Posts tagged #Meritan

Laughter Is Still the Best Medicine

by Yolanda Webb

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


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.


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 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!



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.

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)


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 .