How the NAACP and the Church are helping mothers in Memphis

Two organizations are working together in Memphis, Tennessee, to help mothers and their babies thrive in an area with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the United States.

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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered Saturday, November 19, 2022 at the 38126 ZIP Code in Memphis to announce the launch of MyBaby4Me, a program with classes to help newborns and expectant mothers.

“This partnership is ordained of God and inspired of God,” said Van Turner, president of the NAACP Memphis Chapter. “I’m just so happy that it’s happening at such a critical time in our city. We’re dealing with public safety, we’re dealing with homelessness, we’re dealing with poverty. [It’s critical to address] the origin of humanity when these young people are in the womb and try to ensure they receive the proper care in the womb [and then] Come out and survive and be healthy. When that happens, they have a great start in life. That solves and solves these other problems. So I am very excited to be partnering with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all of our other partners, because this is truly a great endeavor.”

This is the second humanitarian collaboration between the NAACP and the Church of Jesus Christ since the Prophet and President Russell M. Nelson pledged $2 million per year for three years to fund these projects in 2021. Last month’s opening project focused on improving a community garden in San Francisco.

“We’re going to teach mothers how to feed their babies and how to become mothers,” said Vickie Terry, executive director of the NAACP’s Memphis office. “We will teach them how to feed a baby and even how to put a baby in a car seat – just the basic things that need to be done to care for a baby.”

Classes for women begin November 29, 2022 at the Memphis NAACP. You can get support from the Vance Avenue Youth Development Center just down the street. The center donates its kitchen to feed these young mothers and their families.

“We see a lot of young mothers. We feed a lot of young mothers,” says Barbara Nesbit, head of the youth center. “The NAACP relieves us a little of the burden of helping these mothers or parents with infant mortality. … We don’t have much to give, but what we have here is love. We love this community very much.”

The other partners in this project are Baptist Memorial Health Care, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, the Shelby County Health Department and Cooper Hotels.

“I think it’s a great program,” said Ann Marie Wallace, senior public relations coordinator at Baptist Memorial Health Care. It’s about a healthier community. … We Baptists want to have a relationship with expectant mothers before they come to our facility so that when they come to our facility they will have a better outcome.”

Volunteers spent Saturday afternoon distributing MyBaby4Me brochures throughout the 38126 zip code.

“We had an opportunity to knock on the door of a woman who is currently pregnant,” said Marc Allan Dudley, who was distributing leaflets with his wife Sonya and two of their daughters. “Her eyes lit up and she was grateful for the program. …People are happy that someone notices that there is a problem and that someone is doing something about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some of these individuals actually become part of the movement because they know someone in the area is doing something about it.”

Child mortality is close to the heart of the Dudleys. These parents of eight lost a son who was one year old.

“We love family,” said Sonya. “And that’s the big thing. If you want to have a family, you need to know how to take care of them. And it starts all over again. … I’m really grateful to the NAACP for understanding that not everyone understands how to care for children and [that they are] to give this training.”

This project for mothers and babies grew out of a conversation earlier this year between Terry and Elder Matthew S. Holland of the North America Southeast Area Presidency of the Church.

“When I met the faith leaders from the North America Southeast Area of ​​The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Terry. “We were having a pleasant gathering when Elder Mathew Holland asked, ‘Vickie, what keeps you up at night?’ I have told visitors that it bothers me that our headquarters are now in a zip code with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country.”

Elder Holland brought Terry’s comments on infant mortality to an Area Presidency meeting.

“We were excited about what we could do to change that,” said Area President Elder Vern P. Stanfill. “We found a model made by a scientist at Ohio State University. We follow this model to create an environment where education, nutrition and socializing help women in Shelby County care for their infants and prepare for labor. Our vision in the Southeastern United States is that we can go into communities like this and make a difference through partnerships with others.”

The North America Southeast Area of ​​the Church of Jesus Christ includes Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Mississippi, southwestern Missouri, South Carolina, and Tennessee.