On The Ground In Ferguson

“Lauren, how would you like to cover one of the biggest stories of the year?”

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When you’re a reporter – you can’t help but want to be a part of covering BIG stories. Especially when those big stories matter to the people around you.

When I got word that a decision had been made in the Ferguson Grand Jury case involving officer Wilson, I knew this may be one of those moments.  A moment where being there was important to our viewers and to telling the story from our perspective.

Monday night – At 5:00 pm WMC Action News 5 made the decision to send a crew to Ferguson.  At the time we didn’t know whether the grand jury would indict Officer Wilson. But we knew, either way, all eyes were on the story.  And people in Memphis would have something to say about it. We knew it mattered to our viewers in Memphis, they too had planned a protest, regardless of the outcome.

The announcement came at 8:00 pm.  I watched it all unfold on CNN.  And for the next three hours I watched reporters in the crowd get tear gas, rocks, and bottles thrown at them.  While other rioters and looters destroyed businesses along W. Florrissant and S. Florrissant. On TV it looked like total chaos and I had not idea what I was getting myself into.

Map of Ferguson - note W. and S. Florrissant about a mile apart.

Map of Ferguson – note W. and S. Florrissant about a mile apart.

At 11:00 pm we loaded our WMC Action News 5 car with camera gear, laptops, chargers and our LiveU Backpack (oh and an overnight bag). We hit the road for Ferguson, not knowing what we’d encounter.

We stopped south of St. Louis to fill up on gas and grab a quick snack.  The clerk, Jim, was from Ferguson and told us how difficult it was to watch the events unfold on TV.  He said it didn’t represent what his home town was about but that “it was bad.”

Season's Greeting sign outside Ferguson Police Department

Seasons Greeting sign outside Ferguson Police Department

At about 4:05 am we arrived in Ferguson, greeted by that now famous “Seasons Greetings” sign outside the Ferguson Police Department.

We kept driving and saw the damage done to local businesses. Glass was everywhere, broken out windows, looted stores and numerous police cars driving around. We stopped at the scene of a fire for our first live shot. It was then, that I got my first glimpse of the true destruction and devastation. It was a Little Caesars pizza, next to business I could not identify because it was destroyed. The place the a total loss. Fire crews were still on scene. In all, 13 buildings were destroyed in large part because crews couldn’t fight the fires safely. While they were responding to fire calls, gun shots were being fired into the sky.  It was so unsafe many of the crews abandoned their fire hoses and left.

We did live shots all morning, about four an hour.  But what I didn’t realize is it was only the beginning of a look at life in Ferguson. It was hard to think that all this damage was done so quickly and how much it will change life for so many in Ferguson and surrounding communities.

After our morning live shots, we were give the “all clear” to find a hotel and take a quick nap before we prepared stories for evening newscasts.  I couldn’t really sleep, because all I could think about was how people would be waking up today to a community forever changed.

As the sun came up, the damage became clear.  The smoke from buildings billowed over the community. It was most certainly imagery for the a much bigger issue going on in Ferguson.

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To give you context, the community has a population of 21,000 people.  That’s about twice the size of Millington, TN.  Most of the damage was isolated to two main streets.  But that damage contained the majority of major local businesses and shopping resources in the community.  That damage also spread into the neighboring community of Dellwood.

Most of Tuesday was peaceful.  Media outlets from across the country descended on Ferguson.  Many of them had been there in advance of the announcement, preparing for whatever happened. We all had stories to tell and we were all trying to give people a glimpse of what it was like at our location.

That’s the thing though, it was different, depending on your perspective.  Near the Ferguson Police Department, City Hall and the Library (where the protests started) it didn’t look as bad as it did over on S. Florissant.  And in the middle of those two streets, sat homes untouched, churches with their doors open for prayer and people just trying to live their lives.  Trying to comprehend what happened to the community they call home.

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If you know me, you know I look for the positive in every situation.  In this case, I was determined to show that the human spirit had not been defeated, despite they way it looked.  I found volunteers from across the city and St. Louis area, coming together to clean-up.  Bringing food and water to those who were stuck out in it all day.  They wanted to be a voice of reason amidst so many unanswered questions and raw emotions.

As for me and my photographer – all day long I got getting messages from people who were praying for us.  I asked all of them to pray for the community too.
One friend said he was praying to St. Michael the Archangel: “Defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen” 
It’s a powerful prayer and I know it’s been prayed by many who know we are here.
I refused to let anything get in the way to telling the story of history unfolding from our perspective.  I refused to instill fear in people and not show them what was happening on all sides of the story.
We did our evening live shots from the corner of S. Florissant and Chambers.  At that point, when the sun started setting, the tensions started to grow.  People were passing by and honking.  Shouting profanities at the media, walking by wearing masks and helmets.
They seemed to be prepared for a possible riot or smoke bombs from police.  National guard members arrived in HMMWV’s as thousands of them were deployed to prevent what happened Monday night.
We watched a few peaceful protests unfold at our intersection.  Protesters had their hands up and said “Hands Up. Don’t Shoot” over and over again. As police arrived in riot gear, the crowd got heated and started to spill onto the street.  The national guard asked the media to clear out of the Walgreens parking lot and find somewhere else to go.
So at 9:00 pm we headed back over to the Ferguson Police Department.  All night, there had been a relatively calm protest.  Only a few arrests, smoke bombs and bottles thrown. NOTHING compared to Monday.
“This is perfect,” said one protester. “This is what it’s supposed to be. Their voices can be heard. But we are still scared because you don’t know what to expect.”
She was right…none of us knew what to expect.
At 9:54 the crowd started moving down Florissant, towards City Hall.  We were set up to go LIVE with our mobile backpack.  So we walked along the street with protesters, prepared to report on the PEACEFUL protest turned march down W. Florissant.
At 9:56 someone back in the station started talking to me in my IFB (ear piece) device:
“Lauren, the chopper over the scene has video of a crowd of people turning over a police car. It looks like they started it on fire.”

“Where? I’m walking with people now. It’s very calm.”

“City Hall.”

“That’s…wow that’s a block away.”

As I looked up I saw smoke and flames. Hundreds of people were running towards it. 


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When we got closer to the scene we were set and ready to go LIVE. Until someone pulled up behind us, got on the roof of their car and reached for what looked like a gun. (I watched the video when we got back to the station Wednesday and it was definitely a gun. I had reason to run.)

All the while, 20 plus squad cars were responding. Sirens were loud, people were throwing rocks, bottles and whatever else.

The ONE photo I took during the chaos.

The ONE photo I took during the chaos.

We ran across the street and stood near a bus stop and went LIVE in the chaos by accident because it happened so fast.

I repeated “we are safe.” Over and over again. My voice even cracked in air when I realized we were safe. At that moment I said a quick (like really quick) prayer for safety and found peace and calmness overcome me. I finished that live shot and took a deep breath. Part of me thinks I was really trying to reassure my family watching back in Memphis that I was okay…the other part of me thinks I had no idea what else to say. 

A few minutes later police fired smoke bombs into the crowd. That made things calm down. We did a second live shot. This time much more calm. Shortly after that we got wind, literally, of the smoke bombs and started coughing.

It was a very intense 30 minutes.

People asked me if it felt like a “war zone.”  I can’t truly answer that because I’ve never been in an actual war zone.  But, I can say that if I were to imagine what that might feel like, for a few moments, it felt like that. (you can watch ALL the LIVE shots here).

But we got to leave. We got to head back to a warm hotel. Ferguson stayed up late, police tried to get the crowds under control. And the national guard members stood guard for HOURS after that.

As I sat back in the hotel room, I was reminded how quickly something calm can become chaotic. And how quickly a few bad decision can turn a crowd. 

I was honored and humbled to cover this moment in history.  People were messaging me calling my reports “courageous” and “brave” but I think the true people who are courageous and brave are the ones who will remain in Ferguson.  The ones who will work to rebuild it. The ones who will start tough conversations about race and policing.  The ones who will truly begin to make change in a community that’s lost so much more than we can ever imagine.  
No matter where you fall on the opinion scale, there is a community of people (on both sides of the issue) hurting by what happened there back in August and November.
Ferguson needs our prayers. 
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“I am blessed” – Burritos, fellowship and blessings

“I am blessed,” said AJ as we handed him two burritos and a water bottle.

AJ is a homeless man who fell on hard times. Moved back to Memphis to care for his ill parents and when they passed, he wasn’t able to find a job. He is currently looking for work (hotel or restaurant industry) and has an attitude about life that we could all learn from.

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AJ – the first man we met Wednesday.

Wednesday night I rode with Urban Bicycle Food Ministry (UBFM). It was my first time back after a several month hiatus. It w

as 32 degrees when I left my condo and rode down to the church.

By the time I arrived at First United Methodist on 2nd Street, I could barely feel my hands and my feet were feeling the cold. It was only the beginning.

UBFM is one of my favorite ministries in the city of Memphis because I get to know the people who live on the streets of Memphis; my homeless friends. Each Wednesday night the group gathers at the church. They make burritos and care packages and head out on three or four different routes.

Each route touches key parts of downtown and midtown; giving food and fellowship to anyone in need.

I love meeting people, asking their names, looking them in the eye and giving them a moment of my time. Truth is, they give me their time too and we both walk away smiling.

AJ, who we met not far from the church, was the first recipient of our food Wednesday night but there were so many others. People who were spending the night on the streets, using what they had to stay warm.

It was the coldest night of the year the far and by the end of our adventures, my feet were num and my nose was frozen. Lucky for me, I could ride my bike home to a warm place, change into a warm outfit and sleep in my warm bed.

A man who was sleeping on a bench near city hall.

This morning when I woke up to frost on the ground, ice on the roads, I couldn’t help but think of them. I got dressed for work, bundled up for the coverage and saw how the unexpected precipitation overnight impacted the morning commute.

But I can’t imagine what it felt like for those people who had to wake up outside and in the cold.

UBFM rides every Wednesday at 7:30 pm and Saturday mornings at 8:00 am. Volunteers gather at First United Methodist Church (204 N. Second St. in downtown Memphis). The need is great and the power of a moment is even greater.

We may not be able to fix all the problems in our city…but for a moment we can give someone our time and a snack. And be reminded that “WE ARE BLESSED.”

(If you’d like to make donations – money, clothes, food or shoes – visit www.ubfm.net)

A man who was sleeping behind the downtown library

Forgiveness In A Place Where Camera’s Can’t Go

I witnessed a powerful moment in the halls of juvenile court today. It’s a place where cameras aren’t allowed. So I wanted to share it with you in writing.

I sat in on a trial this afternoon for the 10th teen charged in the Kroger attacks. I heard the 17-year-old victim speak about what happened to him that night, how he has nightmares when he thinks about having pumpkins the size of soccer balls thrown at this head.

Then I heard the teen suspect’s mother take the stand. She told the judge that she didn’t raise her son this way. And that he deserved punishment. But she didn’t want to see him be thrown under the bus.

Then the 16-year-old suspect took the stand. He admitted to kicking the victim to the ground. And said that he kicked him in the head because others were doing it and he was trying to impress girls.

Then the judge found him guilty of aggravated assault and turned him over to DCS for rehabilitation.
After all that you would think emotions would be high.

As we all walked out of the courtroom the victims father, Mark Sauser, was stopped the two mothers. They were in tears, saying that they are sorry for what their boys did to his son. That had their son been attacked they would be very upset.

After a hug one mother said “I wish my son was here to say he is sorry.”

“I tell him I forgive him,” Mark said.

At this point I was holding back tears.

It’s been a rough couple of months in Memphis. Fights, attacks and people saying horrible things on social media. When you cover the good and the bad in Memphis, it’s hard not to get a little emotionally invested.
Mark Sauser’s words, spoken in the hallway of juvenile court, may be the most powerful words I’ve heard in awhile.

Something to think about as we move forward from the Kroger attacks and remember there is so much more good in this city than bad.

Off Camera Beat(s)

Very little of what happens in my daily job ends up on TV or in any of my reports.

It’s sad sometimes because the people I meet, the conversations I have, and smiles I share are, on some days, more telling than the stories I tell.

Today was one of those days.

Last week, while visiting the Carpenter Art Garden in Binghamton, I met a young boy named James. He was holding a pair of drumsticks that he had decorated with blue tape.

“Are you a drummer?” I asked.

“No. I play the snare.” He said.

“Well that makes you a drummer, silly!”

Then I asked him all about being a drummer. The seemingly shy kid suddenly came to life when I asked him about it.  He said he used to play in the band at school before the program was cut. All he had was a pair of drumsticks but no way to practice. He answered question after question.  Did he know traditional or standard technique? His favorite beats? Did plan to keep playing?

Then the organizers of the Garden asked him to show off his art work. You see, James is talented. He took something as simple as pipe cleaners and produced art. He creates them at the garden and then sells them to help raise money to keep it going.

After James left, I learned even more about him. When he first came to the garden he didn’t talk. His response to a question was barely a mumble.  He wasn’t social and he didn’t fit in. But then he discovered his artistic abilities. And loves it.

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Over time he’s become one of the most social kids and is constantly creating something.
I left the garden and couldn’t help but think about how he might use a drum practice pad. You know, the kind that allow you to play without annoying everyone but also rock out for some real practice without setting up a drum.

This weekend Scott and I went to Memphis Drum Shop in Cooper Young and got James a drum pad and new sticks.
Tuesday, with an intern shadowing me, I asked my photographer to stop by the Garden for a few minutes. I told our intern that this has nothing to do with our story but that it was important to me. And as long as it didn’t impact my assignment, I needed to get it done.

I took the drum pad out of the box and then showed him some of my (rusty) beats.  James was very excited, for a shy introvert. Though he wasn’t quite sure how to react, the smile on his face said it all.

“Now it’s your turn!! Play me a beat!”

“I don’t play beats. I play snare solos.” He said

“Well, play me a solo then!”

James took to the drum pad.

Dut-Dut-Dut-Dut.
Dung-a-dut. Dung-a-dut. Dung-a-dut.
Buzzzzzzzzzzz.

He did it over and over again. Each time bouncing the sticks higher and higher. I wanted to take a picture but I knew if I took out my camera is would ruin the moment. Instead, I just enjoyed it.

His excitement grew.  I have a feeling he won’t stop playing tonight until someone says it’s time for bed.
This short moment out of my day reminded me what really matters. And, hopefully taught my intern one of the greatest lessons she’ll learn on this internship.

Most of the time, what happens off camera is the real inspiration for who you are on camera.

It turns out, you CAN help make change

As many of you know, I have a bit of a heart for helping homeless people, especially those that I get to know from living downtown. I often think about how close we all are from being homeless. A few paychecks away, a few less family members to help back us up, no friends will to help us get back on our feet. It could be really easy to fall if we didn’t have something to fall back on. Those thoughts are humbling and give me purpose for helping people who’ve fallen on hard times.

It’s one of the main reasons I support The Bridge newspaper vendors all over Memphis. The Bridge is a homeless newspaper, written by the homeless and sold by them on the streets of Memphis. It’s by no means a hand out. They pay $0.25 for each paper and then sell the for $1.00. They get to keep the profit and for many it’s a means to make a living.

Every Saturday last summer, during the Memphis Farmer’s Market, I would stop by and see Joe, Linda and Eddie. So much so, that I build a bit of a relationship with them. Asking about their situation, where they stay and their circumstances. It never occured to me how deep I could dive and how involving others in the process could help them too.

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Last Saturday, the 2014 season opener, I saw Linda. She was alone this time because her partner, Eddie, has moved out of Memphis. I gave her a hug and said “hello, so good to see you.”

Linda’s eyes lit up, without skipping a beat she said “I’ve made it to transitional housing. I am not longer completely homeless. In fact, after three years, I’m one step closer to getting out of homelessness.”

I was so proud and happy for her. She’s found a place to live and she says it’s because of all the support she’s gotten from people who buy The Bridge from her. She and Joe are some of their best sellers. Honestly, that moment made my day. I think I told everybody that I saw. I wanted everyone to know how $1.00 can make a difference.

Anyway, I went on my way, bought a paper and left. But then my friend, Sarah Petschonek, showed up. She had never met Linda but had heard me talk about her. So she introduced herself. Linda hugged her and they got to talking. Linda revealed that she was three years into a computer programming degree at Ole Miss when she started suffering from MS like health issues. She couldn’t continue with school, had no source of income and wound up on the streets. Sarah asked her if she had a computer. Linda said she had a laptop but that the screen was broken. And with that, Sarah made it her goal to find Linda a monitor. She put a message out on FB and I asked a few people I know.

That was Saturday morning, by Monday afternoon we had an anoynomous donation from a company in Memphis. It turns out they were cleaning house on their computers and had one they could refurbish, load with software and give to Linda for FREE. It was valued at $250-$300. They heard about her story and wanted to help.

Tuesday, Sarah called Linda and asked if we could stop by. Linda didn’t know what we were there for but when we pulled up she was waiting outside. Sarah asked me to explain to Linda what we had done. I told her that we shared her story with a few people we knew and that someone stepped forward and donated a newly refurbished computer for Linda to use. She literally broke down into tears. Hands over her face saying “oh my god, thank you so much. I can’t believe it. You all are wonderful. This is so amazing. I can’t believe it!”

You can probably guess that at this point Sarah and I had tears in our eyes. Because in this case we really didn’t do much at all. It was Linda’s story. All Sarah and I had to do was tell her story and someone stepped up to make a difference.

Scott was there, all ready to help get Linda’s computer all set up. Unfortunately, she isn’t allowed to have guests in her home at this time. But Linda had no problem setting it up. Sarah got a text from her that night saying that it was up and running working perfect and that she can’t wait to brush up on her coding skills.

So here we are, almost a week later. I’m still on cloud nine following that experience. I am humbled and honored to have been a part of the generosity of so many people. I often think about how Jesus would have wanted us to live our lives here on earth. Since he doesn’t actually, physically walk here on earth, it’s our job to be his hands and feet.

This week I saw that, in action, from the story of Linda’s success, to the donation of her computer. I can’t wait to see the possibilities that lay ahead for her and I will continue to follow her story. Now we’re working on getting her some coding books and finding a way to get her back in school. She also has some health issues that we really need to tackle. I say we because now it’s a part of us. She came into our lives for a reason and we are so greatful to be experiencing the journey with her.

Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Also please keep the donors in your prayers. Their generosity means so much more than they’ll ever know.

It turns out, you CAN help make change. Sometimes in the smallest of ways.

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Grandma Bobbie’s influence on our lives

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My Grandma Bobbie Squires would have been 90 years old yesterday.  And as I think about her (thanks to the reminder from my dad) I felt like it was worth posting about the things she taught me and how much she blessed all of our lives. And how she influenced our first dance at our wedding.

last visit     Grandma Bobbie was a special person in so many people’s lives.  I first have to thank her for raising my father.  Who has so much integrity, love and commitment in his life.  He has taught me a lot about how to live life and I know he learned a lot of it from his parents.

Grandma Bobbie lived in Glidden, Iowa for most of her life.  She and her husband (Grandpa Max who passes away when I was 8 or 9) ran a funeral home.  YES!  When we went to visit them, we would sleep in the upper level of the home, often times running as fast as we could from the door to the steps, because our older cousins told us it was haunted, or that the body (in place for a wake) would jump out at us if we stayed down there.  haha I am not making this up.

Such fun memories at that home though.  Her and grandpa Max would play baseball with us in their backyard.  They’d take us to the Dairy Mart, which I’m still convinced has the best ice cream and cheese balls in the world.

We loved visiting them in Glidden and we loved sharing memories with them.

Another thing Grandma Bobbie loved: the Iowa Hawkeyes.  To this day, I’m such a big fan because of her and grandpa’s influence.  She had plenty of opinions and commentary about their football program and their basketball recruiting.  But she always supported her Hawkeyes.  Through wins and losses.  So do I. 🙂

When I was in high school, we moved Grandma Bobbie to an assisted living facility near Omaha, NE.  It was really the best thing for her to be close to the most family.  For me, it made visits to Omaha all that much more important.  My parents moved to Memphis shortly after that and I stayed in Dubuque for college.  I made an effort to visit her every 6 months or so.  Which was a great chance to catch up, make memories and enjoy each other.

She was blessed to be surrounded by a lot of love and weekly visits from the Omaha crews.  My cousin Liz would stop by and do her hair once a week.  Who knows what crazy antics happened then. But I would often get text messages and photos of their adventures. I know that time was cherished.

But my biggest and most vivid memory of her happened to be when I brought Scott to Omaha for the first time.  It was a big deal. I wanted him to meet her and I wanted her to like him.  I was worried, for one, that she wouldn’t like that he was a Cyclone fan.  Even more worried that she might be confused because Scott is what they called my dad growing up.

She LOVED Scott though.  Like absolutely LOVED him.  She got passed his pour choice in fan choice (Iowa State) and loved that he worked for John Deere.  I still think to this day she thinks he built tractors.  I loved watching them interact.  I loved seeing how attentive and loving he was to her and vice versa.  They had this bond that I can’t really explain, except that I knew she like him.

Our last visit with Grandma was in the spring.  We didn’t know it would be our last visit.  But we always treated them with care because we never really knew.

Grandma had a bad week leading up to our visit.  She fell and hurt her hip and we weren’t sure how her memory would be.  We knocked on the door, came inside and were greeted with hugs and love.  She was sharp as a can be that day.

One thing I always did with Grandma Bobbie was put on music.  She loved Michael Buble, dearly.  And I always knew that if I put that on it would provide a flow of memories, singing and sometimes dancing.

On this day we were sitting with her and singing along when “For Once In My Life”
came on.  She shot up from her green couch and grabbed Scott.  She started dancing with him and I singing the lyrics “For once in my life I’ve got someone who needs me.” She pointed at Scott and gave me the thumbs up.  She liked him. It was almost like we got Grandma’s stamp of approval that day.

I get tears in my eyes thinking about it. That visit was so joyous.  And that memory is so vivid.  Of course, Scott has some of it on video because he grabbed the FlipCam and started capturing it.  We left Omaha that weekend feeling so happy to have shared those memories, not knowing when or if we’d see Grandma again.

A month later she passed away.  We were all at her funeral.  The whole family.  A huge reunion to celebrate her life and the people she brought us.

Two years and one day later – Scott and I got married.  548384_601627497171_66000139_31924289_1064725549_nOur first dance was, you guessed it, “For Once In My Life” by Michael Buble.  We chose that song based on our last visit with her.  The memories it brought and what it really meant.  That moment for Scott and I was powerful and memorable.  It was a one of the many moments that made me realize he was the man for me.  His love, care and attention for her was unbelievable.  And our faith kept that bond going.

Sunday, March 9th would have been her 90th birthday.  We celebrated it by going to church with my parents.  Grandma was always passionate about her faith.  Even in her last years someone brought her communion from the church nearby.  I find comfort in that, knowing each time I recieve the Eucharist, she’s with me.  We see her and grandpa every time there is a full moon, we know the two are dancing together under the moonlight.

Truth is, even though she’s gone, she’s here now more than every.  And I know everyone in our family is making her proud.

When Good Comes From A Story

I have to share this moment with you.  Because it only reminds me why I do what I do and the power of storytelling.

Last week I introduced our viewers to Larry Hale.  He lives in the Exchange building and is confined to his wheel chair.  A car accident a few years back now makes him unable to walk.  The catch: he lives on the 10th floor of the building and the elevators were out last week following a pipe burst during the cold snap.

photo 1Hale invited me up to his apartment and allowed me to see how good management was treating him and how he gets around.  I was amazed at his attitude, stuck up in his apartment with no where to go, yet no real problem with it.  He was very understanding of the situation.  His only worry, he was missing a Grizzlies game because he couldn’t get downstairs.

The story aired and time passed, then on Friday I got an e-mail from the management company.  In it, an attached photo of Grizzlies tickets for Larry.  It turns out the elevator company saw the story and wanted to help.  After they got one elevator fixed they hooked Larry up with some sweet seats.  He was thrilled and I was happy to see good in it all.

Then I received this text from  him on Friday night: “I wouldn’t be going if you hadn’t made that 10 flight march.  Thanks again.”

It was a small act for a chance to tell what I thought would be a compelling story. What I was reminded is that when you make the best of what you’ve got, sometimes you get something even better.

So keep on telling stories, sharing stories and acting when you feel called.  It works, it really works.

One Person. One Idea. One Good Deed.

In the news business we tend to have a lot of turnover, both in people and in stories. I typically do two stories a day, sometimes more. At the end of the day, as long as I make deadline, I’m done. And I go home and do it all again tomorrow.

But every once and awhile stories keep going and last for days. Every once and awhile, more than I sometimes realize, those stories have impact.

This week I saw the impact of storytelling in Memphis. It started with a blog from Wendi Thomas about cold weather and school closings. It was my day off, but I checked my e-mail and saw that my boss, Tammy, read the blog and felt called to action. She had no idea that there were so many kids in Memphis without proper coats for the cold winter weather. In fact, a lot of people had no idea.

But it turns out, that A LOT of people want to help but just don’t know how.

So, in a few hours we had a Winter Coat Drive. Partnering with the YWCA of Greater Memphis and Common Ground, the Action News 5 Winter Coat Drive.

Wednesday I was assigned that beat. FUN FACT: I love telling stories about good things happening in the community. I love telling stories that show people doing good. And I LOVE telling stories that call others to action. It’s fitting…working for “ACTION” news 5.

So Wednesday I went to South Park Elementary and talked with students and the principal. She said 1/3 of her students didn’t come to school with proper coats. That’s 200 students in short sleeves, light jackets during FREEZING temps. WOW! Talk about a shock factor. It was hard to believe there was such a need.

Coats4KidsThursday was probably my favorite day of all three coat drive days. Thursday we went to the YWCA and picked up 12 coats, then took them to South Park to hand out to kids. They principal picked out 6 kids who didn’t come to school in proper coats. They got to pick out BRAND NEW coats. The joy they had, the smiles on their face and the reaction to a new coat was unbelievable. It brings a tear to my eye thinking about it. One kid said it felt like she was standing next to a heater. The other said it was like a bit marshmallow. I had a blast and got to see the impact the donations were making on kids in Memphis.

Friday we finished off our coverage and coat drive with a final count: 480 coats, $4000 donated to buy new coats. WOW Memphis!! You can make a difference. And you can make it by doing a small thing.

coats4kids4

Truth is “nobody can do everything but EVERYBODY can do something” and this week YOU DID SOMETHING.

The impact will be felt across the city as the YWCA sorts through the coats and delivers them to students in need.

I just hope the spirit of giving continues. It doesn’t have to be a coat or even money.  Maybe it’s time or MAYBE it’s taking a moment to smile at a stranger or ask someone their name on the streets.  The truth is small acts can make a big impact.  It starts with one person, one idea or one good deed and can be contagious.

So keep it up Memphis.  Keep giving, keep caring and keep sharing.  Share all over media.  Not to brag about your good deed but to show others they can do it too.  To show others how easy it is to help.  And how simple it can be.

I’ll end by repeat what I said above: “Nobody can do everything but everybody can do SOMETHING.”

Go. Do. Something.

Diggin’ Up An Old Story: “Cuisine For A Cause”

“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not none of us it.”

Late last night, or maybe it’s better to say early this morning, I was browsing through some old stories.  Stories from LCTV in college, and KWWL in Dubuque.  I was looking for a few examples and reminders of stories that left a lasting impact on me personally.

For fun, I looked at one of my old resume tapes.  That was fun to see but it was the story at the end that grabbed my attention. A few months back a friend of mine (Kate Berning) asked if I had a copy of a story I did called Cuisine For A Cause.  The story was about a woman named Marilyn who was battling breast cancer.  Her friends started a Susan G. Komen team and to raise money for her team her neighbors and friends created a cook book.  Full of dishes from the neighborhood.

I still remember shooting the story. The two woman made me pecan pies and I shot video of everything.  I walked away with food and a warm heart.  I was now fighting for Marilyn and hoping she’d overcome her battle.

A few months back she passed away.  Kate asked me if I had the story.  I could not find it anywhere.  Until last night.  Buried deep in an old resume tape I had once used to apply for a job.  And so I shared it with Kate and got this e-mail today:

Hey Bentleys! (and the rest of the clan that I don’t have email addresses for – please forward?)

A belated holiday gift and belated happy birthday gift from Marilyn to us. — Look what I got in the mail today!

Get out the tissues (at least I need quite a few)… I had tried to get a copy of our TV interview from KWWL and our angels (Kate and Lauren) just found this, albeit in an unlikely folder from Lauren. I thought you’d all like to take a look too

Priceless.

LOVE,
Sharon

The story finding came at the start of a new year, a reminder for me the power of a story and for them a sign that Marilyn was shining down.  Saying hello and reminding them to keep living, cooking and loving.

Check out the story below…I story should cue up to 4:07.  If not…fast forward.