Before getting to know Advance, I had no idea of what generational poverty really means. We all know about homeless people (and I work with them, too, through the Hospitality Hub, but theirs is a different kind of hardship) because we see them on the streets, but most of us don’t know about generational poverty. Once you know, it really just boggles your mind.

 Suzanne retired in 2012 from teaching and wanted to volunteer. Advance Memphis is thankful for the six years she has spent building into our neighbors with encouragement and meals.  After reading this interview with her, you’ll want to join us also.  Contact Kelsey to learn more about volunteer opportunities with Advance or click here.

Can you briefly tell me the story of how the ladies from Independent Presbyterian Church (IPC) began providing meals for our Work/Life Class a few years ago? How many years have you all been serving in this way?

When I retired from teaching and wanted to volunteer, I joined a Bible class at Independent Presbyterian Church. At my first meeting, the leader said the church wanted every Bible study to get involved with a Mercy ministry. I knew that Advance Memphis would get my vote because I’ve known Steve Nash for years and my daughter had volunteered at Advance from its beginning. That was 6 years ago. The main goal was to take the Work Life students home-cooked meals. We later came up with the idea of buying party-sized lasagnas, making a big salad with home-made ranch dressing, along with providing lots of desserts, drinks, and paper goods. We now have it down to a science and know exactly what we need, along with a minimum of three people to serve. “You are really missing a blessing if you haven’t gotten to serve personally,” say all the ladies who have served! 

When you see what Advance does, you get hooked and want to be involved in other ways. A lot of our ladies have helped with Art for Jobs or at least have attended, because they have seen the impact that Advance is having. A few have also been Champions. Bringing lunches is just an easy thing we can do. From time to time people in the Work Life classes see us coming in and say “the ‘lasagna ladies’ are back.” What we do is really not a big deal compared to what Advance does! Even though the Bible study breaks for the summer, a couple of us still coordinate meals with whoever is in town and can help. We truly love Advance.  

What impact has working with our neighbors in South Memphis had on your life and what you’ve seen/heard possibly, in the other women? 

Having taught in Memphis City Schools for 33 years, I am used to being with people from a variety of backgrounds and working with people where I am the minority race. For many people, however, going to the 700 block of Vance Ave. is far outside their comfort zone. I am convinced that the only hope for the many problems in Memphis is that we all learn to look for the image of God in every person we see and remember that God loves each of us. This is not going to happen until and unless we actually see our South Memphis neighbors and interact with them. All I can say about other women who have served at Advance is that they’ve caught the vision and really love what Advance is doing. They always contribute generously, whether it’s food for Work Life lunches or the annual supply drive.

What would you say to someone who is interested in getting involved with Advance Memphis, but isn’t quite sure yet?

Before getting to know Advance, I had no idea of what generational poverty really means. We all know about homeless people (and I work with them, too, through the Hospitality Hub, but theirs is a different kind of hardship) because we see them on the streets, but most of us don’t know about generational poverty. Once you know, it really just boggles your mind! When I was a Champion and got to know people in 38126, I saw that they really do want to get out of those cycles of poverty. The beautiful thing about Advance is that it is never condescending; Advance makes us see that we’re all broken and are in this business of life together. The people attending programs at Advance have just as much to show me as I do them.

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