People in the Mid-South gather together for the first time in nearly 2 years

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 10:25 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - This Thanksgiving, many families gathered together for the first time in nearly two years.

It is an understatement to say it’s been a tumultuous time in our country and in our communities since March 2020.

So, what do we give thanks for this Thanksgiving when so much seems to be going so wrong?

The ravages of COVID. The heavy toll of racial reckoning in America. And the current fears about escalating crime. We have all been on what seems like a never-ending, emotional roller coaster. But local leaders tell Action News 5 there are plenty of reasons to be thankful and to have hope for the future.

At Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, MemFeast volunteers prepared and served Thanksgiving dinner for 5,000 people who might not otherwise have a delicious, warm meal or companionship on this day. Lead Pastor J. Lawrence Turner is a man of faith who encourages all of us to keep the faith.

“Don’t give up. Don’t give out. If we can come together to feed the need, we can certainly come together to create long-term solutions that will eradicate gun violence, and will eradicate poverty and homelessness in our city,” said Turner.

Mayor Jim Strickland is critically aware of the pain in his community.

“One thing I’m so thankful for, it appears we’re at the tail end of the pandemic,” Strickland said.

More than 2,300 souls in Shelby County have been lost to COVID-19. Daughters, brothers, husbands, wives, and grandparents whose seats at the Thanksgiving dinner table sat empty this year.

And the suffering doesn’t stop with the virus.

“Homicides are up,” said Strickland. “Deaths by suicide are up. Drug overdoses are up. Heart attacks are up, all because of the pandemic. People have lost their jobs, lost their businesses.”

Strickland said he has faith in the Memphis Police Department’s new SCORPION unit, which stands for the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. A team of 50 cops is assigned to high crime areas focusing on preventing car thefts and gang violence.

And the City of Memphis is about to expand a successful Boys and Girls Club program into 10 more high schools. Strickland told Action News 5 that in the last four years, 100 percent of the kids who are in the Boys and Girls Club program at Craigmont High School have graduated. And 100 percent have gone on to higher education, to get a job, or join the military.

“Wouldn’t it be great if every high school student had the same opportunities?” he said.

Another new gun violence prevention program uses “interveners,” which are specially trained citizens who talk to young people to pull them away from a life of crime. Thirteen interveners started July 1. There are now 25 interveners with the goal of having 50 by the end of the year.

“I’m hopeful we’ve seen the worst of it and that with all these programs taking effect, we’re going to see a reduction in crime,” said Strickland.

Government and faith are working together, trying to build a stronger, safer community which is something for which we can all give thanks.

“I am inspired and encouraged, and I know brighter days are ahead for the city of Memphis,” said Turner.

Thanksgiving events were also held at the Hospitality Hub, an organization that helps the homeless. And this is the 17th year that Westy’s restaurant in downtown Memphis provided thousands of meals to the needy. Lindenwood Christian Church and Operation BBQ lent a helping hand. Organizers also gave out socks and gloves.

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