NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover was “thrilled” to receive a call from Oprah Winfrey asking what she could do to help Nashville residents suffering from the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus, she said Tuesday.
Glover and Mt. Zion Baptist Church Bishop Joseph Walker III worked together with other churches and groups to create Nashville Nurtures, which recently distributed 10,000 Kroger gift cards for $200 to families, thanks to a $2 million donation from Winfrey.
Speaking to reporters by video conference on Tuesday, Winfrey said she doesn’t usually talk about her charitable work, but she’s discussing it now because she wants to inspire other people to help during this pandemic. She said the $200 gift cards serve an immediate need but also give people a sense of hope.
Winfrey’s gifts — $12 million total — went to several cities where she has lived and worked over the years. Speaking of her connection to Nashville, she said, “I grew up there. I was a young girl there. I started my television career there. I started my radio career at WVOL in Nashville. … I got hired there when I was 16 years old.”
She also recalled getting pulled out of class at TSU to take a call from Chris Clark, the longtime news anchor at WTVF-TV, who asked, “I understand that you’re in radio, would you like a job in television?”
Glover said she was touched by Winfrey’s “concern for her hometown, for those who were laid off, the single parents, those about to lose their homes because of COVID-19.”
Glover and Walker said the work that Winfrey has begun will continue. Nashville Nurtures will help people connect to groups that provide food assistance and other aid. Meanwhile TSU has begun what it calls the COVID-19 Academy, which provides free job training and continuing education to those who may have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
The pandemic has shown us “how we are all connected, and how we are one,” Winfrey said, “because look who turned out to be essential.”
“What I am hoping is that no one looks at a grocery cashier the same, no one looks at the guy who’s stocking groceries the same, no one looks at the food that has come to the table and the truck driver that had to get it to the grocery store the same.”
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and be life-threatening.
In Memphis on Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office on behalf of jail inmates who are at risk of contracting COVID-19.
The federal lawsuit demands the release of medically vulnerable inmates who are only jailed because they can’t meet financial conditions for pretrial release or are being held on a technical violation of probation or parole — as long as they are not deemed a flight risk.
More than 190 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Shelby County Jail, officials have said.