“They’re all seniors now, so I didn’t have much longer with them anyway, but it was still hard to walk away when I got the Executive Director position at Caritas Village in January. They’re my kids; we’ve lived a lot of life together. We’ve made art together, which is certainly a bonding experience. And we’ve eaten a lot of pizza together; that’s no small thing. When you eat with people, you connect with them. We’ve dealt with family issues, had conversations about where they’re going to college, and have shared a lot of experiences, both difficult and beautiful. I always had a car or van full of kids to take home after our events, and that’s when we had some of our best discussions. It’s where we learned each other’s stories and really got to know each other. Realizing I wouldn’t be seeing them regularly anymore was hard because not only would I miss them personally but I didn’t want to be another person who left them. [*Pause*] I get a little choked up when I talk about it. But I’m just down the road, and a few of them I’ve been with for a really long time come to Caritas once a week and eat dinner with me. They know I’m still around, so I think that has made it easier.
“I love being at the Village. There’s just nowhere like it. It gives so much, whether it’s space for a group to meet or feeding people who are hungry, no questions asked. Onie Johns has created a magical place where people connect, and I want to carry on that vision. I bought a house across the street from the Village a couple of years ago; Onie was a major influence in my moving to Binghampton. I just knew I loved it and wanted to be involved in what was happening here. It’s been a journey, and it continues to be.
“There are so many organizations in Memphis that are doing good work, and Caritas is a place that could connect them all. I think we’re far stronger and can accomplish far more when we’re together. Whether it’s monthly or quarterly, I would love to have dinners where people can come and share their thoughts, ideas, and needs, and find ways to collaborate and support each other. The work that’s being done in this city is not easy, by any means, and I think we need that support from each other. Just to hear somebody say, ‘Yeah, I deal with that too, I struggle with that too.’ I would love to see a lot of art happen here that tackles all the things that our world needs to talk about. Granted, that’s huge, but I just believe in giving people a voice. If people have a place to do that and we work together as artists, then there’s no way that can’t be powerful.”