A long time ago, somewhere in swampy west Tennessee, I started my first job with a community mental health center. I won’t mention names here to protect the innocent, namely me. Back in those days, I was hired as a case manager. The roles of a case manager have changed since then. But it has always been an entry level position. I got paid $8.90 an hour plus mileage. I remember putting about 45,000 miles on my car that first year. Sometimes my mileage check was higher than my regular paycheck. Little did I know, that my young family qualified for welfare because we were well below the poverty line. It never really occurred to me to check. Anyway, I digress.
My role as a case manager was to advocate for my clients and to link them to community resources. I also had to make sure that my clients had at least 3 contacts including case management, medication management and/or therapy. I had some great mentors and co-workers. I learned a lot from them. I recall having asking what to do on my home visits. One of my mentors at the time suggested teaching some parenting skills. As a newlywed, not even a parent at the time, I knew I was not the most qualified to teach about parenting skills. My mentor suggested I go buy a book and do what it said. I mean I like books as much as the next person. But finding one parenting book that I could afford on my case manager salary is a whole other story.
Another one of the things I learned was that I didn’t know much about the community. Really, I was naïve. I had gone to college in the area. While enrolled, I was a good student. I was active in all the student-oriented things. During the time I was attending college, I and others often referred to it as “living in the bubble.” I had a lot of book knowledge and I knew the inside of that bubble really well. However, working in the same community I learned that just a few feet from my dorm room there were many challenges that the local children and adults struggled with on a daily basis.
Fortunately, my clients tended to teach me more than anyone. Within the first 6 months of that job, I was a well-seasoned case manager. Turnover is real, of course. But the difficult cases were all too real. I learned things that this good, little Christian boy never knew. I learned what child abuse was. I learned about the long-term effects of being born addicted to cocaine. I learned what a disability hearing was. I learned about cultural differences by serving the underserved. I even learned to play Uno. To this day, I don’t care to play Uno because I played it so much to “build client rapport.” I learned so much about what they don’t teach you in school. I learned the lesson that poverty is a huge barrier to getting quality mental healthcare.
The poverty and mental health issues that I witnessed in those early months weren’t part of my vocabulary or imagination prior to that experience. I remember going into one client’s home to “educate” them about community resources and help them get signed up for food stamps, etc. They knew more about that process than I did! I know I wasn’t much help to them that day. I never had to worry about food stamps, WIC or any other welfare program. One of my mentors had to teach me before I even tried to teach someone who already knew it. They gave me handouts and I took notes to know what I needed to say. It was my clients that taught me more about the real resources and the rules that went along with them. Since my formative years in the field, I’ve created a habit to collect information about the local community resources. I’ve made lists and spreadsheets to cover a good portion of the surrounding counties. However, resources can change and my lists become outdated.
Since 2020, I feel like so many of the resources changed. It’s hard to keep a comprehensive list of resources because the resources switched locations or methods of service delivery. So I feel like I wasn’t able to keep up while working from home. But I’ve never had a central place to store and disseminate this information to anyone but my co-workers until now. I know I don’t necessarily have to teach people how to apply or access these resources. However, it’s important just to have the number to call. It’s also important to know the name of the person to talk to. It’s important to be connected. Our community has a long history of supporting our fellow citizens who struggle with hunger and poverty.
In my own family, my grandparents made a point of visiting other family and friends that were not as fortunate as they were. They would bring groceries to those visits. Or they would invite them over. More than once, I’ve been told that my grandmother could cook for 2 or 25 in no time at all. This is where I believe southern hospitality originated for me. It’s in that spirit that I feel called to list these resources. It used to be that we were connected through family. We as a community tend to loosen our connections because of community growth and the distractions of technology and life. And it’s impractical for me to try to buy groceries or cook for the whole community. In the spirit of southern hospitality, I’ve prepared the list below.
Below is a list of resources. I know it isn’t complete. This type of support is often fluid and will likely change as time goes on. Honestly, it’s likely to be outdated because of my ignorance about some of the many resources our community has to offer. As I learn about more resources, I plan to share them with you. But this is a place to start. I’m providing a list of food pantries or other assistance for people who are hungry. Below you’ll see a weekly schedule of when the places are likely to be open. The dates and times may vary. And below that will be a brief description of what is available. Some places will offer more than food. As I collect more information, I’ll be sure to share or update. I hope this helps.
God Bless all the volunteers that make the following possible.