make sure that we’re providing
additional food for them. – Sally, what does MIFA see in terms of the
issues that arise from just this very simple but formidable barrier? – Well food is, requests for food vouchers, we give food vouchers at MIFA that then families
go to pantries, always do increase
during the holidays and when school is out. So it is a real and basic need to meet in the community and often means families come to MIFA because they are
experiencing a crisis, and they’re having
to choose between putting food on the table
or paying utilities. So we’re able to say, well we’ll help with
the utility bill. And we can help on that front so that perhaps they can pay attention to the other
needs in the household. – Is there a typical
transition from survival to living a life with goals and things beyond just
putting food on the table? Is there a typical
path for that? Or is it as different as the people who come
through the door? – It’s really as different as the people who
come through the door. And so often, happily, all a family needs is
that immediate assistance and then they can get
back on their feet. Because it’s a temporary crisis. It might be a medical bill. It might be a layoff. And they just need
a little bridge to steady themselves. But of course we do
screen homeless families as the pastor was talking about. And we screen about
2,000 families a year who are literally homeless. And during the holidays, because often they are
families who might be staying with the grandmother, or an aunt or someone, that just feels the
house is fuller, and that there’s more
stress and more tension. So those families might be
more likely to come to MIFA because grandmother has said, you need to find another place. – You mentioned 2,000 people, homeless families throughout
the year is that correct that you serve?
– Yes. – And about how many meals, Meals on Wheels, just give a scale
I mean, you know, of what the number of meals
you’re providing and so on. – Meals we provide about
1,200 home delivered meals every weekday. – Every weekday. And then senior
companion programs. Like how many seniors? Is that part and parcel
of Meals on Wheels or is that totally separate? – No, it’s a different program. And it’s a wonderful, it’s a smaller program. We have about 50
senior companions. But the idea is that an active senior who is lower income will volunteer to
be a companion. And then they provide services to a senior
who is isolated or needs assistance. And it’s not medical care, but it might be
light housekeeping, or reading, or going to the grocery. And it’s really such.. – Or simple companionship right? – Yeah, it’s a win-win. Because it’s great for the
senior who was able to serve. And then of course it’s
a wonderful benefit for the senior who
needs that assistance. – And about how many families, or how many meals, how do you quantify the need, and then what you’re able
to provide of that need? – Well, we work with agencies, non-profit organizations
that are providing. And we put no restrictions
on our agencies. We have some partner agencies that may only serve a
household once a quarter. But then we have others
that will provide services on a monthly basis. Because if their decision is, if they’re coming to us, then they must be hungry. We measure our
distribution pounds and every pound, every meal equals about
one and a half pounds. So at this time, we’re distributing
anywhere from 12, to 15 million pounds annually. But once we get into
our new facility, we’ll be able to
double that amount. – Well I’m gonna come back
to funding in a second and I’ll go to Pastor Norman. We ran into each other recently
right after Thanksgiving. And you talked about… Again, your church is, these are independent
organizations. Obviously, they’re churches. But it’s a little different. I mean you’ve got
all kinds of things going on in the church. But, I’ve always been struck by what you all do in
terms of outreach. I mean, you’re very much, you’re not sort of
a church on a corner in your neighborhood. You’re very much out
in the neighborhood. But you were talking
about delivering meals, and turkeys, and stopping buses was
one of the things that scared me for you…
[group laughing] but it was also
really intriguing. Talk about what you
did at Thanksgiving. – So Thanksgiving for us for about 20 years now, we’ve had a homeless outreach where we invite people to
come to our church facility and really have a big
Thanksgiving meal. We thought everybody wanted
to just sit down at the table and enjoy themselves. And we want to do
it with dignity, and with love. And we also do wrap
around services. Some people have not talked
to loved ones in years. We have a phone bank that is provided by a partner. They can get in touch
with family members from all across the world. I mean people can go
make free phone calls. We actually have a person
that does healthcare services, flu shots, HIV screenings. Because here are people who
have not had medical services possibly from one
year to the next. And then we sit down together, have a great Thanksgiving meal. Then we deliver to homes. We had some people who
could not get to us, so we decided to get to them. And the men of our church, led by a guy named
Dwayne Rhoades for years, have gotten upwards of
a thousand hot meals delivered in a day’s time. And they go out and do it. And this year we had a partner that when we thought we were
at the end of, you know, giving away food baskets, we give away baskets to homes that’ll
come and pick ’em up. We feed people. They also get hair services, and haircuts, and we open Trezevant
vocational center through a partnership there. And they go get their hair done, and clothes, we give ’em away
and all of this. It’s a wonderful day when people volunteer and
give up their Thanksgiving. But we had about 20
or so baskets left. And I had ’em in the
trunk of my truck. And so I saw these
people getting on the bus over in the neighborhood
where we were serving. So I pulled in front of
the bus and waved ’em down. I said hey, would you all
like a Thanksgiving basket? And everybody’s like, yeah! [group laughing] So they got off the bus, they got a basket, and got back on the bus. And it felt good to serve. But here were men and women. And one man said it this way. He said, I don’t have
a place to cook it, but I have a place to go. And if I take something
in and they cook it, they’ll let me stay. And that was
Thanksgiving for me. It was fun.
– Yeah. – And it’s all
self-funded by the way. You got funding sources
you want to tell me about, let me know. – Well I mean so you all are
doing that through the church, the donations of the
church, of your members. – I think that’s what
we’re supposed to be doing. You know, I don’t
tell any church what their mission should be. But when I read the mission
of Christ as I understand it, he did not try to tell
people about salvation without meeting their
social needs first. When he sat them
down on the hill, he said feed them. You know, I’m gonna teach
’em and talk to ’em. But it’s hard to teach a
person when they’re hungry. It’s hard to get a kid to
focus on a lesson in school when he or she is hungry. So yeah, I want to talk to
you about your soul. But I want you to be well fed, and I want you to
have the dignity of the person sitting
next to you as well. – Well and then completely, in a non-religious way, Dorsey Hopson, the outgoing
superintendent of schools, who was on the show last
week said the exact, a very similar thing in that. – (Keith)
Yeah, I taught him that. – You taught him that?
[group laughing] – Dorsey talked about it and
he’s talked about it before that, you know, the school system, because they’re delivering
so many kids in need, and Estella mentioned this, that you know, it’s hard to learn. It’s hard to do math if
you haven’t had a meal, if you don’t have dry clothes, if you haven’t slept somewhere. But back to you. We talked about funding. Your funding sources for the
Mid-South Food Bank are what? – From everywhere. Majority of our funds
come from individuals. But we have corporate support, support from foundations. And as a part of
Feeding America, we’re able to get grants
through Feeding America to help us with our mission. But we rely on
the individual who sends us one dollar a month, or that individual that
sends $1,000 a month. – And for you all, I assume you’ll
take it either way, but is there a preference
of money versus food? – Money is preferred. Because the food drives, people like to do that. And we don’t discourage that. But oftentimes people are
cleaning out their pantries. And we have to check
the code dates, or make sure the cans
aren’t dented or rusted. And we have to pay
to discard that. So for every dollar we’re
spending to discard the food that we can’t use, that’s three meals that
we’re not providing to our hungry neighbors. – Sally, funding for
you all, the sources? – Similar to the
Mid-South Food Bank. It’s from everywhere. We do have government
sources as well. So Meals on Wheels
is funded partly through the Older Americans Act. Some of our homeless
services are funded through HUD and the city, and those kinds of grants. But individuals make up
all of that difference. And the majority
of MIFA’s funding also is from individuals. – Before I go to Bill, I think one of the last
times you were on the show, it was your 50th anniversary, or MIFA’s 50th anniversary
this last summer. Am I right about that?
– Mm hmm. – And you talked, I mean you always live in
fear of federal funding. Where are you right now in
terms of federal funding? – You know, federal
funding I think has been just flat. Which actually means decreasing because costs of course
and everything go up. But we feel in a way blessed that it has not been cut. – Bill, 10 minutes left. – Estella, tell me
about your new facility. When are you gonna be able to start using it? – We’re hoping no
later than April. And one of the benefits
of that facility, Pastor Norman
talked about health. And we know that poor nutrition contributes to poor health. And in this new facility, we will have the freezer
and refrigeration space to be able to provide
fresh produce, and the protein product that many of the clients that our partner agency serves cannot afford to buy. And so we’re excited about that. We’re looking at
establishing partnerships with some of our
community clinics so that we can provide
the food that is needed, for example for patients
who are diabetic, specific foods that they need. So we’re really excited
about being able to transition into that facility and provide better services. And it’s not just putting
food out the door, which is what we used to do. But we want to make lives better for the clients that our
partner agencies are serving. And so, I’ll give you an
example that our partnerships. Trezevant Manor, the seniors there learned about senior hunger
and wanted to do something. So they started a program where they actually pay, come and pack the boxes, and distribute it to seniors who are living in
subsidized housing. And they do it on
a quarterly basis. We were able to take that pilot and present it to
Feeding America and get a grant so
that now monthly, we’re going to the subsidized housing
where seniors live and providing fresh produce, and protein product, and the foods that they
can’t afford to buy. You know, so it’s not just shoving whatever comes
in the door out the door, but being focused on
what’s gonna impact health, and make our citizens
more healthy. – I want to interrupt
and just tell a story that I think compliments that. We had a note from one of our
home delivered meals clients because one day we had been able to deliver fresh
pears along with the cooked meal. And she wrote back
about that pear and that it was the first
fresh pear she had ever had in her life, which was just incredible. – Let’s break that down, how did that become possible that you could get
the fresh produce? Because I assume
there’s a cost benefit. You have a canned food. It’s much less expensive
and easier to transport. You don’t have to refrigerate. How did you get to the point where you could
actually deliver? – ‘Cause sometimes we’ll
have fresh produce donated. In this case, I think our
vendor was able to provide that. And the woman said, you know, I’d had
canned pears before and never liked ’em very much. And then here I had
this fresh pear. “Oh, that’s what
a pear really is.” – (Keith)
Yeah, that’s a reality. – Keith, do you think we are going
beyond meeting the need? Do you think that as a
community we’re actually making a dent in
these conditions? In poverty, which has been
a historic problem here? – Bill, that’s an
interesting question. Because there are two dynamics that exist in Memphis. On one list somewhere, we can be the most philanthropic
city in the nation. And then on another list, we can be the most impoverished. So that says something to me. That says we’re giving a lot. But are we really
changing the dynamic? And that’s where the
great concern is. We have to now give
towards the things that take away the dynamic and keep it from increasing. Because poverty is
continuing to grow. We’ve found that
after 50 years later from Dr. King’s movement, and from the assassination
death of Dr. King that we’re actually worse off
than we were 50 years ago. So that says to me that these
dynamics aren’t changing, they’re actually growing. Even though we have kind people, and I was very, I’m listening to the two
pros sitting right here, you notice when you ask
’em about funding sources, they didn’t name names. Because they knew the pastor
was gonna write a letter. But they’re smart.
[group laughing] – (Eric)
Healthy competition. – Yeah, right,
healthy competition. The members of First Baptist
Church give all of our money. But the philanthropy is there, but the need is
still increasing. So we have to figure out
how to fix these systems that continue to bring
people into the need. – (Estella)
By providing a living wage. – Right, providing
a living wage, making sure that people
have sustainable employment over a long period of time, and not, you know, all of the agency
type employment, and then giving people the
job skills that they need, and the financial management
skills that they need so that they can
manage the resources and help get out
of this situation. We’re trying every day
through these services. But we want to be
out of business. – Yeah, right. To something you just mentioned with just a couple
of minutes left here. A living wage. How many, I don’t know
if you have the number, but it might surprise
people how many people who have jobs are nonetheless getting
food from the food bank. Because I think there’s this
kind of stereotype of well, you know, that’s a person
who doesn’t have a job, who isn’t doing anything, and is just living on,
you know, handouts. – This is an old survey. But the last hunger
survey we did, 40% of the households that
we provided services to, there was someone in that
household who was working. And I’m sure that number
has increased by now. But when you think
about people who come, we’re now serving people who
fall above the poverty level. – What’s poverty
level right now? Do we know? Do you know off hand, I’m
putting you on the spot. – There’s a $26,000 figure. – Yeah, and so
people are above that because they’re struggling
to make ends meet. And they’re making choices
between gas to get to work because we have an inadequate
public transportation system. Fixing an old car, am I gonna pay rent, am I gonna pay for
this hospital visit? What am I gonna pay? And food is what’s left
off the table, often. – We just had a program Tuesday night at the church, the Weatherization Program with the NAACP and Tennessee
Valley Authority, the TVA. We were trying to help
people fix their homes where they’re paying
very high utility bills. And so many people
were there saying look, I either have to get
behind on my utility bills so I can buy groceries, or provide Christmas to
some degree for my children. And so I can tell you they’ll
be back in January going, can you help me with
the utility bill. And we know exactly where
these things come from. People are making choices. And I’ll tell you something else that’s often left off
the table, medicine. I’ll just live without medicine. If I can’t get it free, I’ll just take it, and some people even
do every other day on prescriptions they
should be taking every day. – And our seniors will get
the medicine and not food. And what’s the point if
you’re not eating properly? – (Keith)
If you’re not eating properly. – Staff noted that $26,000
is the poverty line for a family of four,
just to clarify. So four people, yeah. With just a couple minutes left, for each of you, an
organization, not your own, maybe not at the table that is just of interest to you that does interesting stuff. You all are in the
community of people helping. I’ll start with you Sally, just an organization out there that you find intriguing. – Well so much of MIFA’s mission is also about serving. And our vision is uniting the
community through service. I think that Volunteer
Odyssey here in Memphis does a wonderful job of
connecting volunteers with meaningful opportunities. So they take the time
to really connect someone who wants to
serve with something that volunteer will stick with. – And for people who
want to help you all, you all are in the, I assume if they go to
the website they can… – (Sally)
MIFA.org. – And for you, other
organizations in town? – Neighborhood Christian Center. They’re serving families, children, seniors, and doing any awesome
job addressing whatever needs they have. Whether it’s clothing, food, shelter, furniture when
they get into a new place. Neighborhood Christian
Center does an awesome job. I could not pick
another organization. – And for people who
want to help you all they can go the
website and find… – (Estella)
Midsouthfoodbank.org. – Okay and, he’s
got his backpack. – Because let me tell you why. – (Eric)
This is the first prop in the history of Behind
The Headlines by the way. – The medical needs. They take the van and they go
all over the city of Memphis providing needs. And another one I’d
like to throw in, The Gaal House. They provide services for men who have been either addicted, or men who are
getting out of prison. We haven’t addressed
that population The recidivism rate
is high because men who get out of prison commit a crime to
go back to prison so that they can have a meal, so that they can
have a place to stay. But we want to get ’em out
and make ’em productive. And so The Gaal House
is helping with that. G-A-A-L, they do a great job. Baptist Memorial Health Care
also does the mobile vans as well as providing services for those who just got
out of prison as well. – All right, thank
you very much. Thank you. Thank you for being here. And thank you for watching. Join us again next week. [dramatic orchestral music] [acoustic guitar chords]

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