December 18th, 2014

Class helps families support mentally ill loved ones

We often hear about the “holiday blues,” a condition some people experience around this time of year.
Usually the blues are a sense of sadness that is temporary and caused by stress, loneliness or an inability to meet society’s ideal of a joyous holiday celebration.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness notes that for those with a diagnosed mental illness, however, the holidays can make their condition worse. NAMI urges friends and family to “reach out and watch out for each other in keeping with the spirit of the season.”
I agree, but that raises a couple of questions for me: How do we know when “down-in-the-dumps,” as my mother called the blues, is something more? And exactly how do you reach out without making matters worse?
Tracy Jacobson, director of family services for NAMI Lexington, said if the “blues” persist for more than a couple of weeks, the person might need to seek help.
“There are different levels of severity and different stages of recovery,” she said. “There is no one-size-fits-all method for success.”
Treatment usually starts with the primary care physician and then moves to a psychiatrist if the condition warrants it.
I was glad to read a recent column by my colleague Paul Prather, a minister in Mount Sterling, urging fellow ministers to encourage parishioners to seek professional help as they would with any illness.
“If you’re genuinely depressed, then determination, Bible reading, positive thinking and prayer might not help much. You probably need enlightened treatment from a mental health professional,” he wrote.
A study NAMI quotes found that a diagnosis could take as long as 10 years and three therapists, Jacobson said. And mental illnesses are very difficult conditions to have, Jacobson said.
“It takes a long time to get a diagnosis and then a long time to get medication that works. It is trial and error. There is no absolute.”
Fortunately, thousands and thousands of people have successfully navigated that maze and are productive friends, family members and church goers. “The brain can get ill just like any other organ of the body,” Jacobson said.
And it can regain a healthy functionality.
Which brings me to my second question: How do the rest of us support our friends and family members without making things worse? How do we put the puzzle pieces together to create a new family portrait and new family dynamic?
NAMI Lexington offers a Family-to-Family Education Course, which is an 11-week series to help school friends and relatives in relating to individuals with a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness.
The course touches on the signs and symptoms of various illnesses, the biology and research of brain disorders, and the available medications and treatment techniques. Current information about a wide range of illnesses is discussed including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders.
The materials also offer means of communicating with the relative better, problem-solving skills and empathy, Jacobson said.
“Family members learn symptoms of the illness that are truly symptom-related (to the disease) and not the person choosing to behave this way,” she said. “Ultimately, after taking the class, people report feeling more empowered and more at peace. Their relationships improve with their relatives.”
Special emphasis is also placed on self-care, Jacobson said. Too often friends, relatives or caregivers focus so much on the individual with mental illness that they neglect their own well-being. Take time for yourself. Relax. Do something you enjoy doing again.
The class gives participants a chance to understand others are in the same position, and they learn to adjust their expectations.
“One of the values of the class is sharing,” she said. “Serious mental illness affects 1 in 17 people. Once you can understand and can tolerate the behavior, and once you change your expectations, everything together improves the relationship,” she said.
That understanding, that acceptance, opens the door so that a helping hand is better received. And when one family member is given the necessary tools, wisdom, and collective experience to know how to mitigate difficult scenarios, he or she can pass that knowledge on to others.
That works throughout the year when the relative may have ups and downs. The need for support doesn’t stop after New Year’s Day. Knowledge helps relatives reclaim their lives as a family.
The Family-to-Family class starts Jan. 14 in Lexington, and meets for 11 Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Pre-registration is required. The class and all class materials are free. Space is limited.
If you can’t make this class, there will be two more held in the coming year. After taking one of them, you will be better prepared to help not only during the next “holiday blues” season, but all year round.

IF YOU GO
What: Family-to-Family Education Course, a free 11-week class sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lexington.
When: 6:30-9 p.m. Wednesdays. beginning Jan. 14. Pre-authorization is required. Space is limited.
Information: Call (859) 536-8278, or email tracynamilex@gmail.com.

December 18th, 2014

Baptist church’s mission a blessing for others

At Total Grace Baptist Church, members are asked to do something kind for strangers. It could be paying for the next customer in line at a drive-through, or something as simple as giving a compliment.
“That is the culture we try to create in the church,” said Pastor Michael Robinson. “It could be anything, anything nice. It perpetuates good deeds.”
And church members “love it,” he said.
“This is probably one of the biggest things we do throughout the year.”
Because this time of year has two big holidays, members are really pushing the concept.
“They are all over the place,” Robinson said of the outreach effort being called “B2B,” or “Blessed to be a Blessing.”
How does it work?
“I love to go to Dairy Queen because the meals are cheap and I can pay for the person behind me,” Robinson said. “I’m safe at Dairy Queen. The most I’ve ever paid is $20.”
Some members leave “abnormally large tips,” he said. “It is the surprise factor. When we do something, we leave the cards.”

Pastor Michael Robinson

Pastor Michael Robinson

The cards read: “Now that you have been blessed, bless someone else and pass this card along with your good deed.”

Members of the church at 1313 North Limestone have also knocked on doors in the church’s neighborhood and handed out $100 utility vouchers. They have approached drivers at gas pumps and given then $25 gas cards.
They have also passed out vouchers for turkeys, which neighborhood residents picked up the Sunday before Thanksgiving. About 250 turkeys were distributed along with boxes of macaroni and cheese and stuffing.
Why? Because, Robinson said, they are blessed, and it is their mission to be blessings for others. “When you do good deeds, good deeds come back,” he said.
One member, Linda Conner, didn’t hand out a card or purchase coffee for the driver behind her. Instead, Conner stepped out on faith and opened her home for six months to a woman with a troubled past whom she barely knew.
“It’s whatever is in your heart,” she said. “Whatever you feel led to do.”
The woman had lost her home and her job, and her credit was a mess, Conner said.  She only charged the woman $200 for room and board.
Still, “lot of people kept telling me she was bad news,” she said. “You cannot imagine the flak I got.”
Although adjustments had to be made and leisure time sacrificed, Conner has no regrets.
“I knew what God had put on my heart,” she said. “I knew it was a matter of trust and faith in God.”
Conner and her husband, Travis, who never hesitated to support the woman, teach a master life course at the church. The woman she helped attended and graduated from that class.
The woman now has a good job, a car and her own apartment. She is also helping other women get their lives together.
“It wasn’t easy for her,” Conner said. “That is what it is all about.”
The blessed to bless concept benefits fellow church members as well, who may not have the financial stability to provide toys for their children at Christmas. They can earn TG (Total Grace) Bucks, which can be used to purchase new toys that other members have donated. Those bucks are earned by caring for children during the service, by working in the community or through other works.1052
“That is our DNA,” Robinson said. “We are a need-meeting church. We handle the spiritual needs and the existential needs of the church.”
Considering the church was established in 2009 with 13 members and now has 1,800, its mission seems to be working. Robinson “casts out the vision, and we work out the details,” Conner said.
If you are ever blessed to be the recipient of one of those cards, please pay it forward. Our society needs a lot more blessings.

December 18th, 2014

Now is the time to confront wrongs and create diamonds

Years ago, I was a member of an intentionally multicultural church. The minister himself was biracial.
In that setting, you would assume we all were in agreement about racism and its negative effects on people in these United States, and our need for reconciliation.
For the most part, we were.
But a fellow white member questioned my desire to shine a glaring light on the racism I had experienced as often as I had combed my hair or brushed my teeth. He said I was too “confrontational,” that I should be nicer about it. Then people might change more readily, he said.
I remembered that when anti-racism activist and author Tim Wise closed his speech a few days ago at the MOSAIIC conference, hosted by the Bluegrass Community and Technical College and several area institutions of higher learning. He said, “Nice people are the problem sometimes.”
“Interrupting traffic is not nice, but necessary,” Wise said. “Interrupting the St. Louis Symphony to protest the killing of Mike Brown is not nice, but necessary. Interrupting business-as-usual is not nice, but necessary.”
I wish I had come up with those words when I was talking to my fellow church member.
Instead, I told him I didn’t think being confrontational was a negative. And I still don’t. Without pressure, a piece of coal would never become a diamond.
Young people in Lexington, in Kentucky, and in the U.S. are trying their best to make their country sparkle like a diamond. Forty years ago, I would have been right in the thick of things.
Young people were the ones who created a movement that would become the “Arab Spring.” Young people gave their lives to end apartheid in South Africa. And, as Wise pointed out, young people led the fight for civil rights in this country.
The young people who are participating in peaceful marches and die-ins should be seen as heroes, Wise said.
I agree.
But, some people have problems with peaceful protests.
JazMene Landing, a UK senior who has been participating in die-ins on campus, said some apparently fellow students are using a social media app called Yik Yak to denigrate protesters.
“There is a pile of mud on the Willy T Library floor,” one post read. “Someone better mop it up!”
“I’m sure a boat ride back home costs less than 5 pairs of Jordans, Polo draws showin’ 7 days a week, and 2 tubs of coco(sp) butter for this cold weather,” another post read. “Pack up and row if you can’t roll in the USA.”
Two other posters liked that one.
Then another poster replied, “OK, the basketball team is coming with us then.”
Landing said that last response came from a fellow protester. “It was meant to lessen the ignorance that came before it,” she said. They wanted to inject a little humor rather than show anger.
It’s a new era in the fight for equality. The digital blow-back is basically as anonymous as a pointed hood, but the hurt inflicted is just as disconcerting.
UK President Eli Capilouto condemned what he called “hate-filled” comments and praised the students willing to protest: “… hate-filled slurs hurled for no reason other than to demean another person have no place here,” he wrote in a campus-wide email in response. “Such language is indicative of narrow mindedness and mean spirit; and what I have read sickens me. It is not who we are or wish to be.”
Regarding the protesters, Capilouto wrote, “I am proud of the leadership of our students who have organized silent protests to express their outrage. These efforts are a demonstration, too, of the unyielding and unbreakable hope that we can finally muster the will and conceive the way to break down the unnecessary barriers that separate us.”
Landing said that is exactly what is happening.
She said there have been three demonstrations and each has been larger and more diverse than the ones before.
“We don’t want people to think it is a black thing,” Landing said. “We are all on the same campus, so everyone is affected.”
She said the negative comments serve as motivation to continue demonstrations that highlight racial inequities in this country as well as on the UK campus.
Thank goodness.
Wise said young protesters “are showing us the way that apparently we have forgotten.
“This is solvable,” he said. “I started listening to black people, and it is amazing what that will do for you, when you actually start believing people of color know their lives better than you know their lives.”
We should be listening to women, the poor, the disabled and the LGBT community as well, he said. They know more about their own lives than men, the rich, the able-bodied, and the straight communities that try to define them.
“Nice can be the enemy of action,” Wise said. “Nice keeps its voice to a whisper. Nice doesn’t get agitated. Nice smiles all the time. Nice does not do sit-ins and does not protest.
“We need less nice and more truth,” Wise said.
Healthcare and medical students at more than 70 medical schools held die-ins on Dec. 10, organized through the hashtag #WhiteCoats4BlackLives. They called the recent deaths a “public health crisis.”
Professional athletes have donned “I can’t breathe” T-shirts, or entered football stadiums with their hands raised.
The police chief in Richmond, Calif., joined protesters last week, holding a sign that read “black lives matter.”
And dozens of Congressional staff members gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Thursday in protest of the recent police shootings.
Some folks don’t see those actions as nice. But they are necessary to keep the issue in the public eye.
Diamonds can’t be too far away.

December 18th, 2014

‘Saving My Sista’ shines spotlight on teen dating violence

If there had been dance cards when I was attending high school events, mine would not have been filled.
In fact, the one boy brave enough to come to my house and sit on my front porch was soon scared off by my father, who chose that time to clean his shotgun, which he had never used before or after that day.
Boys talked to me only because I always did my homework, and it was always right.
I point that out not as a lesson in ancient history, but to show how much things have changed in the world of teen dating.
Had I been allowed to date in my teen years, I might not have been so surprised by the number of teens who are verbally and physically abused by those they date.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 22 percent of women and 15 percent of men who are adult victims of rape, stalking and physical violence by an intimate ­partner first experienced partner violence from the ages of 11 to 17.
And about 9 percent of high school students, according to the CDC, report being intentionally hit, slapped or physically hurt by a ­boyfriend or girlfriend within the previous year.
All that adds up to about 1.5 million high school students nationwide who have experienced physical abuse from a dating partner in one year.
What is that all about? Why are our children going through all that in the name of love?
Mattie Morton, a local youth services worker and coordinator of Imani Youth Achievers, doesn’t have all the answers, but she wants to stop it.
Her group, with help from a ­Partners for Youth grant, is hosting a free luncheon Dec. 20 for girls and their mothers to make them more aware of the disturbing trend.
“Saving My Sista” will be noon to 2:30 p.m. at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, 3534 Tates Creek Road.
“We have a lot of teenage girls who are in relationships and who don’t recognize the signs of abuse,” Morton said. “We’re doing this now because in the wintertime the abuse tends to increase.”
Stories she has heard include girls being controlled by cellphones or by being hit by guys, she said. Just saying they are not interested in dating a guy can lead to an altercation.
Gentel Blair, a 2012 graduate of Henry Clay High School, will speak to the girls and mothers. Blair ran track at Henry Clay and accepted a track scholarship at St. Augustine University in Raleigh, N.C.
She is the daughter of Sharrieffa Barksdale, an NCAA champion in the 400-meter hurdles for the University of Tennessee in 1983 and a semifinalist in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
“She was in one of my programs,” Morton said, “and comes from a single-parent household.”
Blair is studying communications at St. Augustine and is honing her skills by being a sideline reporter for the school’s other athletic teams and with The G Show. on which she interviews athletes, Morton said.
Blair’s purpose is to motivate girls to want more and to dream bigger, not settling for being treated badly.
Morton hopes to have a victim share her story as well.
“What we want them to get is that they are worth more than that,” she said, speaking of scantily clad women in music videos and TV shows. “You are not someone’s punching bag or someone’s toy. Some of them don’t get it.”
Sometimes there are long-term consequences from abuse in the teen years. The CDC reports that some lingering effects include depression and anxiety, engagement in unhealthy behaviors and thoughts of suicide.
Unfortunately, 81 percent of parents surveyed by the National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Initiative think teen dating violence is not an issue or don’t know whether it is an issue. And most parents, 54 percent, said they had not spoken to their child about the possibility of that kind of violence occurring.
That’s why Morton has invited mothers or grandmothers to attend as well.
The luncheon will be the second event this year that Morton has coordinated in an effort to combat problems teens face every day. The first one was in April, and it dealt with female bullying.
“I will show a video of teen dating violence,” Morton said, “and I will give them some statistics and facts.”
It sounds like we parents and grandparents especially need to hear what she has to say.

IF YOU GO
“Saving My Sista”
What: free luncheon to help girls ages 12-18 become more aware of teen dating violence.
When: Noon-2:30 p.m. Dec. 20.
Where: Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, 3534 Tates Creek Rd.
Registration: Mattiemorton@windstream.net.
Information:  (859) 243-0577.

December 8th, 2014

All I want for Christmas is fairness

I’m told there is a banner hanging in front of a local business that says something like, “All I want for Christmas is  No. 9.”
It’s a reference to a ninth NCAA men’s basketball championship for the University of Kentucky.
I wish I lived in that world.
Instead, if I were to hang a banner, it would read, “All I want for Christmas is to be treated like a 63-year-old, overweight, white woman.”
I just want, for once in my life, to be deemed innocent until proven guilty despite not looking like the Norman Rockwell version of a grandmother.
And I would also like for white people to give some consideration to my frustrations with the systemic racism that exists in America and not just discount them immediately.
Instead, I have to write about the disturbing actions and reactions in Ferguson, Mo., where a grand jury refused to indict a white police officer who shot 12 times in broad daylight at an unarmed black teenager whom he had tussled with moments earlier.
I had planned to write a piece after the U. S. Department of Justice released its findings. For decades, black people have received better treatment legally from federal officials than the folks we shop with or live near.
But then, a grand jury in Staten Island, N.Y., refused to indict a white police officer who used an illegal chokehold on an unarmed black asthmatic man while accusing him of selling “loosies,” or individual cigarettes. That’s illegal because taxes can’t be collected on cigarettes sold that way.
The coroner there said the chokehold was a leading cause for the man’s death, and ruled it a homicide.
How can two grand juries in different states hear evidence of two such senseless deaths and not indict the men who were charged to protect and serve?
But the failure to indict isn’t the fault of the jurors.
The district attorneys didn’t seem to try real hard to get an indictment because, as the old saying goes, a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.
I can only infer from their lack of effort in prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law that a black life isn’t all that important. Not worth the effort.
Still, two weeks before the killing in Ferguson, a black St. Louis County police officer was indicted for hitting a white man on the hand with his collapsible baton. That was deemed excessive force by the same prosecutor. The officer is facing second-degree assault charges and has been suspended without pay.
Still, I couldn’t come up with a different angle that would persuade non-believers that racism exists.
Then, Thursday morning, I got a phone call, telling me to visit Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Larson’s website.
What I found was a posting titled “Racism, the All Purpose Excuse.”
The post was the opinion of Bill Otis, author of the CrimeandConsequences.com blog.
“I won’t go into the obvious difficulties with riots,” the posting began. “I want to make only one point — that the Ferguson riot had next to nothing to do with the expression of dissent, about racial issues or any other.”
Here we go again, I thought. The disconnect.
At the Crime and Consequences site, I saw that the posting began with a criticism of a Time Magazine piece titled “Ferguson: In Defense of Rioting.”
The Time piece said, in part, “Instead of tearing down other human beings who are acting upon decades of pent-up anger at a system decidedly against them, a system that has told them they are less than human for years, we ought to be reaching out to help them regain the humanity they lost, not when a few set fire to the buildings in Ferguson, but when they were born the wrong color in the post-racial America.”
Otis took issue with those words and concluded that the rioting in Ferguson was more about stealing.
“You do it because it’s neat, it’s exhilarating, and most of all because you can — because a weak, self-flagellating culture has handed you an excuse; because the cops are too intimidated by ‘militarization’ talk to do anything; and because just to be clear, stealing stuff is easier than buying it.”
The piece was one of three Larson posted that discounted racism and deadly force by the police as reasons for the riots. The blame instead was placed on media and black-on-black crime.
I saw nothing on our commonwealth’s attorney’s website that reassured me he would seek justice for petty criminals who are dealt a death sentence, without trial, by police.
What was Larson saying? I had to find out.
“I’ve had two anonymous calls that were pretty agitated,” Larson said Thursday, when I called him. “They didn’t use foul language, but I’ve never been called ignorant so many times.”
Larson said he often goes to the Crime and Consequences site as well as the site for Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, where Kent Scheidegger is the director, and posts some of their articles.
“I go to their websites regularly because they talk about criminal justice issues and crime issues,” he said.
Of the “Racism, the All Purpose Excuse” posting, Larson said he puts “different perspectives on our web page and that is a different perspective.”
He said what his office strives to do is treat everyone the same.
But, I said, discounting that racism exists could turn off a lot of people who live it every day. Maybe the trust of law enforcement officials could be torn irreparably, keeping people from working with him to solve crimes.
“If that is what they think, they probably wouldn’t” talk with folks in his office or the police, he said. But, “the one thing we do here is we do everything to treat everybody the same with the same facts.”
It is not distrust in the black community that blocks the exchange of information with authorities, Larson said. It is the “snitch culture.”
“I have far more experience with this ‘don’t snitch’ thing than you do,” he said. “My experience has led me to the clear conclusion that people are afraid of retaliation, not by the police but other people they associate with.”
And, he said, it is not true that prosecutors can get the grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Cases go through a couple of steps prior to presentation to the grand jury, and that is a reason indictments are handed up more frequently than not.
His office, he said, is consistently rated 3.7 out of 4 on questionnaires completed by grand jurors after their term is completed. “That is Phi Beta Kappa,” he said.
Still, considering the negative response he had about those postings, Larson said he had them taken down.
“It is a perspective of pro-law enforcement and a pro-prosecution perspective that this guy does, but I’m not trying to upset people,” he said. “I can see how they might be upset. Sorry about that.
“Bottom line is, I’m going to be putting pro-prosecution, pro-crime victim (postings) on the website,” he said. “I suspect it is not the first time people have been pissed off with me … .”
I wasn’t so much pissed as I was dismayed that our district attorney believes, as evidenced by the posts, that racism is an excuse and not a reality lived daily by some of the people he is supposed to serve.
He is the man who would be presenting evidence to a grand jury if a case like the ones in Ferguson and Staten Island were to occur in Lexington.
Knowing that, I think my chances of receiving justice would be better in the hands of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Despite how much I like UK basketball, all I want for Christmas is for those in authority to believe that black lives matter.

December 8th, 2014

Inmates make a difference, donating 18,000 handmade items to agencies

Many of the inmates at the ­Leestown Road Federal Medical Center have spent time sewing, quilting, crocheting, knitting and creating wooden jewelry boxes and toys — 18,000 items — which will be distributed by agencies throughout Kentucky, just in time for Christmas.
And those gifts are not just thrown together, let me say.
“If it is not something you would give to one of your children or one of your family members, then it won’t go out,” said Gail Greathouse, 59, who is in training to be the coordinator for the project.
Greathouse will take over as boss when Norma Canipe, 54, is released from prison in March. And by all accounts, Greathouse’s task won’t be very easy.

Inmate Kim Brown held a quilt she made. From left, fellow inmates Toni Wilder, Luella Crayton and Norma Canipe, also create toys and items to be given away. Under Canipe's leadership, the program has become a huge operation.  Photo by CHARLES BERTRAM

Inmate Kim Brown held a quilt she made. From left, fellow inmates Toni Wilder, Luella Crayton and Norma Canipe, also create toys and items to be given away. Under Canipe’s leadership, the program has become a huge operation. Photo by CHARLES BERTRAM

Under Canipe’s direction, a fledgling program that produced a few hundred items each year is now a mammoth operation.
“I don’t do a lot of crocheting; I just make sure it is done,” she said. “I say I need a hundred of these and make sure it gets done.”
But there’s a little more to it than that.
Toni Wilder, 68, said the group makes about 200 bears a year for the Kiwanis Club in Scott County. Those bears were completed in April. When Canipe learned that she was leaving, she had the women make 100 more so far, just to get a good start on next year.
“She didn’t think the ­quality would be up to her standards,” Wilder said.
Wilder’s specialty is making mats for partially sighted preschoolers in the Visually Impaired Preschool Services, and some children with the Down Syndrome Association of Central Kentucky. The mats have textured shapes that can be traced by little fingers and appliqués that move or make sounds.
“I am the garbage person,” Wilder said with no hint of a smile. “I go through all of the scrap material to make these.”
Nothing is wasted. Out of a couple yards of fabric, the women can make a baby blanket, a bib and a child’s apron. The leftovers are cut into 5-inch squares for quilting, and the scraps are stuffed into a doggie bed.
The project falls under the Community Relations Board, which is chaired by Sally Leukefeld, who has been with the board for 23 years.

Sally Leukefeld chairs the Community Relations Board.  Photo by CHARLES BERTRAM

Sally Leukefeld chairs the Community Relations Board. Photo by CHARLES BERTRAM

“When I came, it was just a little knitting,” Leukefeld said. “Then we started the quilting program.”
Quilting really took off when Elise Kalika became the quilting teacher, she said. “She made our program so much better,” ­Leukefeld said, About 200 of the 280 women inmates at the minimum security camp are quilters.
The woodcraft items are built by the male inmates. Some of them who are ill make crocheted and knitted animals, too.
Sometimes the women get to deliver the items, allowing them to see the joy their work brings to others.
One year, Canipe ­delivered items to a domestic violence shelter, where one little girl gleefully donned a hat and scarf and pulled a wooden dog wherever she went.
“That touched me,” she said, still emotional. “Everything that I’ve been through, to see that, it just touched me.”
Kim Brown, 50, quilts and crochets, when not at her job at the camp and other responsibilities. She proudly displayed a colorful youth-size quilt, complete with matching pillow case, that will soon become a treasured item.
“Time management is a great skill I’ve learned,” Brown said.
Kenny Coleman, FMC’s camp administrator, said the project, which distributed 10,000 items last year, is a “three-way partnership between the community relations board, the institution and the inmates.
“Many of them don’t have ties in the Lexington area,” he said. “They just feel the need to give back to the community.”
The amazing part to me is that the program has no budget. Everything the women and men use is ­donated. Everything. And with 18,000 gifts going out this week, material is desperately needed.
“Yarn is the hardest to get,” Leukefeld said. “I speak at churches and other groups and beg. That is the way we exist.”
About 10,000 yards of fabric has been donated, Greathouse said.
“Stuffing would be a gift from heaven,” Leukefeld said. “We’ll take money, too.”
Other institutions look at FMC’s program as a model, she said.

Photo by Charles Bertram

Photo by Charles Bertram

“This is the place where it is happening, where we are setting the example of how it should be.”
And that is fine by these women who just want to make a difference.

TO HELP
The Community Relations Board at the Federal Medical Center needs all types of crafting items for inmates to make gifts throughout the year for 26 agencies.
Needs include: yarn, fabric, ribbon, knitting and crochet needles, black and white thread, buttons, jewelry beads, 13-inch zippers, sew-on Velcro, batting and stuffing. Money also is acceptable.
To donate: Call (859) 263-8707.

December 1st, 2014

Conference plans to lynch last remnants of Jim Crow

Tim Wise makes you wonder if he has black ancestry.
Wise, one of the more thought-provoking white anti-racism activists in America, has traveled to 50 states challenging racism and white privilege. His mission is to awaken white people to what black people have seen and lived through for a very long time.
That mission just might not work as well if he were black.
“Nothing that I am going to say tonight, or at least very little of it, originated in my head,” Wise said during a speech on white privilege in 2007. “Nothing or at least very little of what I say tonight is in fact new.
“Almost every single thing I am going to say this evening is wisdom that has been shared with me either patiently or sometimes not so patiently by people of color who have in almost every incident forgotten more about the subjects of racism and white privilege since breakfast yesterday than I will likely ever know. And yet, they will not be asked to give 85 engagements around the country this year or next on this subject.”
I can’t imagine any black person in that audience not wondering how he got into their heads.
When he visited Lexington in 2003, I wrote how unnerving it was to hear spoken and unspoken black sentiment flow from white lips. In fact, I scrutinized his words, looking for that one slip-up that would indicate it was all for show.

Tim Wise

Tim Wise

I never heard it.
In his books that I have read, I’ve never seen it. From the musings on his Facebook page, I’ve never sensed it.
So it makes sense to have Wise, who has always been about inclusion and shedding light on hidden truths, return to Lexington on Dec. 5, as the keynote speaker for the Central Kentucky Diversity Consortium’s 2014 Multicultural Opportunities, Strategies and Institutional Inclusiveness Conference or MOSAIIC.
That conference, originally created by the Bluegrass Community and Technical College Office of Multiculturalism and Inclusion eight years ago, is sponsored for the first time by a consortium of several area colleges and universities. That partnership consists of faculty and staff from Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC), Transylvania University, Berea College, Georgetown College, Eastern Kentucky University, Centre College, Kentucky State University and the University of Kentucky.
A consortium is appropriate because if society is going to confront racism head-on, everyone has to be at the table.
This year’s theme is “The Lynching of Resurrected Jim Crow: the Problems and the Solutions.”
Jim Crow laws were enacted after the Reconstruction era in the South to sanction racial segregation and ensure blacks were less than equal to whites, trumping federal laws giving freed slaves more liberty.
Those oppressive conditions continued, bolstered by unfair state and federal legislation, until the Civil Rights Act seemingly banished them into history books.
But the relics of Jim Crow continue, under new names and new tactics.
“I am convinced that we are moving in the right direction in regards to being concerned about the backward movement of equality and justice,” Charlene Walker, vice president for the office of multiculturalism and inclusion at BCTC, said. “Themes around poverty, mis-education of people of color, concentrated killings and imprisonment of young men of color, all point back to the ‘New Jim Crow.’ We recognize it but how do we expose it and deal with it?”
Her way is to treat Jim Crow the way black people were often treated when it was the law of the land: hang it.
“A lynching of Jim Crow is in order and long past due,” Walker said, “but this execution will require all of us working simultaneously in a grass-roots strategy, first exposing these continued injustices, then challenging, and ultimately hanging, Jim Crow by its neck until dead.”
That means not only the victims of that oppression need to be involved, but also the perpetrators and onlookers.
The two-day conference begins on Dec. 4 with an explanation and history of the law and a panel discussion featuring young people who are still feeling its impact.
Later, a panel of professionals will discuss how black and brown people face similar obstacles to equity now as their grandparents did in the early 20th century.
On Dec. 5, community members, educators and activists will discuss solutions that are in place to confront the cause of the persistent school-to-prison pipeline, low self-esteem and lack of educational preparation.
At lunch, MOSAIIC awards will be presented to individuals and institutions that have shown a proven commitment to diversity.
That ceremony will be followed by Wise’s address.
Wise is the author of six books, including White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son; Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama; and Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity.
His newest book, The Culture of Cruelty: How America’s Elite Demonize the Poor, Valorize the Rich and Jeopardize the Future, scheduled for release in 2015, is about the ways society downplays the problems faced by the unemployed and the poor simply because their conditions aren’t as crushing as those of people in foreign countries.
When asked on his website why people should listen to him on matters of racism rather than people of color, Wise wrote: “The dangers of not speaking out as a white person are myriad: it allows whites to think racism is only a black and brown issue (rather than something that endangers us all in the long run); it allows whites to dismiss the critiques of racism offered by people of color, precisely because they can be perceived as narrowly self-interested; and it allows whites to never have to examine their own conditioning or privileges, since few members of any privileged group tend to respond constructively to criticisms of their privileges coming from marginalized group members (at least at first).”
Speaking out in a unified voice changes things. That’s what MOSAIIC is all about.
If not, Walker said, the adage comes into play: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
The repressive limitations of Jim Crow laws are a good example of that.
“This conference is going to blow a lot of stuff open that people haven’t really thought about,” Walker said. “The main reason people need to come is to realize things are not better.”

IF YOU GO
What: “The Lynching of Resurrected Jim Crow: the Problems and the Solutions,” the 2014 MOSAIIC conference, featuring Tim Wise, well-known anti-racism activist.
When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 4; 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Dec. 5. Keynote address at 1 p.m.
Where: Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third St.
Cost: $100 for entire conference; $50 one day with luncheon; or $25 for keynote only on Dec. 5, paid directly to Lyric box office. Students are free.
Registration and information: Registration is required. Visit bluegrass.kctcs.edu/Multiculturalism_and_Inclusion, or call (859) 246-6439, or e-mail charlene.walker@kctcs.edu.

November 7th, 2014

Two nonprofits that will get my help at holidays

It has to be difficult to run a nonprofit organization this time of year.
The donors who have blessed the organization throughout the year are highly sought-after during the holidays by other agencies just as desperate to make their clients or participants happy around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tammy Fight, left, and Gabrielle Theneman sorted stuffed animals during the annual Reindeer Express event at The Nest last year. Photo by Pablo Alcala

Tammy Fight, left, and Gabrielle Theneman sorted stuffed animals during the annual Reindeer Express event at The Nest last year. Photo by Pablo Alcala

Because those groups are so passionate about what they do and who they serve, competing for dollars is a necessary evil.
“It can be very challenging,” said Jeffrey White, executive director of The Nest Center for Women, Children, and Families. “There are a lot of things going on and a lot of good organizations.”
But that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t help them. While there are many worthy nonprofits, two of my longtime favorites are Fostering Goodwill, which serves young people, 18-25, who have aged out of foster care, and The Nest, which serves families in crisis.
Fostering Goodwill hosts a Christmas party to be held this year at GattiTown for the sixth time, thanks to the generosity of owners Jeff and Kim Frye.
At the gathering, more than 150 people — those who have aged out and their children — enjoy several hours of games, food and fun. Jeff Culver and another social worker, Earl Washington, founded the organization about nine years ago because sometimes the foster youth just weren’t ready to be on their own at age 18. But, because they are transitioning out of foster care and may not have any family members to speak of, those youth could go without gifts at Christmas if it were not for Fostering Goodwill.
“We try to give each youth at least $50 in gift cards,” Culver said. “For those with kids, we try to give them more.”

Earl Washington and Jeff Culver

Earl Washington and Jeff Culver

Plus Culver and Washington give out door prizes and even have an award, the Nick Carter Award, that acknowledges four youths who are succeeding despite the odds.
“We still help throughout the year,” Culver said. “We help with rent and with electric and water bills and we keep extra gift cards on hand for when the youth get hungry.”
There are more youths coming in the pipeline, Culver said. The biggest group entering foster care is those age 13 to 17.
“It is the breakdown of the family,” he said, “and as the years pass, you see the results. A lot (of the youth) are coming through with status offenses, truancy and runaway (problems).
“These families just don’t have a lot of support,” he said.
The Nest understands that all too well. That nonprofit offers four programs for struggling families: child care, a domestic violence program, crisis care, and parenting programs. Most of their services go to crisis care.
“We see 1,800 adults in that program,” White said. “They come in and have basic needs, such as diapers, formula, children’s clothing and toiletries.”
Eighty percent of the families served are the working poor, he said, who just can’t make ends meet.
Through those four programs this year, 717 children received services. They are the ones White wants to give a nice Christmas through Reindeer Express, a program in its 36th year. It allows parents to choose new, unwrapped toys, books, and warm clothing for their children up to 5 years old.
Gift suggestions include games and puzzles, dolls of various ethnicities; sports equipment, cars, trucks, dinosaurs, action figures, art supplies, new winter coats, hats and gloves, and wrapping paper and tape.
The parents have all been sent invitations, but not all will respond. Some have moved away. So White hopes to have at least enough new items for 500 children.
The parents will come on Dec. 12, and will be accompanied by a volunteer serving as a personal shopper. By the end of the visit, the parents will have a bag filled like the one Santa Claus carries, plus they will be given a box of food.
“If (donors) bring the items by the 10th, it would be really helpful for setup,” White said. “But we will take items all the way up to the day of.”
And both groups welcome monetary donations, too.
Whether you give to the newly independent foster youth, or to struggling families, or to another nonprofit altogether is up to you.
“You have to do whatever speaks to your heart,” White said.
These two organizations speak to mine.

IF YOU WANT TO HELP
For Fostering Goodwill: Send store gift cards (the youth prefer Walmart or Target) or checks to: Fostering Goodwill, P.O. Box 54561, Lexington, Ky., 40555. The deadline is Dec. 16. Call: (859) 433-1206.
For The Nest Center for Women, Children and Families: Purchase new toys, warm coats and gloves for children 5 and younger, along with wrapping paper and tape, and take the unwrapped items to: 530 North Limestone, Lexington, Ky. 40508. Deadline is Dec. 10. Call: (859) 259-1974.

November 7th, 2014

Many aging residents could use a few basic gifts

We are nearing the time of year when the wants and needs of children direct our emotional and financial actions.
That’s fine. But I would just like to tweak that a bit.
If you notice that the children in your life have an abundance of loot, consider not buying one or two items on their wish list and using that money to bless a senior in need.
Yes. Seniors. Remember them?
With the program Be a Santa to ­Seniors, Home Instead Senior Care’s network has tried since 2006 to ensure that those seniors get a gift at Christmas that they might not otherwise receive.
Blair Huffman, human resources director for Home Instead Senior Care Lexington, said her agency partners with the Salvation Army, ­Sayre Christian Village, ­Emerson Center, Briarwood Apartments of Lexington, and others to find seniors in need of being remembered at Christmastime.
“We are looking to gift 200 seniors at least,” Huffman said.
The names, along with their wishes, will be attached to an ornament and placed on a tree in the agency’s office. Anyone may come to the Home Instead offices at 207 East Reynolds Road, Suite 150, claim an ­ornament, and return it by Dec. 5 with a gift, wrapped if possible. If not, there are volunteers who are willing to wrap the items.
“We will have a wrapping party,” she said. “Just make sure the ornament is ­attached to the gift.”

Blair Huffman

Blair Huffman

Since Be a Santa to Seniors began in Lexington, about 1,000 seniors have ­received gifts. In North America, that ­number has grown to 1.2 million with help from more than 60,000 volunteers.
None of those who qualify for the ­program are clients of Home Instead, which provides nonmedical home care services to clients and their families. The services could include simple household chores, companionship or accompanying a client to a doctor’s appointment.
Those seniors who do qualify to have their names on the tree have basic wants, Huffman said.
“It’s everyday needs, such as sweat suits, socks, blankets and hygiene products,” she said.
Beaumont Family Dentistry has donated boxes of dental supplies, and The J.M. Smucker Co.’s Jif Plant has donated tiny jars of peanut butter to which her office added a sleeve of crackers.
There have been a few requests from outside Lexington, including one person who wanted firewood, she said.
There are ornaments on the tree now, but they are willing to add more as ­additional names come in.
If you can’t stop by to pick up a name, Huffman is willing to bring an ornament to you and then return to pick up the gift, she said. If that won’t work, she can email or fax you a picture of the ornament.
Whichever way is easiest for you, Huffman is willing to do it. This is the time of year when she is out delivering ornaments or passing out fliers to make more people aware of the program.
“November and December, I am constantly coming and going,” she said. “I will literally bring the ornament right to them.”
If you know of a senior who might qualify for this program, give Huffman a call. If you would like to donate multiple items, she’d love to hear from you, too.
With just a little bit of effort on our part, we can show seniors that we value them just as much as we do our children at Christmas.
After all, at one time, they valued us.

HOW TO HELP
What: Home Instead Senior Care in Lexington needs you to select the name of a senior from its Christmas tree for its Be a Santa to Seniors program.
When: Now until Dec. 5, when the gifts should be returned, wrapped if possible.
Where: Home Instead Senior Care, 207 East Reynolds Rd., Suite 150.
Information: If you want to know about giving gifts or nominate a senior, call Blair Huffman at (859) 273-0085, or go to ­Beasantatoasenior.com.

November 7th, 2014

Woman who inspired ABC-TV’s ‘Scandal’ speaking at UK

I’ve had to watch videos of the first season of ABC’s hit political drama Scandal in order to understand how powerful Judy Smith must be.
Olivia Pope, the main character in Scandal who is played by Kerry Washington, was fashioned after Smith who, for more than two decades, has been stamping out ticklish kerfuffles and dousing major ignominies that could have spelled the end of corporations, celebrities and even government officials.
Smith is the founder and president of Smith & Co., a crisis management and communications firm in Washington and in Los Angeles. She is also the former White House deputy press secretary and special assistant to President George H. W. Bush, an author, and the co-executive producer of Scandal.
When Paula Deen was submerged in negative press last year, she hired Smith to help save or rebuild her folksy image. And it was Smith who, in photographs from 1998, can be seen trying to shield Monica Lewinsky from journalists and cameras during the sexual scandal involving President Bill Clinton.
Smith has worked with other politicians, corporations and athletes such as NBA stars Kobe Bryant, Chris Webber and Juan Howard; NFL players Michael Vick and Donté Stallworth; and MLB’s Gary Sheffield during their encounters with the judicial system.

Kerry Washington and Judy Smith

Kerry Washington and Judy Smith

That’s pretty impressive.
The reason I had to familiarize myself with the TV series, which premiered in 2012, and with the woman who inspired the series, is because Smith will be speaking on Nov. 11 at Memorial Hall on the University of Kentucky campus.
My daughter and her friends, who are big fans of the show, just might camp out at Memorial Hall to ensure they get a seat for the free event. Passersby could think there is another Big Blue Madness event in the making instead of simply a group of young women hoping to glean advice and pointers from an intelligent and skilled woman of color.
Sponsored by the Multicultural Committee of the UK Student Activities Board, Smith’s appearance is part of a series of lectures called “Women of the World.”
“The foundation of the series lies in harnessing and highlighting the power that we women have,” said Kristyn Cherry, SAB director of Multicultural Affairs and host of the event. “I don’t think society as a whole showcases it enough. Our goal is to celebrate women from diverse backgrounds who have any type of influence in the social, political and economic arenas.”
Cherry said SAB sends out an all-students survey one semester prior to the date of an event. The results help the organization plan for more than 100 entertaining, educational and enriching events in the upcoming semester for the university community and general population in Lexington.
“So, essentially, it’s the student who picked Judy Smith,” Cherry said. “We want to be sure that we’re serving our student body because that’s what our organization is all about.”
More lectures are planned, she said, but she wasn’t ready to reveal any names.
“The current survey includes some amazing names that we’d like to keep private,” she said, “but there are a multitude of other women that we would also love to bring to UK.”
Smith points out in her 2012 book, Good Self, Bad Self: Transforming Your Worst Qualities into Your Biggest Assets, that we all have problems in our lives that need to be smoothed over. The methods she uses in high-profile cases can calm the troubled waters we find ourselves in, she says.
A wife and mother of two grown children, Smith writes there are seven traits at the root of a crisis: ego, denial, fear, ambition, accommodation, patience and indulgence. If one of those traits is out of balance, bad behavior usually results.
While she was writing that book, her agent asked if she would meet with people who produce TV shows. She has said she was scheduled to talk with Shonda Rhimes, creator and producer of successful ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, for about 20 minutes, but the conversation continued for more than two hours. A deal was signed soon after.
Not everything in the show is true to life. Smith has said she and Bush never had an affair, unlike Pope and the show’s president. However, Bush has teased that such a rumor would give him credibility with the younger members of his staff, she said.
Smith has said her first “gig out of law school” was working with Lawrence Walsh, special prosecutor of the Iran-Contra investigation. She had commented to a friend that the messages about the Reagan administration’s illegal sale of weapons to Iran were not transparent, consistent or believable. The next day Walsh called and hired her to improve the public’s take on the scandal.
“Smith is an incredibly inspirational woman and we’re so excited for her to open our lecture series,” Cherry said. “I hope that attendees are able to appreciate her story and realize that she is just one of millions of inspirational women of the world.”

IF YOU GO
“Women of the World” lecture series, sponsored by the UK Student Activities Board, featuring Judy Smith, crisis management expert and inspiration for the ABC drama Scandal.
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 11.
Where: Memorial Hall, UK campus, 610 S. Limestone.
Cost: Free.
For information: Email: contact@uksab.org, or text a question beginning with SABQ, followed by your question or comment, to 411-247.

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