T here are many nonprofits in our community doing important work to help families grow stronger. We wanted to take a moment to say thank you to a few of our favorites. If you have a heart for their mission, send a contribution this holiday season. If we all do our part, we can make Memphis better for children and families.
A Rock in a Stormy Sea
Hope House • hopehousememphis.org, 272-2702
When Latrina Moore was diagnosed with HIV in her early 20s, she had no idea what to do, let alone what would happen to her unborn child. “When I first heard the words, it was so surreal,” Moore recalls. “I was working as a medical assistant at Choices here in Memphis, and I saw cases like this all the time and never imagined I would be on the other side of the table.”
Family members turned their backs once they learned she had AIDS. The young mother was devastated. Then her doctor told her about Hope House, an early education and social service center dedicated to serving families and children ages six weeks to 5 years who are living with AIDS.
At last, she had found a rock in stormy sea.
“I started coming to the support groups, and I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Moore says. “I had been shunned by lots of my friends and family and was sort of expecting to be treated the same way, but all of the social workers expressed love, concern, and patience.”
From hospice to living with HIV
Founded in 1995 by the Junior League of Memphis, Hope House initially offered hospice, but today it’s grown. “When anti-retroviral drugs were developed, we became a support system to help families learn how to successfully live with the virus, and more importantly, be a place where children and families can flourish,” says executive director Dr. Betty Dupont.
Hope House offers an array of programs to help families on a day-to-day basis, from life skills classes and education field trips for children to counseling, preschool, and housing assistance.
“The play therapy is a great outlet for children who have been exposed to violence and grief associated with their living conditions,” says Dupont.
After receiving individual therapy, children have morphed from being withdrawn and anti-social to outgoing and full of life. “A lot of our children would not be able to attend a school in Shelby County due their violent behavior and outbursts,” Dupont says. “Here, we can work through their trauma so they can eventually co-exist with their peers.”
Life is better
As for Latrina Moore and her children, “This daycare has been a godsend. I am back in nursing school and getting straight As, and I have learned so much from these support groups and have dear friends in the other moms and families that attend functions here,” says Moore. “I am so much more open and confident now. I have learned ways to deal with my family and overcome obstacles in my life.” — Margot Pera
Give Hope to Families
Hope House is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Help them raise $20,000. • hopehousememphis.org
Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
The Exchange Club Family Center • exchangeclub.net
24-hour hotline: 276-2200
The Exchange Club Family Center empowers families with the ability to break the cycle of family violence and child abuse.
Families learn to identify domestic violence, receive counseling, and gain anger management and parenting skills. Many programs provide advocates who assist families involved with the juvenile justice system or help them find appropriate housing and childcare.
A comprehensive program for first-time teen moms teaches child development and provides advocates who pay home visits each week to help moms put into practice positive discipline techniques and family planning. — Kristi Cook
Helping Families Help Themselves
Porter-Leath • Porterleath.org, 577-2500
Porter-Leath remains passionately committed to helping at-risk children and families, and each year, serves more than 10,000 Memphians. Their mission: “Empowering children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal, and independent lifestyle.”
Programs include foster and adoptive care, as well as early childhood and parent education. Preschool programs arm more than 5,000 children each year with the necessary skills for a successful start in kindergarten. Parents not only learn about prenatal care and child development but also home and car safety, nutrition, and parenting skills. The agency also provides much needed guidance to parents wishing to further their education or gain employment.
Leaving no one out, the “Generations” program provides seniors the opportunity to share their love and attention with youngsters, much like the national Foster Grandparent program. — Kristi Cook
An Alternative to Detention for Teens
JIFF • Jiffyouth.org, 522-8502
For teens that are third-time offenders in the juvenile justice system, the road to adulthood is a rocky one. Some studies indicate juvenile detention leads to a failure to graduate high school and a higher likelihood of spending time behind bars as an adult.
The JIFF program — Juvenile Intervention and Faith-based Follow-up — works to give kids a second chance. Juvenile Court refers young offenders to JIFF’s 16-week mentoring program, which matches community leaders with teens who need guidance. Students are picked up after school, fed, and through Christ-centered intervention, discuss life choices. “Most kids at 17 or 18 realize gangs aren’t the answer, but they’re not sure of an alternative,” says executive director Richard Graham. Offering alternatives does help; JIFF’s recidivism rate is 40 percent.
One option JIFF offers teens is earning a paycheck at Sweet LaLa’s Bakery, run by business owner and JIFF board member Laura Young. To create her almond-flavored sugar cookies, Young rents a kitchen in the Abe Scharff YMCA building and hires teens to work under the watchful guidance of JIFF volunteer Sheryl Miller. Young has hired 12 JIFF grads since last December.
“When you get to know their stories,” she says, “you realize many are looking for a way out.”
— Jane Schneider
A Safe Place for Victims of Domestic Violence
Family Safety Center • familyjusticecenter.org
For women experiencing the trauma of an abusive relationship, the Family Safety Center offers respite. The center brings together the civil, criminal, health, and social services women need to help them move beyond their abuser. Since 50 percent also have children, the center offers on-site childcare, counseling, and even play therapy. Being housed in one location also helps agencies work together, “so they don’t have to be all things to their clients,” says executive director Olliette Murry-Drobot.
Her staff works to help women understand the cycle of violence. “Some don’t realize they’re in a violent relationship because sometimes it’s so subtle, the victims are made to feel like they’re crazy.”
Women often come two and three times before leaving their abuser completely. But since the center opened in 2009, domestic violence cases in Memphis have steadily declined. — Jane Schneider
Jane Schneider, Kristi Cook, and Margot Pera