JB Hayes ’19 Helps to Create Phone Buddy Program at MIFA

college student standing outside on a college campus

As a 2018 Rhodes Summer Service Fellow, JB Hayes ’19 worked for Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA). There, the urban studies major helped develop a new program that helps to break the social isolation and loneliness felt by many homebound seniors. 

Among its many services, MIFA delivers meals to seniors, assists families in rapid re-housing, and connects homeless families with resources. Hayes says when he began working with the organization, “They wanted me to help them in decreasing social isolation among people who receive Meals on Wheels because, a lot of times, the only people the seniors see throughout the entire day is the person dropping their meal off.  That might be only a 30-second conversation. Meals on Wheels provides food on a schedule to people throughout the Shelby County area, and so the interactions are often brief.” 

Hayes worked with MIFA CEO and Rhodes alumna Sally Jones Heinz ’81, as well as different departments of MIFA, to develop MIphone Buddy, a program where volunteers periodically provide friendly phone calls to homebound Meals on Wheels clients. The first call is arranged by MIFA staff, and then volunteers work with seniors to determine the best times to call. Volunteers are also encouraged to call on holidays and birthdays.

Hayes reviewed surveys MIFA previously had administered to Meals on Wheels clients to gauge how many people were affected by isolation. “I was tasked with writing a training manual for the volunteers on the appropriate conversations to have with the clients, as well as putting together a list of resources such as transportation or legal services that the clients could be directed to. Part of what we are doing is creating a support system.”

Hayes also got to work with social workers and case managers assigned to MIFA clients. “The Summer Service fellowship exposed me to what people in Memphis are going through,” he says.  “My experiences at MIFA have really transitioned nicely to the work I’m doing now in the Wellness and Stress Clinic in the Oakhaven neighborhood with Dr. Peter Hossler of Rhodes’ urban studies program.  It markets itself as a holistic healthcare clinic, and so we have free healthcare, free legal services, social work, mental health counseling, a food pantry, and an exercise nutrition class."

With graduation fast approaching, Hayes is considering working for a nonprofit or further study for a career in the medical field. 

By Meg Jerit ’20