MIFA Stories

MIFA is about people—the people we serve, the volunteers who keep our programs going, the generous individuals who support us financially, and the people who work at MIFA every day to advance the organization's mission. 

We think the best way for you to get to know MIFA is by getting to know the people. 


Geraldine's Story

"[MIFA Transit] makes me feel independent."

Talk to Geraldine Reed for a few minutes and your first impression is likely that she's strong and self-reliant. And she is. Originally from Pickens County in Alabama, she's been in Memphis for 60 years and worked as a nurse from 1953 to 1994. She raised a child and has two grandchildren who live in Florida. 

She also makes use of MIFA Transit.

"I know how to drive, but I don't drive," Geraldine says. "Transit helps me. It helps me get from point A to point B for whatever I need. At my age, I have several different doctors and many appointments. Sometimes I use it twice a month; sometimes it might be four times a month."

"At the time, I just didn't know they did so much."

She doesn't take this service for granted. "The drivers are nice," she says. "My appointments are scheduled so I know a week or 10 days ahead. We work out a schedule in advance."

Still, she knows that a helpful ride is a phone call away if she needs it.

"It makes me feel secure," Geraldine said. "I feel secure because I don't have to go down the road and catch MATA on the corner. MATA doesn't pull up to my driveway or take me directly to the doctor's building. That's what I mean when I say secure."

Like many Memphians, she knows MIFA for Meals on Wheels and Transit but was surprised to find out how broad our offerings for seniors are, including Senior Companion and Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

"At the time, I just didn't know they did so much."

For someone who has lived as long as Geraldine has, being able to to catch a ride with a friendly driver is something she likes being able to count on.

"They are dependable," she says. "I don't have to call on other people to rely on favors. And that makes me feel independent."


Earl's Story

"I don't have to worry about that one meal each day."

Earl Cooper still remembers plenty. Like the day he married his wife, Sybil. And the day after that, when he shipped out to Europe for World War II, where he served in Normandy during the D-Day invasion. And the next time he saw her, two years later. And the day in August of 1947 when he and Sybil moved into the brand-new house in the Berclair area where they raised two children and where he still lives today.

When Sybil died on February 2, 2011--exactly one month after their 63rd anniversary-- it left a void.

"I miss her something fierce."

A neighbor told him about MIFA Meals on Wheels, and he's been receiving them ever since. 

"The folks who bring the meals are nice," he says. "There's one young man who delivered my meals on Thursdays, he would bring my meals in and he'd say a little prayer before he left. He never got away without doing that."

Like a lot of meal recipients, Earl--who grew up on a farm in rural Gibson County--eats simply for breakfast and lunch and typically saves his MIFA meal in the fridge to reheat for supper. But not even old age can take the country out of the country boy, which is to say: he makes a mean pan of cornbread.

"They send cornbread, but it's sure not like the cornbread I grew up with." Earl says. "My mother was good cook. We always had cornbread and biscuits. My wife made it just like my mother did. After she passed, I decided to try my hand. And it came out pretty good."

Cornbread aside, Earl is grateful beyond words for the meals and the folks who deliver them.

"MIFA has been a lifesaver to me."

"When I go to the door and see their faces, the day lights up," he says. "MIFA has been a lifesaver to me. I don't have to worry about that one meal each day." 



Gwendolyn & Isaiah's Story

"MIFA came through."

Ask Gwen Coburn how she went from homeowner to homeless and she has a simple, honest answer.

"I chose to marry a man I knew was not all that good," she says. "I thought, "I'll get me a man and fix him up.' To be honest, I wanted someone who didn't have much so he'd appreciate me. I was just blind--I wanted to see something different. And he took me for everything."

She helped her new husband build a small business--then she lost her job. Her unemployment ran out in November of 2011, and by April her husband told her he was out of money and that she and her son, Isaiah, were going to have to find someplace else to live.

Honesty is just one of Gwen's qualities. She's also resilient--within a month she had a job at Kroger in Cordova. But none of that changed the fact that her debt was mounting or that she and Isaiah were moving from one friend's house to the next. 

By the time she was steered to MIFA, she and Isaiah had moved six times. Her MIFA caseworker, Ms. Ball, helped determine Gwen's eligibility for assistance through the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing program. "She saw what I was able to pay and helped me with a budget," Gwen said. "She stuck right there by me, and then they paid my down payment and my first month's rent. It gave me a chance to get situated, right when I needed it."

She and Isaiah moved in October of 2013.

"MIFA showed me love."

"MIFA showed me love," she says. "Ms. Ball didn't judge me. She checks in with me to see if there's anything we need, like a certificate for shoes for Isaiah. The main thing is just the love they show. Knowing she's there to help, that makes me almost cry."

She hopes to own her own home again one day, but for now she's full of gratitude that she and her son are together under one roof.

"Isaiah asked me, 'Mama, we don't have to move now?' And I said, "No, baby. MIFA came through."