Meritan is a Memphis organization that strives to assist the well-being and independence of individuals of all ages in the Mid-South. Meritan provides services to more than 1,400 Memphians annually related to foster care, home health, in-home personal care, intellectual and developmental disabilities, senior job training and response to elder abuse.
The organization began in 1961 with a focus on providing services to seniors. Once known as Senior Services, it changed its name to Meritan in 2007 to better represent the full range of services it now provides individuals, beyond just senior citizens. As President and CEO Melanie Keller says, it’s an organization that serves “from the cradle to the grave.”
But it did all start as a service for the community’s seniors. Among its senior programs is job training for low-income, unemployed people 55 and older. Meritan partners with more than 40 host agencies in the area to provide jobs for participants who receive pay for 20 hours of work per week. Seniors receive valuable training while earning a paycheck. And many times, the nonprofits ultimately add the person to the staff. It’s a win-win for participants and the organizations.
In-home programs include homemaker services that help individuals with activities of daily living such as preparing light meals and personal care visits to help individuals bathe or get dressed, all tasks that seem small on the surface but for elderly individuals who want to remain at home, it can make all the difference. Meritan’s home health services follow directions from an individual’s doctors to care for a person while recovering from illness or injury.
Meritan offers a residential program for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, as well as seniors who want to transition out of nursing home care and need basic in-home support.
Finally, Meritan provides foster care services. Most referrals are children with medical or behavioral challenges, highlighting the fact the organization works to serve the most vulnerable populations in the community.
“It seems strange but this is how it progressed for our organization,” Keller says about the natural progression of Meritan. “At one point it was a grandma’s daycare. And then the Department of Human Services was looking for people to take on medically fragile children in foster care. People in our homemaker program began providing foster care services. Then, as the children turned 18 and beyond that’s how we added the developmental services.”
As the need presented itself, Meritan has answered the call through the years. That variety of services does present its own challenges, the biggest of which is branding and how Meritan best shares its message of diverse services. “But the benefit is when getting community support, we can tell people that whatever their sweet spot is we probably serve it, whether it’s seniors, children or people with disabilities,” Melanie says.
Meritan is in the middle of a capital campaign to raise $2 million for its new Downtown facility. Meritan is always interested in additional host agencies to work with seniors, as well as families who are interested in serving as foster parents or as family models for those children after they’ve turned 18. Information about how to serve Meritan or give to the capital campaign is available at meritan.org.
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