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.

October 20th, 2014

Candidates forum for the underserved

Sometimes the Kentucky candidates who are vying for elective offices on the federal level seem to think I am overcome with worry about President Obama’s “war on coal,” or about losing my right to walk around Walmart with an AR-15.
And if not those two pressing issues, they seem to think I lose sleep at night about the Affordable Care Act rim-racking hospital budgets.
While highly publicized, those issues aren’t what should keep us on our knees at night.
With all due respect to those who have lost jobs in the declining coal industry, there are millions of other Americans who are unemployed, under-employed or simply struggling, whose plights the candidates haven’t addressed sufficiently. Those people are losing their homes, cars, and any future they had planned for their children because their savings accounts and hope have dried up.
There also are families who have been devastated when loved ones have been felled by bullets from legal or illegal guns that are so accessible. What do the candidates propose to ease their grief?
When fear and gun rights allow ordinary citizens and the police to become judges, juries and executioners, someone ought to be talking about that. Where is that outrage?
And, Lord have mercy, please let someone stand up and say Obamacare has lifted the burden of medical uncertainty and financial ruin from the shoulders of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians who had been held hostage by the insurance industry.
Can we hear something like that slip from the lips of these candidates?
Well, The Rev. Clark Williams told me we would if we attend the final candidates forum presented this year by Operation Turnout, a non-partisan, grassroots, social justice organization that wants the needs and concerns of the under-represented, poor, or minority voters to be heard. Williams was a founder of the group in 2010.
The group’s 2014 Truth Campaign Forum Series will end with the two candidates seeking the 6th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives — Rep. Andy Barr and Elisabeth Jensen. U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes cancelled on Saturday. Incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell has not confirmed.
When asked if he hoped McConnell would show up, Williams said, “Hope is a strong word. He should be expected to show up. I was told on Thursday that I would have a definitive answer by Friday but I don’t have an answer.”
Unlike other debates and forums, Williams said this one on Oct. 21 at Shiloh Baptist Church, 237 East 5th Street will drill down to the issues that impact the under-served, especially those in Lexington’s East End community where unemployment is at 20 percent.
“That is our biggest distinction by design,” he said. “Obviously, I’m biased.”
He said the questions will center on raising the minimum wage, the stability of social security, and perfecting but not eliminating ACA.
The questions, which will be generated by the moderators, by members of Operation Turnout and by the audience, will be seeking solutions and not just yes or no, up or down responses, he said.
“Whether (the candidates) give solution-based answers is up to them,” Williams said. “But you need to come seeking solutions and noting if you actually heard one. There will be no softball questions.”
In addition to the candidates for federal offices, Williams said the four candidates for the two seats on the Fayette County Public Schools board have also agreed to attend. Second district incumbent Doug Barnett and his opponent Roger Cleveland, along with 4th District incumbent Amanda Ferguson and her opponent Natasha Murray will open the forum with their stances on equity issues in our schools.
This is a great chance to be better informed about the candidates who are courting our votes.
No matter how many TV commercials would have you believe otherwise, this mid-term election should be about the needs of the voters and not the position of political parties.
I have lived through many years of one party ruling both houses of Congress and I have been through years of gridlock when opposing parties ruled each house.
The operative words are “lived through.”
Americans will continue to stand tall no matter who wins and if we don’t like the way our representatives behave, we can vote for changes in two years.
It would just be nice for Kentuckians to progress at the same rate as residents of other states. It would be nice to have better jobs, a better educational system, and better health care, just like other states.
The only way to get that is to vote for the candidates who can deliver what we want.

IF YOU GO
What: Operation Turnout’s 2014 Truth Campaign Forum Series featuring candidates for U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, as well as Fayette County School Board.
When: 6:30 p.m., Oct. 21.
Where: Shiloh Baptist Church, 237 East 5th Street.
Information: Email operation.turnout.forum@gmail.com.

October 20th, 2014

Mr. Bills has his day at Yates Elementary

Gene Bills, 76, wasn’t very happy Wednesday morning.
A faithful volunteer at Yates Elementary School, Bills had been called into the school by Principal Twanjua Jones for “safety training.”
“He said, ‘I don’t know why I have to go to mandatory safety training at 9 o’clock on my day off,’” said Bills’ wife, Joyce. “I don’t need safety training.”
And he was right. He didn’t need safety training and wasn’t going to get any.
Jones and members of the Yates staff were planning to honor Bills as their first “Yates Volunteer of the Month.”
Wednesday was “Mr. Bills Day.”

Gene Bills was honored as the first Yates volunteer of the month during a surprise ceremony on Oct. 15, 2014. Photo by Charles Bertram.

Gene Bills was honored as the first Yates volunteer of the month during a surprise ceremony on Oct. 15, 2014. Photo by Charles Bertram.

Shortly after 9 a.m., Bills entered the cafeteria to find children cheering for him and Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton waiting to congratulate him for his faithful service.
“I’m the last to find out anything,” he said later after learning that his wife, daughter and two grandsons who attend Yates all were in on the secret.
Bills hauled gasoline around Lexington for more than 44 years, the last 25 while owning his own fleet of trucks. He said he retired 11 years ago, but continued to work part-time for nine more years. “I drove for three million miles accident free,” he said.
Last year, Shelton came to the Wednesday night prayer meeting at Immanuel Baptist Church to ask for volunteers to help out in the schools.
“Joyce was sitting beside me and said, ‘That is a good job for you,’” Bills recalled.
He hesitated because he wouldn’t earn any money. “She said ‘You haven’t worked in the last two years, so it doesn’t make any difference,’” Bills said.
He applied online and four days later he was notified he had passed the background check.
“So I came here and started doing it and fell in love with it,” Bills said.
He claims he was shy when he started, standing back and watching teachers correct children. It didn’t last long.
“After four or five weeks, I said, ‘Turn around and put your feet under the table.’ After a while, I was a little Hitler.”
That’s not how teachers or staff described him. And, after watching him call students by name and offering hugs, it doesn’t appear the children see him that way either.
“You can’t teach a person to love and care,” Jones said. “That is innate. Kids see that through your actions. Mr. Bills’ actions show it, not just for the children, but with the staff. It gives me chills to think about it.
“On these rainy days, he brings sunshine,” she said. “He is a breath of fresh air, the energy that we need.”
Bills helps prepare the lunch room for the children who start coming in for lunch about 10:50 a.m. He works from about 10:15 a.m. to 12:40 p.m., three days a week.
When he’s not doing that, his hobby is working with the American Truck Historical Society, Bluegrass Chapter.  Last week, he and his wife, along with Roseanne Mingo of VisitLex, Lexington’s convention and visitors bureau, and members of the group traveled to York, Penn., where the national group was meeting. They won the right to host the 2018 annual antique truck convention at the Kentucky Horse Park.
“It was between Lexington and Kalamazoo, Mich.,” Bills said, “and we won. (Mingo) presented our side.”
Throughout the trip, Bills was telling everyone he met about how much he enjoys working with the children, said Joyce Bills, his wife of 51 years. “When we go on vacation, he gets homesick to come back to the children and to the staff,” she said.
Fayette County Public Schools would love to have more volunteers like that.

Gene Bills, a senior volunteer, was honored with the first volunteer of the month award at Yates Elementary during a surprise ceremony in the school cafeteria. Photos by Charles Bertram

Gene Bills, a senior volunteer, was honored with the first volunteer of the month award at Yates Elementary during a surprise ceremony in the school cafeteria. Photos by Charles Bertram

“We go to church together and he shares with me regularly on Sunday about how much he loves working with kids,” Shelton said. “Our faith-based community has stepped up but we need more.”
Volunteers can work in a variety of jobs in the schools, from tutoring to clerical work, helping in the library or with computers. Most jobs require little or no training.
“Teachers work really hard with the children,” Jones said. “The volunteers add an extra layer of support for the students. Children want to please. You can see the children’s faces light up when they see people giving of their time.”
A background check is required and the application process can start on the schools’ Family and Community Engagement (FACE) page, fcps.net/administration/departments/family-community.
“If you don’t have anything to do, it gives you something to occupy your time,” Bills said. “You will fall in love with it.”

October 20th, 2014

We have more pressing issues than Ebola

My husband was hospitalized a couple of weeks ago for knee replacement surgery. During his recovery, I spoke with a native Nigerian at the hospital who was more than a little put out about the coverage or lack thereof of the Ebola virus outbreak on her native continent.
While the spread of Ebola in Nigeria has been tamped down, the disease is still spreading in other West African countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Unfortunately, not much coverage was given to the thousands of people who have died in West Africa during this recent outbreak, and this woman couldn’t understand that.
I don’t either.
And now that the epidemic has come into focus because of the American aid workers who contracted and successfully fought off the disease, reports are zeroing in on the first Ebola death on Oct. 8 in the United States, rather than the 121 people who died in one day from Ebola in Sierra Leone, according to daily statistics kept by Sierra Leone’s Emergency Operations Center.
The hospital worker I met during my husband’s surgery said we Americans were blaming Africa for spreading the disease, rather than helping Africa contain the disease.
And now that a nurse in Dallas has contracted the disease, calls to close our borders will only increase. The new case will have TV and radio commentators panicking and hypochondriacs heading for the nearest emergency rooms.
I suggest we all take a deep breath.
Ebola is a scary disease. No doubt. Patients suffer vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, fever and unexplained bleeding. About half of sufferers in Africa die, amounting to about 4,000 people.
Malaria killed 600,000 people in Africa in 2012. Use that for perspective.
I’m not seeing the reason for all the fear in our country. We have far more to fear from the flu than Ebola, and we can’t close our shores to the flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 226,000 Americans are hospitalized with the flu every year and some 36,000 die from flu-related complications. Still, only 46 percent of Americans get a flu shot.
Two Americans have been successfully treated for Ebola and, currently, four people are being treated for Ebola in America. Only the Dallas health care worker contracted the disease here.
Those numbers seem really low.
Don’t we have enough to worry about?
Right here in Fayette County, we have students who might be going to school every day and learning little or nothing. We have an elementary school that sank to the bottom of all schools in the state. Shouldn’t we be embarrassed enough about that and worried about the future of the children who are being educated there?
Throughout our state, we have students graduating from colleges and universities with enough debt to keep the American Dream at bay for more than 20 years while they pay it off. Shouldn’t we be worried about that?
And nationally, we have open season on killing black youth not only by police but by average citizens who somehow detect danger when none is present. We want to get them before they might get us.
Why doesn’t that scare us more than Ebola?
As a nation we are creating things that go bump in the night when we should realize how blessed we are. We purport to be a Christian nation, and the Bible I read says “do not be afraid” or “fear not” far more times than it says an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
It also says we should care for the sick, give shelter to the homeless, and feed the poor. Nowhere does it say close your eyes, ears, hearts and borders to the needs of your brethren.
I think we ought to be more afraid of missing those marks of being a good Christian than falling ill to Ebola.

September 9th, 2014

Let’s stop fighting for equity in our public schools and make it happen

I am a longtime fan and admirer of Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, which she founded in 1973 to improve policies and programs for children.
I am in awe of anyone who can stomp on flames that never seem to burn out. How long can anybody do that?
When the Fayette ­County Public Schools’ Equity Council announced that it is sick and tired of being sick and tired over the number of suspensions of minority, disabled and poor children, over the lack of ­diversity in our ­teaching corps, and over the ­seemingly ­motionless ­narrowing of the ­achievement gap, the first person I thought of was Edelman.
The Equity Council’s charge is to advise the school board about the inequities that exist in our public school system. Last week, members reviewed the system’s fourth annual equity scorecard, and the results were pitiful.
“We’ve talked and we’ve talked and we’ve talked,” council chairman Roy Woods told a Herald-Leader reporter. “We have no forward movement. Programs are out there, but it’s not working for all kids.”
Brian Hodge, chairman of the council’s suspension committee, said in a letter to fellow council members, “We have asked the district for solutions while trying to be patient, and it appears all we get are promises that things are gonna get better, but yet they never do.”
That is the same ­sentiment voiced in 1994, when the board established the council.
Then, the Rev. Dana Jones of Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church, ­chairman of the Equity Task Force, the precursor to the council, told the board, “I think we have a very serious problem.”
That also was the ­concerns voiced in 2001, when black leaders ­rallied against public school ­officials, saying they had “no confidence, no trust” in what officials were doing. Those leaders had five concerns that were getting only lip service, including the achievement gap, suspension rates and personnel diversity.
“Something must be done to address these concerns,” the Rev. Bob Brown, a ­former Equity Council ­member, said in 2001. “We’re fighting for survival in this system.”
Now, 20 years after the Equity Council was ­established, the problem ­remains. Fayette County is not doing right by its ­children, and the folks ­leading our schools don’t seem to be concerned enough to change that culture.
Twenty years, half the time Edelman has been ­battling for our children, and the council’s frustration level is apparently boiling over.
In her Child Watch Column dated Aug. 29, Edelman could have been talking about Fayette County.
“Everybody in the classroom and teaching children today — when for the first time white students will no longer be the majority in our nation’s public schools — needs to be culturally sensitive and culturally trained,” Edelman wrote. “This is true for all child-serving ­institutions. We need to watch out for the subtle as well as the overt ways in which we treat non-white and white children and those who are poor differently.”
In that piece, ­Edelman noted that Terrell ­Strayhorn, an Ohio State ­University professor, said at a ­symposium that his 14-year-old son asked him why he had gotten in trouble for speaking out of turn, but his white female classmate who had done the same thing was praised for being excited about learning.
She said Strayhorn told participants, “There are lots of black and brown boys who are often penalized for committing the same exact act that non-black and non-brown, usually white kids, commit in school — and some students are praised for certain behaviors that other kids are penalized for. It sends a very mixed message, because my son is confused.”
Edelman went on to say that other roadblocks to the success of our children exist and that the “disparate treatment of black children in the classroom from the earliest years, especially black boys,” discourages them, often knocking them off the path to college, “and burdens them with an emotional toll they don’t deserve.”
In discussing programs that work, Edelman said, Strayhorn “emphasized the need for positive interventions based on proven designs — because in his program evaluation experience, he’s seen far too many well-intentioned efforts that lacked a measurable impact because good ideas weren’t well implemented.”
Is that our problem in Fayette County: good ideas that aren’t well implemented? Or is it that we talk good game but don’t follow through? Either way is very damaging to our children.
P.G. Peeples, president and CEO of the ­Lexington Fayette County Urban League, was a member of the Equity Task Force in 1994 and was an original member of the Equity ­Council when it was formed. He said he attended the ­equity meeting last week when Roy Woods expressed the frustrations of the ­council. It was déjà vu.
The lack of proven results in narrowing achievement differences, in lowering suspension rates, and in creating and equitable atmosphere in the school system has to fall in the lap of the school board, Peeples said.
“They are more ­concerned with adult issues than what is related to our kids,” he said. “It must emanate from the board that they are serious about equity.”
Groundhog days. Same old story: one step forward, two steps back. Use whatever phrase you want to describe the situation. The best phrase, however, will be “We have fixed this once and for all.”
It shouldn’t take another 20 years for us to say that.
The council will meet with the school board on Oct. 13. Maybe we ought to be there.

September 9th, 2014

New leader at Nathaniel Mission feels ‘blessed to be a blessing’

To me, the cluster of metal warehouses at 1109 Versailles Road looks like a huddled mass of aluminum.
To the Rev. Kathy Ogletree Goodwin, it is a campus on which people of various cultures and stations in life can soon find disciples doing God’s work.
Goodwin, the newly appointed pastor and chief executive officer of the Nathaniel Mission United Methodist Church, believes the mission’s new location is a big plus for the program’s future.
“I want to form a collaboration with people right here on this campus,” she said. “I want to connect with the nationalities and ethnicities that are here. I want to connect congregations that way.”
The mission’s building is located behind Hope Springs Community Church, a congregation in the Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church and co-founded by the Rev. David Calhoun in 2000. Nathaniel Mission is part of that conference.

Rev. Kathy Ogletree Goodwin

Rev. Kathy Ogletree Goodwin

Hope Springs also serves as the home of a large Hispanic congregation that meets Sunday evenings. And, just a short walk away, sits Antioch Baptist Church in Speigle Heights, a predominantly black community.
That grouping of diverse cultures is an opportunity for the Nathaniel Mission to “impose some new kinds of strategies,” said Goodwin, adding that is still in keeping with the vision the founders put in place in the 1930s.
Back then, Nathaniel Mission began serving the marginalized residents of Davis Bottom, a financially struggling community often forgotten by government officials and programs. Residents were black, Irish immigrants and Eastern Kentucky transplants, all living together with poverty as a bonding agent.
The mission moved from its DeRoode Street location in the spring, forced out by the Newtown Pike Extension road construction project.
Soon after the Rev. David MacFarland orchestrated the move, he retired and Goodwin was appointed as his replacement.
Some programming has changed since the move, but the food market, the clothing bank, and diabetes education and support classes remain. Also, a hot breakfast is still served after 8 a.m. worship service every Sunday.
The transition from Coke Memorial United Methodist Church in Louisville, where Goodwin served for 17 years, to Nathaniel Mission has been made easier because of the number of committed volunteers at the mission, she said.
“It would have been harder for me had I not had that commitment,” Goodwin said. “They are here every Sunday at 6:30 a.m. fixing breakfast. It makes a difference.”
Born in Barnesville, Ga., the fourth of nine children, Goodwin had planned to be a lawyer. At age 12, she imitated preachers she had seen at a revival.
But Goodwin wasn’t about to be a minister.IMG_2394
“I did not see people who looked like me preaching,” she said. “That left my mind.”
Later at Atlanta University, she met her husband, Alvin Goodwin, who was attending seminary, and settled on the idea of being “the cute first lady” of a church.
Again, others suggested she should go into the ministry, but she told them, “I’m going to law school. I’m going to make some money.”
Obviously, God had other plans. One opportunity after another came about, all leading to the ministry.
Now, “I’m not keeping people from going to jail, but I’m keeping people from going to hell. I’m using a greater law book, God’s law.”
Goodwin was the first black female ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Kentucky Conference and is one of only three, she said. She started at Nathaniel Mission June 29.
And while she doesn’t earn a lawyer’s salary, God has never failed to meet every one of her needs, Goodwin said. She and her husband, who pastors Garrs Lane United Methodist Church in Shively, have three grown children and have been married for 32 years.
Goodwin said she has always wanted to start a feeding program and after-school program, but the time was never right. Now it is.
“This is perfect timing,” she said. “I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, but I am here now and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. Right now, this is the place God has me working with God’s people.”IMG_2389
Also, Goodwin would like to start a program similar to The Cookery, a Nashville restaurant that serves as a culinary school that trains homeless individuals to work in the food industry.
Calhoun, co-founder of Hope Springs, is also an assistant professor of religion at Lindsey Wilson College with a focus on mission work. Goodwin believes the campus could become a training site for missionaries in the Kentucky conference.
“We could collaborate based on what the needs of the people are,” she said. “We could erase those lines between churches and create something that everyone will be talking about.”
Goodwin said she is not changing the vision of the mission. She just wants to put that vision into action. She wants to do more than feed people a fish, or even teach them to fish. She said she wants people to understand they need to own the pond where the fish were caught.
“This is a new place, but the same old mission,” Goodwin said. “We are serving the people of God.”
Nathaniel Mission plans to host a dedication service soon. The kitchen has passed health inspections and items are being moved to the newly finished permanent site at 1109 Versailles Road, Suite 400. The mission welcomes volunteers and donations. If anyone has a van or bus they want to donate, they would love that, too.
“We are blessed to be a blessing,” Goodwin said. “That is my mantra.”IMG_2416

To see a video of the Rev. Kathy Ogletree Goodwin, visit Kentucky.com

September 9th, 2014

Superhero Runs help give worthy kids the advocates they need

I wondered why a growing number of Court Appointed Special Advocate programs in the U.S., including Lexington, were hosting Superhero Runs to raise awareness of, and money for, work that their volunteers do so quietly and effectively throughout the year.
And then I read this in the news release about the event: “Superman was adopted. Spiderman was raised by his uncle. Batman grew up with his butler, Alfred, and later took in Robin to raise as his ward. Thor was kicked out of Asgard by his dad but eventually re-unified with his family. Few superheroes grow up in a typical family situation raised by their own parents, yet they all accomplished great things as adults.”
Wow. What would have happened to those heroes had we labeled them at-risk.

CASA of Lexington executive director Melynda Milburn Jamison, holding bullhorn, prepares young runners for the start of the Super Hero Run in 2013. Costumes are encouraged. Photo provided

CASA of Lexington executive director Melynda Milburn Jamison, holding bullhorn, prepares young runners for the start of the Super Hero Run in 2013. Costumes are encouraged. Photo provided

“CASA,” the news release continued, “a nonprofit that advocates for children who’ve experienced abuse or neglect, believes all children deserve the chance to grow up happy and healthy and become superhero adults themselves.”
I almost ran to a sewing store to gather material for tights and a cape.
Knowing that people — many of them volunteers — are looking out for children who don’t get the best of starts in life should be enough to encourage us to sign up for Lexington’s CASA Superhero Run set for Sept. 20 at Coldstream Park.
“This is not a normal 5K run,” said CASA of Lexington’s Executive Director Melynda Milburn Jamison, just in case the large number of people in costumes was not a dead giveaway.
But to keep things on the up-and-up for legitimate 5K runners, chip-timing will be used, Jamison said.
“That is a first for us,” she said.
Last year, the first time for the superhero theme, 538 participants showed up in the rain to support the program. Jamison is hoping for 1,000 this year. And she wants the event to be as family friendly as possible.
To that extent, there is a 1K for children 12 and younger, or even adults. Each registered child receives a free cape, and no matter how far they run or walk, each child will receive a medal as well.
“I don’t care if they go one step or the whole way,” Jamison said. “Where they stop, someone will drape a medal around their necks.”
For runners or walkers in the 5K, 300 small figurines or action figures will be placed along the course. Each has a number on the bottom that entitles the holder to special prizes ranging from a comic book to a $500 gift certificate.
Plus, the top three male and female winners in each of several age categories will be awarded a handmade plaque created by Rick McGee, a local artist.

CASA Superhero 5K Run at Coldstream Park in Lexington, Ky., Saturday morning, September 20, 2013. Photo by Matt Goins MATT GOINS — Herald-Leader

CASA Superhero 5K Run at Coldstream Park in Lexington, Ky., Saturday morning, September 20, 2013. Photo by Matt Goins MATT GOINS — Herald-Leader

“We also give trophies for the largest group of friends and family; business and organizations; church teams and Greek teams.”
And, of course, the officials couldn’t encourage costumes without handing out rewards for the best and most creative get-ups for humans and pets.
Once registered, participants can enjoy a variety of activities in a festival atmosphere. There will be inflatables, carnival games, face painting and a crafts booth where children can make comic strips or masks. There will also be opportunities to take photos in front of a giant city skyline or behind a cardboard stand that allows you to put your face above the body of a superhero.
Starting Thursday, two Lextran buses and a billboard will feature ads for the race created by Joey Ball. The first people to take photos of the buses or billboard and post them on the CASA Facebook page will win a prize as well.
Registration for the race is online, by mail or at Embassy Suites Lexington on race day. The cost is $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and younger for early registration and $5 more on the day of the race.
In 2013, local CASA volunteers served as the voice of 171 children in court, but more than 1,000 additional children in Lexington need that help. Money raised through the Superhero Run will be used to sustain and expand their services. Children with CASA volunteers are more likely to perform better in school and less likely to move to various caregivers or be assigned to longterm foster care.
Instead, they are more likely to find safe, permanent homes than children without CASA.
And we all can help them achieve those goals just by signing up to have fun.
Jamison is looking for several volunteers willing to help just on race day. Contact her at mjamison@lexingtonky.gov for assignments.
One final surprise is planned for the runners that I can’t reveal. You’ll have to participate to learn what that is.
“It is going to be a wild ride,” Jamison said.
I believe her.

IF YOU GO
Court Appointed Special Advocates of Lexington’s Superhero Run, which includes a 5K with timing chip and a 1K run/walk for children and adults.
When: 9 a.m., for 1K; 9:30 a.m., for 5K, Sept. 20.
Where: Coldstream Park, near Embassy Suites Lexington, 1801 Newtown Pike.
Cost: $25 for adults, $15 for children 12 and younger. $5 more on race day.
Registration: Online at Lexsuperherorun.com; by mail at CASA of Lexington, 1155 Red Mile Place, Lexington, Ky. 40504; or Embassy Suites on race day starting at 8 a.m. Make checks payable to CASA of Lexington.
Information: Go to Lexsuperherorun.com, or call (859) 246-4313.

September 9th, 2014

Black women breastfeed less than other moms

When my niece was pregnant three years ago, she insisted on being cared for by a nurse midwife, and she was just as adamant about breastfeeding her son when he was born.
I loved it, but it did surprise me a bit.
My niece had researched giving birth and nurturing her child and found that midwifery and breastfeeding were the best options for her.
Most of the mothers of my generation were directed along a much different route. I didn’t know any woman who gave birth without a doctor present and definitely didn’t know any mother who breastfed.
When my son was born prematurely, however, I knew I had to give him the best start I could and that had to be through human milk.
But now I’m hearing black mothers are still lagging behind white mothers at the rate at which they breastfeed.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, in 2010, 62 percent of black babies began breastfeeding at birth, compared to 79 percent of white babies. Hispanic and Asian mothers had a rate of 81 and 83 percent respectively.
After six months, 36 percent of the black infants were still breastfeeding, while 52 percent of white children were still breastfed. Hispanics and Asians were one to 10 percent higher than whites.

Madalyn Milner, 3, with her parents Qiana Flewellen and Mitchell Milner. Flewellen breastfed her daughter for 21/2 years.

Madalyn Milner, 3, with her parents Qiana Flewellen and Mitchell Milner. Flewellen breastfed her daughter for 21/2 years.

Those numbers reflect a disparity that has existed for 40 years. For various reasons, black women are not breastfeeding their children as routinely as other women.
August was Breastfeeding Awareness Month and the last week in August was the second annual observance of Black Breastfeeding Week. Doraine Bailey, with Breastfeeding Support Services at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, said she would like to know why there is such a gap.
“We know in general moms choose to breastfeed by personal values and family values,” she said. “If my sister tries and it is painful, I’m not sure I will do it.”
Bailey calls that an anchoring event or reference point that can make or break a new mother’s decision to nurse. Many anchoring events originate with mothers or grandmothers who may not support breastfeeding.
“Between 60 and 70 percent of black moms leave (the University of Kentucky Hospital) breastfeeding,” Bailey said. “That’s compared to 85 to 90 percent of white, Hispanic or Asian moms. Where is the tipping point? Is there a key thing?”
Qiana Flewellen nursed her 3-year-old daughter Madalyn Milner for 21/2 years.
“The good thing about it was being able to provide for her,” said Flewellen, a civil engineering student at UK. “It was sustaining to see her growing and knowing the only thing she was getting was nutrition from me.”
Flewellen researched the benefits of breastfeeding before Madalyn was born and then presented the financial savings to her partner Mitchell Milner, who was in agreement with her decision.
Flewellen’s mother breastfed her children as well, so that anchoring event was more positive for her.
But some black mothers and poor mother may not have support at school, their workplace or from family members. Being able to pump the breasts to gather enough milk to store while the mother is absent can be a difficult maneuver.
A lot of things are difficult to maneuver, but well worth it in the end. Breastfeeding is one of those things.
Historically, babies were carried by their mothers and fed human milk on demand. Eventually, with the increased availability of formula and women working outside the home, breastfeeding began to decline. The youth movement of the 1960s began to bring it back because of the benefit to children.
Not all women can nurse. Not all women want to. But Bailey said it is time all women had the right to choose what they want to do. Making breastfeeding difficult or failing to support that natural act takes away not only a choice but also the best preventative medicine nature provides our children.
Some nursing mothers are still treated negatively when they feed their children in public. It seems to be more acceptable to expose breasts in a sexy ball gown than while feeding a child.
We have got to change that narrative. We need to help women do what is best for their child and themselves.

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