May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

written by Yolanda Webb and images provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but the truth is that every day, each and every one of us could do ourselves a favor and check in with our mental and emotional selves.

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What does that mean?  Well when my children were young and in school, I started a tradition that my daughter continues to this day.  Each quarter they were allowed to take a mental health day.  Or, as we say in the business world, a personal day.  If we need personal days in the world of work I often said...how much so do children need that refuge in their own lives. 

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So your mental health day is and should be a day that is totally dedicated to yourself, your wholeness, your human... being and becoming your true and authentic self.  

Each of my children would choose a different day (and this was important so that the day was truly theirs), and the day was planned around what they wanted to do that made them feel good (internally and externally).  Sometimes it was the movies, and for my daughter it was a spa day, or going to the amusement park.  For my son it was going to a ball game in the middle of the day, or just relaxing at home with his games.

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We all need to feel emotionally healthy? Have you ever asked yourself what you need to feel mentally and physically healthy? 

Do you take care of those aspects of yourself? Do you have friends who check in on you? Do you reach out when you need help?

Taking care of others in the field of human service means putting the service first into ourselves.  

Sometimes breaking bread with another person, to fill that space can help to put that service in being human front and center in your life. Social connection and feeling in community with others are critical to our emotional and mental health.

So today, why not connect or reconnect with yourself, become your own best friend, do the hard things for your own life and by this time next May, who knows you may have grown healthier in mind, body and spirit...here's to great mental health for all of us!

For more information about what you can do for Mental Health Awareness Month, please go to www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may or https://www.nami.org/mentalhealthmonth

Posted on May 14, 2018 and filed under Home Health, In Home Personal Care.

Home and Community Based Services Shining Star Award

February 2018 Employee of the Month - Lillie Preyer

We are very pleased to announce Lillie Preyer as our February 2018 Shining Star.  Lillie is a Home Care Specialist who is always ready to help our Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) clients.  The HCBS department can always rely on Lillie to provide clients with the best care. Not only is she organized, but she is patient, kind and an asset to the HCBS department.  Lillie was selected by the Employee Recognition Committee (ERC) because she demonstrates a high level of professionalism that sets a great example for all of her peers. She is a very reliable and conscientious home care specialist who provides quality of care to all of her clients. She is always willing to make herself available to accept new assignments or fill-in as needed without hesitation.  She will work seven days a week to make sure our clients are taken care of. Lillie’s dedication to her clients is EXCEPTIONAL.  She always puts her client’s needs first and has taken on several difficult clients while continuing to perform exceptionally.  Lillie’s dedication to her clients is obvious in everything she does! She embraces the Meritan values and beliefs, showing that just one person can make a difference.

Lillie has been a Home Care Specialist with Meritan, Inc. since July 5, 2016.  She has a great personality and a warm heart which her clients love her for.

Lillie said, "I love to make my clients happy. I do what I need to do and get it done."

We are happy to have Lillie on our team!

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Shining Star
Employee Appreciation
Meritan Staff
Posted on April 12, 2018 .

THE BELOVED COMMUNITY

Honoring the Legacy….Living the Dream #MLK50

by Yolanda Webb

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THE year after I was born, my mother participated in a lunch counter sit-in in Mobile, Alabama.  With her two little girls, she joined a chorus of other young black women and men sitting in at lunch counters from Greensboro, North Carolina down through Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama.  By the end of that year those silent protesters would help to integrate restaurants in 108 cities across the country.

Beloved Community

Now nearly 80 years old, my mother (and my father prior to his passing) would regal us with their stories of the Civil Rights movement.  Over the years because of their involvement, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of the icons of those times, Andrew Young, John Lewis and Jesse Jackson to name a few.

 

Yet, it's the stories of the untold that have intrigued me the most.  It’s in those untold stories that we can realize the ‘Beloved Community’ that Dr. King spoke so eloquently about.  

For example, many of the seniors we serve here at Meritan in Memphis have stories of hope and courage that filled their lives with pride as they participated in this dream of the Beloved Community when they encountered humanity's greatest challenge and witnessed its greatest change.  

 (photo courtesy of MLK Archives)

(photo courtesy of MLK Archives)

The month of April marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lorraine Motel here in Memphis, and MLK50, a commerration of that event is being hosted by the National Civil Rights Museum (which was formerly the Lorraine Motel) through a series of events all year long.

I can still remember that day 50 years ago, like it was yesterday, forever cemented in the minds of those of us who understood its significance and meaning.  My parents both fell silent when the news rang out. My grandmother's silent sobs permeated every room in our house. My father walking outside to dispel his anger and sadness, away from the eyes of his frightened family.  

This year as we mark that turning point in America’s history we are reminded as a partner in Driving the Dream, the United Way of the Mid-South’s signature project to move citizens of Memphis and the Mid-South beyond poverty and hopelessness, that we can still realize Dr. King’s vision.  

Meritan’s programs to help children, adults, the elderly and the disabled has a role in helping carry this torch forward for the Beloved Community, and I am (like you) proud to be here and be a torchbearer for this, our beloved community.  

By the way, if you haven’t attended an MLK50 event...what are you waiting for?

Posted on April 9, 2018 .

SPRING FORWARD!

by Yolanda Webb, Associate Vice President Home & Community Based Services

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A few weeks ago this northern girl put her winter coat away in anticipation of Spring, only however, to pull it out again a week later.

Like you, I’m more than ready for endless sunshine, warm weather, night walks, and picnics in the park. Just as I was thinking those warm weather thoughts and Mother Nature was outwitting me, it occurred to me that you and I are not the only ones who may be anticipating the forward movement of the seasons.  Those we serve who are homebound often do not get to experience these anticipated joys of spring again.

That thoughtful reflection prompted me to consider what those of us who work in human services for individuals who are elderly or who have a disability can do for those who spend more time inside their homes than out.  In other words how can we bring Spring outside in.

I just love this time of year and the idea of springing forward, shedding the old and bringing in the new can work wonders to improve health and overall quality of life.  So in the light of this new season what can you and I do to help those we serve...spring forward? Here are 3 tips to get you springing forward:

  1. Help your client look around and gather ideas about spring cleaning.  This time of letting go can prompt them to declutter, especially some of them who live in smaller spaces.  This can also be a time for opening or cleaning blinds and wiping down windows to bring more of the sunshine indoors.

  2. And what about bringing more of the outdoors indoors?  Fresh cut flowers or even Air Fresheners that give off a hint of spring in their fragrance can make a home more airy and bright.

  3. And what would spring be without fresh fruit and/or ice cream (watch out for those dietary restrictions).  Enjoying the taste of the season is a great way to bring spring to someone who may not get to experience those sights, sounds, smells and taste that can often remind them of their youth and improve their well being.

While these are wonderful tips for those we serve, let’s not forget about self-care during this season of renewal.  This season also prompts us ( I know I get to thinking about what I can throw out) to spring clean our own homes, and to rid ourselves of what no longer serves our souls.  

This is also a great time to plant seeds - not just in our gardens, but at work and home - by doing new projects, creating new adventures, and starting new relationships by expanding our professional and personal networks.  I love this season as it reminds me of all the adventures life is ready and willing to spring forward.

So starting today, spring forward in your life and the lives of others - it’s planting season!

 

Posted on March 23, 2018 .

February Prize Patrol!

 February Prize Patrol Winners with Meritan Foster Care Staff!

February Prize Patrol Winners with Meritan Foster Care Staff!

Prize Patrol was created to recognize foster parents for their dedication in working with any foster youth that enters their home. A prize patrol parent is chosen monthly to represent each month of the year. Prize Patrol Parent was initiated in September 2017.

 Meritan February Prize Patrol Winners! Congratulations!

Meritan February Prize Patrol Winners! Congratulations!

During the fourth staff meeting of every month, the TN Foster Care staff recommends 3 foster parents who have met the criteria of being the Prize Patrol Parent. In order to be chosen, there must be proof that the foster parent met the criteria for 4 consecutive months.

The criteria is:

  • Submission of timely documentation 
  • Completion of ongoing training 
  • Successful collaboration with Meritan, DCS, and other Involved Adults, 
  • Active participation and 
  • Transportation to any form of appointments, family visits, and school visits.

The responsible foster care staff makes sure that all psychological, social, and educational needs have been met. Once the Prize Patrol Parent is chosen, a surprise visit to the home with as many foster care staff as possible, is conducted. The foster parent is presented with a gift basket with a card signed by the foster care staff and sweet treats. 

Congratulations to our February Prize Patrol winners!

Q and A about our Prize Patrol winners, the Wardlows.

Where are the foster parents from? The foster parents are from Tennessee.

Interesting Facts? The foster parents are very involved with any child placed in their home socially and educationally. The Wardlow's provide ongoing support in every aspect to each foster youth. 


What made you choose them to win? The TN foster care staff selected the Wardlow's as the Prize Patrol Parents for February based on their hard work and dedication in fostering. They met the necessary criteria to be chosen as the PPP (Prize Patrol Parents).

Posted on March 7, 2018 and filed under Foster Care.

Black History Month - A Tribute to Caregiving in African-American Families

 by Yolanda Webb

 Photo taken by Yolanda Webb

Photo taken by Yolanda Webb

The Beauty of Black History is that we are still making it every single day.  As we celebrate Black History this month, it has been interesting for me to research and define a profile that summarizes caregiving and those who are entering the field of in-home care (either as family caregivers or paid supports) to help provide quality services and supports to those requiring such services.

It should be noted that the face of caregiving is changing and varies from family caregiver models to hiring quality service providers like Meritan to provide in-home care.  What are the characteristics of those who are entering the caregiving field now or those caring for loved ones at home?  According to AARP, the typical caregiver is 44.2 years old (those entering the field as well), is in very good health, has an outgoing personality, can assist with up to 4.2 ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living) and can provide a comforting and quality of life environment for the care recipient.  

Since the in-home caregiving model has also expanded in recent years beyond senior care to include, individuals with Developmental Disabilities, those with HIV/AIDS, and other chronic conditions (mostly due to changes in Medicaid Managed Care guidelines), I thought I would share the names and experiences of some famous African-Americans who have served or are serving in caregiving roles and share their thoughts on working with those with disabilities, the elderly or those with other chronic conditions.  Their words of wisdom are shared to honor the role caregivers play in the lives of those they serve.  

Samuel L. Jackson - who lost his mother to Alzheimer's

“Laughter is good medicine for the caregiver and the person cared for.”  Jackson became the celebrity host for the Alzheimer's Association’s event called Hilarity for Charity recently and recounted his days as a sole caregiver for his mother who suffered from dementia and lost her fight in 2012.

Holly Robinson-Peete - “Caregivers must accept the hard decision”

Actress, and wife of NFL star Rodney Peete recounts the day it became clear that her father had to transition from in-home care to a 24-hour facility.  While the care was phenomenal, moving her father from independence to dependence was one of the hardest decisions she and her brother ever had to make.

Oprah Winfrey - “Let the Sunshine In”

Recently on Super Soul Sunday, Oprah Winfrey talked about the role of caregivers (both family and paid in-home supports) and getting through the process by getting help through understanding the emotions the person cared for must go through.  Winfrey asked if caregivers would consider learning more from the joyful times the person may have had rather than focus on the needs being cared for.  And to remember that the person has/had a full life of laughter, love, hope and joy.

Dan Gasby - (husband of famed model and restaurateur B. Smith who has Alzheimer's) - “It’s definitely the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life.”  The two wrote the bestselling book, “Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help, and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer's.

Queen Latifah - The actress cares for her ailing mom who lives with the chronic condition of heart failure.  

Blair Underwood - The star’s mom has physical disabilities and his 2013 television show Ironside he described as “kind of a tribute to her,” as he helps to provide her in-home care.

This Black History Month, I’m reminded of the wonderful stories of caregiving I hear on a daily basis from clients, their families and staff alike, and the tremendous progress we have made in human service to ensure that those with disabilities, who are elderly or have physical disabilities/chronic conditions continue to live lives of dignity and respect.

Laughter Is Still the Best Medicine

by Yolanda Webb

“Act as if what you do makes a difference...It does” - William James

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Getting older comes with its ups and downs. For some people, life after 65 represents the golden years, but for many, those years can be filled with loneliness, aches and pains, poverty,  unexplained illnesses, and a plethora of doctor visits that can make life itself really hard. While there are many options in caregivers, the best caregivers are those that understand that one of the best ways to help someone feel better is also the simplest.  Laughter.  Bringing laughter and light into the life of a senior can often alleviate many of the pains of growing old.  Here are a number of reasons why laughter and light heartedness may have been lost, and why laughter may be the best medicine:

As we age, we often lose touch with the people that enriched our lives the most when we were younger.  Friends may move away for retirement or have medical problems of their own that can make it harder to stay in touch. Just as friendships and community participation are important parts of growing up, they are also essential for us as we grow older.

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  • While there are many senior opportunities to connect, some seniors, like those who are bed fast / bed bound, may not always have the chance to reconnect with the community behind the walls of their own homes.  Getting involved can be hard at first.  Helping the senior or disabled person to focus on activities they’ve always enjoyed such as games, singing or card playing, can help them reconnect with that laughter and light heartedness they thought was long gone.

  • Helping the senior or disabled person to connect with church or community groups that may be amenable to doing home visits  can help the individual make new friends while enjoying an afternoon or evening of laughter.

  • The people we have around us can easily influence our own outlook and attitudes.  Working with a senior who may already be experiencing the pains of loneliness or depression can only be exacerbated if we bring our own problems or negative attitudes into their lives.  If you have negative friends, family members, or outlook on life, they could be harming those we serve. Look for ways to bring more laughter and light into your daily life as your share the joy of laughter with someone who needs our help..

Many seniors feel they have little control over their circumstances, but simply changing your focus when we serve and support them can bring welcome relief.  As caregivers and those who serve we must always try reminding ourselves every day of the importance of laughter, and you may be able to affect change in those around you.

UNSUNG HEROES

November 13, 2017

“Doing ordinary things, EXTRAordinarily well!”

Yolanda Webb, MA

Associate Vice President Home and Community Based Services

 Unsung Hereos: Terry Smith, Barbara Washington, Lillie Preyer, Loretta Suggs, Deanne Thomas, Rosie Kennedy, Vernisha White, Beverly Miller, Betty Wallace, Jane Burnette, Cantai Moore, Delores Jones, Candice Washington, Casandra Newsom, Rachel Jackson, Sylvia Williams, Darquisha Killon, Barbara Singleton, Mary Cooper, Mozella Brown, Helen Carr, Sharon Jordan, Jacqueline Macklin, Patricia Turner.   Photo Credit: Y. Webb  
  
  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 

Unsung Hereos: Terry Smith, Barbara Washington, Lillie Preyer, Loretta Suggs, Deanne Thomas, Rosie Kennedy, Vernisha White, Beverly Miller, Betty Wallace, Jane Burnette, Cantai Moore, Delores Jones, Candice Washington, Casandra Newsom, Rachel Jackson, Sylvia Williams, Darquisha Killon, Barbara Singleton, Mary Cooper, Mozella Brown, Helen Carr, Sharon Jordan, Jacqueline Macklin, Patricia Turner.   Photo Credit: Y. Webb

As we approach this holiday season amid the hustle and bustle, and the aromas and pleasant smells of good food, and sacred and shared family memories, we often forget to stop and think a minute about those who may not have a shared family meal or the smell of grandma's Cornbread Dressing, Greens, Sweet Potato Pie and that Ham or Turkey with all the trimmings. 

Age, distance and time can creep up on you, and before you know it...you are one of the many lonely, older souls whose dearest family members, and old friends are all gone, or your own adaptive living skills, have deteriorated and left you lonely and with  the loss of control over your own life.  

Needing help with toileting, bathing, walking, and managing one's household is sometimes filled with shame and fear, from once proud people who now fear this type of help more often than death.

One ray of hope and light  in these difficult moments is the help and support our Home Care Specialist provide.  This often overlooked support system can pour more hope into the lives of people in one day, than many of us do in a lifetime. 

While we always talk about how much money we can save in our field by “keeping people out of nursing homes, and in their own homes,” I think a part of that conversation that is far too often overlooked is the “human” part in this human service. 

While we may help with ADL’s (Adaptive Living Skills), and provide a service that helps decrease the need for institutionalized care, such as nursing homes, Home Care Specialist also provide something more.

Relational connection to the larger community has proven itself to be one of the primary components of good health (don’t believe me check out Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it’s number three on the list).  This role of Home Care Specialist requires substantial skills and special personality traits.   These unsung heroes do intimate and difficult work, and I believe it is important to recognize and thank these unsung heroes, who may one day care for your parents, grandparents, or other family members. 

While the baby boomer generation is reaching its pinnacle, this field of human service will need more and more of these talented, caring individuals and it will be up to us here at Meritan to continue to provide the training, and the opportunities for these unsung heroes to help our clients be successful, remain at home and,  “improve well-being and promote independence throughout life's stages with quality and compassion.” 

So this holiday season, if you know a Home Care Specialist, Direct Service Provider or Personal Support Aide, give them a big holiday “Thank You” for a job well done!

 

 

“I Got My Joy Back!”

October 12, 2017

Yolanda Webb, MA                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Associate Vice President of Home and Community Based Services

 Photo Credit: iStockPhoto Monkey Business Images  In Home Services 

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto Monkey Business Images

In Home Services 

When I first spoke with the caregiver over the phone, a daughter who had uprooted her life to move back home after more than 30 years living halfway across the country, I could tell she was in despair.

On the verge of tears she told me that she had moved back to the area about a year ago. What could be so hard, she had said to her other siblings, after all this was their mother!

But, as their mother’s Dementia worsened, she found she was both physically and emotionally exhausted.  What she learned was that being a caregiver felt more like being a lone ranger than a dutiful daughter.  

She had done all the things she thought she should do.  She had created a schedule for her mom, had scheduled activities and appointments, took care of the house, ran errands and so much more.  

When her mother could help out it wasn’t so bad.  However, as the Dementia rapidly worsened she found that she needed help.  She also realized that she was becoming angry.

She was riding an emotional roller coaster, she knew her mother wouldn’t get better, she knew that taking turns with her younger siblings was out of the question.  They both lived out of town and had families of their own.  

She was tired and she knew that even though she had promised her mother she would always be there, she was failing.  

She could no longer fulfill that promise.

She called Meritan and we worked through a plan to get her mother the help she needed, and connected her to resources she needed as a caregiver as well.

Recently she called me and we talked.  This is what she said, “Thank you to Meritan, the two wonderful staff you sent me, and to you for helping me find care for me as the primary caregiver.  

   “You don’t know how good it is, she said, to have my joy back!”

   She said that over and over, “I got my joy back!”

Here at Meritan our caregiving philosophy includes both client and caregiver to support the whole person through a person-centered approach.  Thanks to all the wonderful staff we have who help support our clients and their families through their own unique journeys…to get their joy back!        


 

In Case of Emergency

September 15, 2017

Yolanda Webb, MA                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Associate Vice President of Home and Community Based Services

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Welcome to our monthly blog where we hope you will find useful information on our in-home personal support services for seniors and or disabled individuals, and information that will help you, if you are a caregiver, to navigate the next steps in the journey of life that presents the “what if’s,” for families.   

My first blog just so happens to coincide with the conclusion of two major hurricanes.  Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.  My mother, who is nearly eighty years old, lives alone in Alabama.  This is a woman who is fiercely independent, and as a former social worker knows all about emergency preparedness.

Early one morning when Hurricane Irma was fast approaching off the coast of Florida, I received a frantic phone call from my sister who lives in Michigan.  It went something like this;

Sister:  “Hey, what are we gonna do about mom!?”

Me:  “What, who’s mom?” I’m kinda groggy because it’s 2:45 am.

Sister:  “Our mom, wake up!  That hurricane is about to hit Florida and we need to get mom out of there!”

Me:  “Oh, hi sis!  I talked to her and she does not want to leave.  She said she’s fine!”

Sis:  “She’s not fine, she’s old!”

My sister and I went back and forth for the next hour (I was clearly up by then), but my mother had made herself perfectly clear the day before.  She did not want to leave.  

So what do you do for those who may be elderly or disabled, whether they live far away or near by, and you want to ensure they are safe and in good hands.  

In talking with my mother the next day we struck a compromise.  In-home personal care or rather companionship.  She was not willing to give up her independence, but would compromise to allow an agency like Meritan, who had quality ratings, come in and check on her and follow up with our family as her line of support.  

Seniors or disabled individuals who can become stranded at home during natural disasters or emergency situations can often become fearful and disoriented, or in my mother's case afraid to lose their independence if they are forced to move from their homes.  So what can you do in situations like this to help seniors prepare in emergency situations?  Here are a few tips I hope you find as useful as we did.  

In-Home Caregivers: Caregivers with our in-home personal support services can check on their senior/disabled clients during emergency situations using smartphones or email (if available).

Near by Family/Friends/Neighbors: As in my mom’s case we contacted all of our family who lived near by.  But, we went a few steps further. Because my mom doesn’t live in assisted living facility, but wanted her own ‘retirement’ apartment, she lives in a wonderful complex that has both seniors and young families.  We met several of the neighbors when we moved her in and gave two of them all of her contact information and all of our contact information.

The lady who lives upstairs from her in the complex kept us informed on the status of the hurricane and its potential impact on Alabama.  She also checked in with us when she checked on my mom (which was twice a day) and she would call me personally out of my mom’s presence to let me know if she thought I needed to come to Alabama.

Get to Know Your Community's Emergency Personnel: My sister and I went one last step further when we moved my mother to Alabama.  We visited the local fire department and medical center where my mother would receive care during an emergency.  Relationships help build up trust and in an emergency my mom could put a face and maybe name to the first responders who would come to assist her in a time of need.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma won’t be our last storms or natural disasters.  Being prepared is our first line of defense to help our loved ones get through...in case of emergency.

Second Chances!

Meritan is proud to offer our participants in our Senior Employment Program the opportunity to learn how to use tablets.  This program was graciously funded by a grant from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.  From downloading apps to completing online job applications, the first group of participants have recently completed their training and will now began training other participants!

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  During the process, one of the participants,  Ms. Fannie Holt, created the amazing video below!

 
 
Posted on July 11, 2017 and filed under Senior Employment.

Meritan offers CNA Tuition Assistance!

 Congratulations Angelique Davis!

Congratulations Angelique Davis!

 Congratulations to Melody Hampton!

Congratulations to Melody Hampton!

Meritan offers CNA Tuition Assistance for individuals wishing to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). The training is a 5-week course that involves classroom work, facility orientation, and hands-on instruction. To qualify, you must have worked for at least 20 hours per week for at least four weeks, worked for the agency for at least sixth months, and not had any disciplinary action within the last 12 months.

We would like to take a moment to acknowledge Angelique Davis and Melody Hampton for completing the CNA program. We also would like to announce that Rodney Allen and Deanne Thomas has been accepted into the program starting July 10, 2017. Let’s congratulate and wish them great success.

Remember, it is your right to choose your in-home medical care. Meritan's Home Health follows the direction of your doctor, to care for you while you recover from illness, injury, or surgery. We accept Medicare, VA and private pay. Meritan is a top 25% provider in the nation for quality and patient experience. We care about both the success of our patients and employees. 

 "Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine." -Chris Hadfield

 Congratulations Deanne Thomas!

Congratulations Deanne Thomas!

 Congratulations Rodney Allen!

Congratulations Rodney Allen!

Posted on June 30, 2017 and filed under Home Health.

Meet Mrs. Kathey

 

Have you met Clara Kathey? Mrs. Kathey is a 76 year old participant in our Title V, Senior Job Training and Employment Program. Meritan’s Title V program is about “combining community service and a paycheck until you find your next job.”

Meritan provides on-the-job training for unemployed and/or low-income for those individuals ages 55 and older. This program helps seniors who want to enter or re-enter the workforce but need more career training to better prepare them for the new work-world experience. Our Title V participants receive paid on-site job training at a public agency or a non-profit organization. Our Title V Coordinators help our participants find jobs after their job training is complete. Seniors can be enrolled into this program for a duration of four years. Mrs. Kathey is an outstanding Title V participant that makes an impact to majority of the seniors in the Memphis community.

Mrs. Kathey teaching a Title V Participant how to use WiFi.

Mrs. Kathey heard about Meritan’s Senior Job Training and Employment Program through a strange occurrence. She had been retired for a year and became restless. She received a phone call from Senior Services office in Washington. Mrs. Kathey then told the lady on the phone what she was interested in doing, which was getting back to work part-time. The lady on the phone from Washington then referred Meritan, Inc. to Mrs. Kathey.

She was first assigned to be a receptionist at a homeless shelter; however, 2 days before she began, Meritan offered another job training that appeared to be a better match for Mrs. Kathey. Mrs. Kathey became Title V’s  “Digital Trainer.” Her job training included training seniors around the city of Memphis on how to use modern technology.  Our Title V Coordinators have Mrs. Kathey an instructional book and suitcase, and from there it’s history.

Mrs. Kathey goes to several appointments in Senior Centers to teach other seniors how to best use technology. She loves teaching her iPad classes throughout all of the senior centers. She loves what she does because she teaches those who have a fear of technology. After feels accomplished after the seniors get acquainted with modern technology.

Mrs. Kathey would tell seniors that “The most that they {technology} do is what you feed into them.” She also uses an analogy that she created to help seniors understand the home button on the iPad with comparing the home button to Poplar Avenue. She explains that if you get lost on the iPad, remember to press the home button and get back on Poplar, so you can find your way home.


Currently, there is around 35 seniors on the waiting list. Each digital training course last about 2-4 hours depending on the client’s need. Mrs. Kathey stated, “It has been a joy. I feel good teaching them what I know. When they {seniors} feel good I feel good.”

Mrs. Kathey teaching a Title V participant how to navigate an Android tablet.
Teaching Digital Lessons with Quality and Compassion!

Why I foster...

 Kerry Connors

Kerry Connors

Home. That’s really what we are talking about in foster parenting. A place to rest. A place of calm. Consistency. A place where you can know love. A place of safety and security.

Thinking about foster parenting is hard. It’s difficult to think about kids who are without these very basic things we take for granted. Why would you take on someone else’s problems? There are going to be all these things, all these appointments, all this everything.

But it’s not about any of that. It’s about real, actual children. This isn’t a hypothetical anymore. There are children, right here in our community who are in need. Their parents are not currently able or perhaps not even capable of taking care of them. Parents may need a hand to learn skills in parenting, managing their time, anger management, life skills like keeping a clean house, making sure there are groceries in the house, or managing their money. The foster care system provides the space and time for a parent to do the work they need to do, and a child to be cared for in a loving, supportive home.

Do you think “I’m sure there’s somewhere kids go in a situation like that?” Well guess what? There’s not. There’s no such thing as some nice big happy place where kids all get together in a big school type setting and have a wonderful caring older woman who lovingly tends to her charges. This is it, foster care is the system. Individuals, like you, are who make this work. Kids don’t need an institution, they need real people. An actual foster parent to open their home and their heart, to let them know that there are adults who will care. Who can provide. Who will be there. Who won’t let them go hungry. It’s you. You are the person who can fill in the piece missing in their hearts where they know that all these things are supposed to happen, but they haven’t experienced it yet. They know other kids who seem to have these things, but for some reason it hasn’t been true for them.

Hopefully, their parent or family member will receive the training and support that they need to be able and willing to parent. The goal is to keep families together. Your role as a foster is to help during this transitional time. To model appropriate behavior. Show the child that adults can be counted on. That you will make promises and keep them. Food will always be available. That education and working hard at school are of the highest priority and you will help them to pursue their best.

When you’ve done your job you’ve shared your heart. You have to give it freely, and you send a little piece of you away with your foster child when they return to their family. In the time they spend with you, you can create believers. Believers who know that they are safe, that they are loved, that home is a real concept. You can change something in a child who might have believed that they weren’t worth all the things they deserve, that maybe they were the reason things were unstable at home.

You can do this. It is scary to take the leap, but you won’t be alone. Your agency will be there to help. There will be appointments, but they are by providers who are part of your network of supporters who also want great things for your foster child. You may have extra meetings at school to set up accommodation for a child who might have fallen behind or need extra support. If you do this for them now, they can sustain these positive changes when they return home and will have an added safety net of professionals who care about them.

Be the one who notices and does what needs to be done. Make children believe in goodness. Build community. Be better and more than you thought you could be. The most simple things you provide are the things these children need to most. You can’t regret sharing your heart. You can make a home.

Posted on March 9, 2017 and filed under Foster Care.

Holiday Gifts for Homebound Seniors

Silver Bell Logo.jpg
 Thomas Bell, representing Cory's delivering a meal for a homebound senior.

Thomas Bell, representing Cory's delivering a meal for a homebound senior.

“Help a Senior Have a Happy Holiday!

Meritan’s Silver Bells rang once again this holiday season, and they rang louder than ever before! Meritan, Inc. brightened hundreds of  homebound seniors' holiday through its Silver Bells program. We collected gifts and monetary donations beginning November 7th and concluding December 16th. Because of our gracious donors like you, Meritan adopted 651 homebound and frail seniors this holiday season. Not only did we have individual donors throughout the community who supported our Silver Bells Program, but we also had corporations and small businesses adopt Silver Bells. Pictured to the right, you see Thomas Bell, a Corky’s BBQ representative. Corky’s BBQ was gracious enough to donate a hot holiday meal to a homebound senior. This year, we had a total of 364 donors that supported our Silver Bells Program. Our recipients of our Silver Bells Program are gracious for holiday gifts that they receive. Sometimes, these are the only gifts that they do receive.  Here’s a letter written by Randy V., one of our homebound senior clients, and how much the Silver Bells program has meant to him. Randy writes:

“I want to thank Silver Bells for bringing me joy and happiness around Christmas time when I have no family here. The first year I received gifts, my heart was overwhelmed. I don’t have any family here, and your Silver Bells program helped fill that void. Because of you, I have hope, and I feel that someone cares about me. This will be my third year participating in the Silver Bells program, and I always look forward to my gifts. In the past, I’ve received a coat, gloves, pajamas, and a housecoat. This year, I’m hoping to get new covers for my bed, a full size comforter set, tennis shoes, a hat, and a scarf set. I can’t thank the Silver Bells program enough!”

We also visited one of our other home health senior client’s named Alma. This year, Alma asked for cozy pajamas, house shoes, and warm blankets. When we asked her to open up her gifts, she said, "It is not Christmas if you open them up early."  So instead, Alma gave us some warm cookies. During our conversation Alma said, “I love to give more than I receive.” Everyone deserves holiday cheer, and we are happy that Meritan and our community supported our clients. Alma has been a part of the Silver Bells program for now 3 years. She has loved her gifts and the Homemaker program! She especially adores her caregiver Phyllis. Not only did she want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, but she also wanted to thank everyone who donated.

Throughout the years, thousands of seniors have enjoyed happier holidays because of gifts and contributions just like those given to Randy and Alma. Your generosity enables Meritan to continue fulfilling its mission of providing care and services to more than 2,000 Mid-Southerners annually who experience a renewed sense of self-worth through our Senior Services.

Posted on February 23, 2017 and filed under Silver Bell.

Markitta's Story - My Life: Transcendence through Foster Care

My name is Markitta Washington, and I'm a former ward of the state of Mississippi. I am currently majoring in the field of social work at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. In my eyes, I have made tremendous strides to become something more than just another statistic. I wanted to be more than that. I made it my mission to graduate high school and I will do the same for college. I did not want to use the excuse of being a "foster kid" to hinder my success. I didn’t use the fact that I was in foster care as a crutch. Instead, I used it as a stair step. I took advantage of each and everything that the foster care system gave me.

My placement in foster care was not an easy one. I did not show it on the outside, but on the inside I was battling with my emotions. I came from an abusive home and put all the blame on myself. I am the oldest of three children, and it was my job to take care of my younger brothers. My birth mother had hallucinations where she did not know where she was or who we were. This resulted in bruises and battered behinds. I was the shield for my siblings, and it broke my heart when I was separated from them during the process of being placed in state custody. I thought that if I didn't tell the authorities about the physical and sexual abuse, I would’ve still been able to protect them. But if I hadn’t notified the proper people about my situation, I would not be where I am today.

Foster care gave me a chance to discover myself. I did not have a chance to be a child in my mother's household. I was too busy taking care of my brothers to ever focus on myself. In foster care, I was given a chance to love myself and to think about me. I was surrounded by love in this new environment. From my foster parents to my social workers, I was spoiled with attention. I never had this kind of attention growing up. I blossomed under this special devotion, and I went from being shy and meek to being outgoing and bubbly. I am happy, and you can tell this by the glow on my skin. I have never had this much love envelope me. It was foreign to me at first, but I’ve gotten used to it.

When I was younger, I used to hear all kinds of horror stories about foster homes. Luckily, I was placed into a loving home, a home that dispelled all the rumors I had heard. I was treated like family. My foster parents welcomed me with open arms, and I thank God every single day to have been blessed with this wonderful family. I have been with my foster family for seven years, and I’ve joked with them that they haven’t kicked me out yet! Even after my emancipation from the state, my foster parents still hold me near and dear. Eight years ago I would have never dreamed of this outcome.

Eight years ago, when I entered the foster care system, I did not see a bright future for myself. Eight years ago, I also could not have seen myself graduating from high school or attending college. Eight years ago, I could not have envisioned myself as the young lady I am today. Because of foster care, I thank my lucky stars for the chance to restart my life for the better.

 

Posted on June 15, 2016 and filed under Foster Care.

Bessie's Story

After 36 years on the job, Bessie received a phone call from her employer telling her she no longer had a job.

“I was shocked. I was hurt, angry and upset,” she said. “I had worked for the company for 36 years. I worked in the factory. I figured I was so far up in seniority that it never dawned on me that I could get laid off. I felt l like I gave most of my life to the job, and now I was being thrown out to pasture, but I still had a lot of good years left in me.”

Bessie was on unemployment for over 10 months and took some workshops at the American Job Center. There she learned about Meritan’s program to help older adults re-enter the workforce. “They saved me. I was broken,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but everyone in the program was just like me with similar stories.”

Meritan’s Title V program helps seniors 55 and older find jobs and receive job training, and the program has a 75 to 80 percent job placement rate. Bessie said that during her orientation with Meritan, she was asked “What do I like to do?” She told us she likes to cook, take care of people, and work with children. When Bessie was placed with Memphis Heritage, she got to do all three.

Bessie was in the Title V program for 48 months and met her durational limit. She said, “I thought it was over for me, but even though I was out of the program, Meritan followed up with me, told me about a job, and set up the interview for me. Using the skills I was taught and going to the workshops, Meritan prepared me for a job at my age doing something I really like: helping people. I am now employed once again with a great company. I want to say THANK YOU MERITAN!

Meritan spoke with Bessie’s supervisor and was told she is a great employee, her clients love her, and she is their biggest recruiter. Her supervisor told us, “Bessie is everything you could ask for in an employee; she’s loyal and dependable. She has referred three or more job candidates to us and all were hired. I wish we had more employees like Bessie!”

 

Posted on June 8, 2016 and filed under Senior Employment.

CaDana' Story

According to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Memphis has the largest number of children in foster care than any other city in the state. Statistics also show that foster children after the age of 18 have a 60 percent higher chance of being incarcerated, homeless, and pregnant than their peers.  These figures are alarming and disheartening to me, as a young woman who spent 7 years in the foster care system in Memphis, Tennessee from the ages of 6 to 13. I lived in 9 different foster homes and was separated from my five biological siblings. I remember that some of my foster homes were very nice and left pleasant memories. I also lived in homes as a foster child where I encountered physical and verbal abuse as well. Those were the challenging times, because I felt like no one was fighting on my behalf and that people were not protecting me from harm, even while I was in the system. I remember consistently  being labeled and judged by those negative statistics and feeling like it was my job to disprove them. 

Even after all of my experiences in foster care, I still remember people in my community giving me a chance, in hope of not making those negative statistics a reality in my life. Since being adopted at the age of 13,  I have worked with foster children and advocated for them to give them the same hope that was offered to me. As Miss Shelby County, I have been trying  to personally work with children in foster care programs throughout the area, while also connecting them with positive outlets in our communities. My ultimate goal for this advocacy program is to show children that they have the power to change the future regardless of their past or current circumstances. Additionally, I will be attending the University of Memphis' Cecil C. Humphrey College of Law in the Fall, not order to achieve my dream of becoming a children's advocate attorney to promote and protect the well-being of our children in state custody. My ultimate goal is help children in foster care go from victim to victorious in their lives. 

Maxie's Story

Maxies Story

Before I begin, let me tell you where I come from.  Well, it is from Sri Lanka, a beautiful larger island country settled in the northern Indian Ocean called “Sri Lanka Paradise” by tourists.  (For its beauty and lifestyle)  A country that still boasts of a rich cultural heritage.  Sri Lanka is a diverse country, home to many religions, ethnicities and languages, where ancient traditions are still held onto and practiced.

(Meritan operates the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) a job training program for eligible seniors, ages 55 and older).  This was, I must say my happiest/satisfying 2 years – Working with the nicest people I came across since arriving in America.  I did not leave this location, but was moved out as Meritan does not allow more than one year in each organization.  I had already overstayed.  By this time I was a US citizen.

Now, I come to my story….. with ‘Youth Build’ (Genesis)

An interview at W.I.N I was greeted by Mr. Alan Gumbel, Program Manager of Y/B (Youth Build), and led to a conference room where Mr. Darrel Scott and he interviewed me.  The position was for the front desk.  After a couple of questions and answers were exchanged, Mr. Gumbel handed me a sheet of paper on which there were 2 job descriptions, one on each side, and asked me which on suited me best.  It did not take me long to decide on the youth related job, and the interview continued…… I had now agreed on this assignment.

At the end of the session, whilst wrapping up I asked them “Is the job location here at WIN?”  Now listen to this…, at this point I was told it was on Lamar Avenue.  (Lamar Avenue was associated with violence/crime). I immediately declined the assignment, started sliding my papers back into my file and almost alighted from my chair, ready to make an exit.  What a scene!  The two gentlemen – their bewilderment at my performance was so evident as I changed over swiftly and was almost running away.  I still wonder what flashed through their minds at this moment!  Then, I was told that it was not such a bad location and also was not too far off, etc.  I leisurely sat down and agreed to take it from there… to give it a try!

Now back at WIN, I was introduced to the staff by Mr. Alan Gumbel, then given the literature on ‘Youth Build’ to read and gain knowledge of this subject which was an “UFO” to me.  I read with interest, made my notes and was no preparing to commence working with ‘Youth Build’.  Still visualizing, what Y/B would be like.

This was the inaugural Youth Build Program, Memphis, Tennessee.  The dream and vision of Mr. Alan Gumbel, Program Manager.

(Youth Build is a non-profit organization which provides education, counseling and job skills, to unemployed young American adults (between ages 18 and 24), generally high school drop-outs.  There are 273 Youth Build programs in the United States)

Welcome

Orientation was on May the 6th, 2014, and then after the students were tested the staff and the students went over to 2788 Lamar Avenue – the location for the Youth Build program.  The feared location!  (This was the old fire station).

On arrival we were dumfounded!!  Yes that is the word! The question I asked myself “What? Am I going to work here?” The premises was so raggedy, dilapidated and was in one ball of a mess, all round – such a pitiful sight – painfully decaying in degrees in insolation due to disuse, crying out for help without a voice or tears. Inside the building, was like a dungeon – smelt bad too.  Our eyes were sore at this sight.  My head was throbbing fighting to make a decision.  Some students including myself, wanted to turn back.  But very soon, all wanted to make this ‘our place’.

Let me tell you what made me stay on…

When cleaning began (on day one), staff and students started on alternate cleaning assignments in the yard and inside the building.  I went towards the bathrooms - this girl was scrubbing the hardened smut and blackened fungus on the floor with all her might.  The eagerness to make things work for them, to turn this place into a habitable and usable unit was radiating from the manner in which she was laboring.  I immediately fetched a pair of gloves and a mask and joined her in cleaning. Unfortunately, I had to move as the bleach started reacting on me negatively since I have allergies to most chemicals.  I left the scene and went to the yard where students were clearing.  In order to get someone to come in to help her, here what I saw just pierced my heart.

(I guess this was my turning point!)  Some students were scraping off (a near excavation process) the tons of leaves that had rained down from the trees over the years and were stuck and so bonded to the ground, weather beaten, soaked by the rains, baked by the excessive heat of the summer, then frozen by the snow in the winter, now formed into a thick hard scab – very encrusted not so easy to remove… Among them were two students who had no gloves, no masks but they did not sit aside because they were minus gloves and masks, but were digging into this hard surface and scarping off the piles of dirt with their bare hands and filling the large black garbage bags!  The determination of these fallen youth to rise again!! Oh what a heartbreaking scenario.

When it came to academics – this was more serious environment where absolute silence concentration and discipline was called for constantly.  Mr. Alan Gumbel, a very dedicated instructor, was always looking for results in the range of an A, B or C levels and not less.  One of my roles was to maintain fine discipline, particularly in the class room.  I also helped the students who needed additional coaching in improving their English, hand writing, comprehension, etc. 

We had the final celebration which was the last of a series of celebrations we had along with way, birthday parties for the 3 staff members, cook-out(s) BBQ, where we all fellowshipped and enjoyed meals prepared by ourselves.  These were the fun filled events. 

The graduation was held on February 27, 2015 on a grand scale, and I must say this was the most colorful and happiest day of the Youth Build program.  Success ad accomplishment at last!

Now did I change? Oh yes!  I was always a loving and caring person.  But these qualities were not sufficient to deal with the Youth Build Cohort, who had many adjustments to be made and needed ruling with a firm hand.  As time went by, I found within me another personality that I was not aware of that lived inside of me – a tough, but more understand and a tolerant person who could withstand and overcome/face challenges, etc.  My former sensitive nature gradually started to decrease in degrees, inch by inch, bit by bit.

Now I noticed that I could face and move away obstacles, leap over hurdles, etc.  Bless this Cohort and staff for helping me discover myself.  So, I who almost ran away from the interview, I am still here (after 9months) with Youth Build now preparing to welcome the 2nd Y/B Cohort with a more mature outlook – unbelievable, but true!!

 

Posted on June 8, 2016 .