The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association's Constructive Work in Memphis, Tennessee

Posted on July 18, 2011 at 02:25 PM

We would like to call your attention to the constructive work in west Tennessee of the Memphis Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), which engages in a wide range of constructive activities regarding hunger and nutrition, aid to seniors and young people, housing, education and other initiatives. MIFA has one clear tie to the Delta Caucus in Alan Gumbel, the long-time Delta regional advocate who is now director for performance and quality improvement at MIFA.

While the smaller towns and rural areas are generally the areas that have the most economic distress in the Delta, we also want for Memphis, Little Rock, Jackson, Baton Rouge and the other urban areas of the region to feel included in our regional coalition. Relatively speaking, of course, Memphis is more prosperous and far more urban than the region as a whole, but they do have areas of economic distress, and we can increase our regional clout by including the bigger cities in our coalition.

MIFA is also an excellent example of the many constructive faith-based organizations at work in our region. Alan Gumbel spoke at our May conference at the Clinton Library on a session led by President Fitzgerald Hill of Arkansas Baptist College and the Arkansas Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, both of which are engaged in excellent activities for literacy and other constructive work in our region.

Alan Gumbel played a key role on the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission in the late 1980s and 1990, then worked with myself and many other Clinton administration officials on the Delta Regional Initiative during the Clinton administration, and in recent years has continued to be an excellent partner for the Delta Grassroots Caucus.

This information is based on communication with Alan Gumbel and on the MIFA website at –please visit it. The three programs we cite below in some detail are just a few examples of their many constructive programs.

MIFA serves over 60,000 individuals annually through programs in three areas of focus: sustaining the independence of seniors, transforming the lives of families in crisis, and helping equip teens for success. The organization works to unite their diverse community to address challenges of poverty.

MIFA was founded in 1968 to find a solution for poverty and racial division in Memphis in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, it serves over 60,000 people annually. MIFA partners with 200 congregations in West Tennessee, and more than 3,000 volunteers and 17,000 donors help keep their vital programs alive.

We would like to offer summaries of just three of MIFA’s many constructive activities, Meals on Wheels, College Offers Opportunities for Life (COOL), and their housing initiatives. Below we also include a brief historical note about this excellent organization’s origins in the turbulent year of 1968.

Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association Meals on Wheels Program

This program, with the help of up to 100 volunteers, provides 1,800 hot, nutritious lunches for homebound elderly and seniors at 26 congregate sites each weekday. MIFA’s largest program has been awarded the highest possible accreditation conferred by the Meals on Wheels Association of America.

Eligibility: Clients, who are homebound or at congregate sites, must be nutritionally at-risk seniors (over age 60) due to illness or disability and reside in Shelby, Fayette, Tipton, or Lauderdale counties.

If any of our contacts in west Tennessee know of someone who would like to be placed on the waiting list, please go to the website at and click on the “What We Do” link and go to the section about seniors and Meals on Wheels, then fill out the registration form on that page.

Impact: In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, a total of 399,166 meals were served to 2,909 clients.

Partners: MIFA Meals on Wheels receives funding from the Aging Commission of the Mid-South and the City of Memphis, which is supplemented by MIFA’s fundraising efforts and Harrah’s Entertainment, a major sponsor of Meals on Wheels Association of America.

College Offers Opportunities for Life

Impact: In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, 157 students of 180 enrollees completed the program of life skills classes, college tours, and ACT preparation and testing.

COOL (College Offers Opportunities for Life) is a college readiness and life/academic preparedness program providing students from Central, G. W. Carver, and Booker T. Washington high schools higher education counseling, mentoring, life skills, ACT preparation, and assistance with the college admissions process.

If any of our west Tennessee contacts know of anyone who might wish to apply, please go to the website, click on the “What We Do” Link, go to the COOL (College Offers Opportunities for Life) section and download the COOL application from there.

Eligibility: Clients must live in the 38126 zip code and/or attend Central, Carver, or Booker T. Washington high schools, have at least a 2.0 GPA with good attendance, provide two recommendation letters, and complete an interview.

Partners: This program is funded by generous contributions from The Memphis Grizzlies, Fred’s, Inc., The Irvin Lansky Foundation, The Children’s Foundation of Memphis, PeyBack Foundation, and The John Dustin Buckman Charitable Trust.

MIFA Housing Opportunities Program

The Housing Opportunities program provides transitional housing (65 apartments) for homeless families and through the Life Skills Institute offers life skills education, case management services, counseling, employment guidance, housing location, budgeting, and debt reduction.

Eligibility: Clients, Shelby County homeless families with children up to age 17, must be assessed and referred by the Emergency Housing Partnership program. Before admission, they must prove county residency and homelessness, be employed or employable, and undergo background and drug checks. After admission, they must attend life skills classes, pay down debt, pay rent, and adhere to agency policies.

Impact: In the fiscal year ending June 30,2010, MIFA provided shelter and life-changing education for 139 families and over 303 children.

Historical Note about MIFA’s Origins

Early in 1968, Rabbi James Wax and the Memphis Ministers Association submitted “An Appeal to Conscience” to The Commercial Appeal. The widespread reaction among Memphians was that these church leaders had no business addressing social issues.

In February of that year, the sanitation workers’ strike began, highlighting the injustices of low wages and poor working conditions. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on a trip to Memphis to address the strike, the fury, grief and mistrust that followed widened the chasm between the races.

Following Dr. King’s death, area churches intent on healing the city’s wounds realized they would have to come together to accomplish anything. In September of 1968, MIFA was born.

We hope those of you in Memphis and west Tennessee will be supportive of MIFA’s excellent work, and organizations throughout the region might wish to take note of their constructive programs. Thanks–Lee Powell, executive director, MDGC (202) 360-6347