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

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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 .