Documentary Blog #23 – Hangin’ with Cleda Turner

Monday came around and Kaleb and I were looking forward to hanging out with Cleda Turner.  We spent a little part of Sunday with her when we attended her church but today was different.  We were driving around with her and going to visit some “shut ins.”  Now, I had never heard that term before but it’s what they call people who live in their homes and cannot get out or around to get a lot of food; either they are in wheelchairs, old and frail, have no transportation or, in one case, blind.  They rely on people like Cleda to bring them food and anything else they can get.  I shutter to think what would happen to or what life would be like for these people if someone like Cleda (and many others around this world) didn’t help or care.

Owsley County Outreach

We started off by gathering some food at Cleda’s place of work (The Owsley County Outreach Center) commonly known as the Booneville Thrift Store.  Here Cleda not only sells clothes but she also keep food for seniors AND children.  Cleda provides clothing and food to the people of the area and her primary focus is feeding the children of the area through her “Backpack Program.”  This is similar to what you see in other cities where children are given backpacks of food on Fridays so they have enough to eat on the weekends.  Unfortunately, some of this food doesn’t get to the children because their parents or parent’s friends or rats get to the food before the children do.  But, that’s another story I can share if you are interested in knowing – just send me an email or personal note on Facebook.  She sells clothes at the thrift store and every $7 of goods sold provides one backpack for a child in the area.  So you know Kaleb and I had to buy something from the thrift store.  I bought an Owsely County shirt (as seen below) and I still have it and wear it with pride.

Cleda Turner and me hanging out at The Outreach

Once the car was loaded with food for the seniors we went out to meet people and distribute the food.  Our first stop was at some rent controlled apartments in Booneville just down the street from Cleda’s store.  Then again, EVERYTHING is just down the street from Cleda’s store.  Here we were visiting two people.  The first is Frank and as you can see in the picture below he lost his hands but had his two big two surgically placed where his thumbs would normally be located.  He lost his hands in a factory accident in Ohio.  Originally from Booneville, Frank moved to Ohio to get work and then moved back to his hometown.  This is not uncommon as there is really no work to be had in the area.  It was great to get to know Frank and like many people in Booneville Frank finds his strength in Jesus and seeking the glory of the kingdom of heaven.

Frank sitting in his chair in his rent controlled apartment in Booneville, KY.

Our second stop in the apartments was to a man named Pat.  Pat is in a wheelchair and has been for a number of years.  He is married to a sweet, wonderful woman named Ruby.  Pat is just a good ‘ole boy who has a gravelly voice combined with a southern accent.  At times it was hard to completely understand everything he was saying but he always said it with a smile.  In fact, his wife Ruby never finished a sentence without a smile on her face.  You know, it’s meeting people like Pat and Ruby that help to make this trip and my journey of discovery worthwhile.  It would be easy for me to get down, saddened or depressed with everything I am experiencing in Booneville but meeting people like Pat and Ruby or Cleda or the Hollan Family or Melanie Thomas (more about Melanie in the next blog) or the people clogging their way into my heart at Dooley’s Diner makes it so much easier for me to tell this story.  It’s amazing what a simple smile or laugh can do to a person’s psychological and emotional well being.

Pat and Ruby.

We left the apartment complex to visit a woman named Alfa.  Alfa is blind, rents a house and (at the time we were taping) is taking care of her grandson, his wife and their baby.  There is so much I could say here about Alfa, Frank and Pat.  I think I could devote a blog to these people but I have to keep it as an overview and you will get to know all of them a little better in the finished documentary.  We talked with Alfa for about a half hour and also spoke with her granddaughter-in-law about the situation in Booneville and what it’s like for a young person growing up in that area.  But the one thing that concerned me more than any other at Alfa’s was how much people were smoking and around a newborn.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have absolutely NOTHING against smokers and completely support your right to do whatever you want to your body.  However, when we went into Alfa’s house we were greeted by a massive cloud of smoke and all three adults (Alfa, her grandson and her granddaughter-in-law) had cigarettes in their mouths.  The two younger adults had cigarettes hanging out of their mouths while holding the baby.  I’m no doctor but I can guess that’s not completely healthy for that baby and its developing lungs and respiratory system.

Alfa sitting at her table with some food we just brought her positioned in front of her.

Alfa's granddaughter-in-law and her new baby sitting on a couch in Alfa's house.

We left Alfa’s house and went to visit Martha.  Before I go any further I have to note here that, once again, I could devote an entire blog posting about Martha, her current situation, her past situations and her lack of hope.  I have to stay on target here and talk about what we were there to do that day and that was to make her life a little better by bringing her some food.  If you want to know more about Martha and her life just send me an email or a note on Facebook.  But, as my friend Cleda has said, “Martha can make you laugh and cry in the same visit.”  When we walked into her house I couldn’t help but note the smell of cat urine and how completely dark and depressing her place was.  We talked with her for about an hour and learned some horrific things about her life, the death of her youngest son and how she takes care of 5 grandchildren (they actually live with her).  It saddens me that she is not getting food because she has many other mouths to feed.  Did I mention she lives on about $700/month!

Martha sitting on her porch. She just looks so sad.

But what really weighed on my emotions/thoughts about these great people of Booneville was something Martha said when we were leaving.  I started asking all my interviewees “What gives you hope knowing you are in situation where people have to bring you food and your not in a financial or physical condition to improve your circumstance?” with the hopes I would get some great answers that I could sprinkle throughout the film.  Martha’s answer was (and still is) the only one of it’s kind when she replied to my question by saying, “Well, I guess when I die I will get to meet Jesus.”  It’s a short reply but a very powerful one and she conveyed to me that her only hope is meeting her maker.  That makes me sad that people of this world and in this country of overwhelming wealth and decadence have the thought that death is their only hope for a better life. On Monday I will share with you our time with Susie Lacefield and her weekly food distribution program.  See you then. Seth

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  1. Stormy says:

    Seth , I also come from Humble beginnings , my mom was a single
    mother up until I was 12 yrs old . She met and married the man
    she is still married to , Some 21 years later .
    I was born with Spina Bifida (a defect of the spine .) Countless
    operations later and here I am . I happily married for better or
    worse to Simon and we are raising our 2 children . As you
    know we are also taking care of Nannie NOT an easy job either .
    I just want you to know that we are truly thankful for you
    and Kaleb and what you have brought into our lives . The thought
    that someone out there in this big crazy world cares about some
    out of the way community is really sweet …Stormy

    • Cleda says:

      In the small world of Owsley County, we forget there is a outside world from ours, we are in a valley of despair, our hope lies in our Lord and Savior with out him we could not see or feel any hope, it takes only a little to help some one out, pay a gas bill, buy some food,or donate some money if you think you do not have time to help, there are way to always help others.

      Thank you Seth for your wonderful work here and I pray you get the reward of seeing America step up for their seniors and children.

  2. Mare says:

    You are doing great work, Seth. Note to self: don’t read blogs on train commute-too emotional. I can relate some of this to my aged mother. She says on a regular basis she has no reason to live and will be better off when she’s dies. For different reasons, but for some getting old and not being able to do things for yourself is too much.
    Best, M

    • Cleda says:

      Get her involved with a Senior Program, there are some wonderful one out there that a bring joy to her later days, may have to look but you will find one

  3. Jan P - Indy says:

    I’ve often wondered why there was never emphasis on the seniors and their inability to feed themselves for whatever reasons. When I received notice of your need for contributions to complete your journey, I jumped on it right away. I am very excited about your journey. I can’t wait to see the final results.

  4. Cleda says:

    Pat and Ruby came by and ask about you two