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Living through COVID-19, Part XI

Optimistic about the fall


William Gandy Jr. (Courtesy photo)

Barber William Gandy Jr. and restaurant entrepreneur James Cook are guardedly optimistic about events they have planned for the fall.

That is because COVD-19 cases in Shelby County are increasing, not subsiding, and that could impact any future plans.

As of Saturday morning (July 4), Shelby County’s count of reported novel coronavirus cases continued an alarming upward trend and was listed at 11,424, an increase of 380 cases since Friday. The recovery rate was 64.1 percent. Total deaths was 197.

As the county, state and nation prepare to enter the election season, which begins here Aug. 6, Gandy has reserved the Orpheum Theatre’s Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education for Oct. 25 for his play “Grandma’s Big Vote.”

The play is based on a book he wrote with same title about his 106-year-old grandmother, Mary Alice Gandy, who made national headlines when she cast a vote for the first time in her life. She voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

Gandy is a fierce advocate for citizens exercising their rights to vote and hopes the play will encourage people to vote in the Nov. 3 national and state elections.

If COVID-19 restrictions do not intervene, he said there will be a voter registration drive before and after the play.

Meanwhile, Cook’s entrepreneurial spirit has bubble up again. He was scheduled to close the deal Thursday (July 2) for a building he purchased in Whitehaven.

James Cook serves a customer after he reopened his Lenny’s Grill and Subs shop at Memphis International Airport. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/TSD Archives)

Cook recently reopened his Lenny’s Grill and Subs at Memphis International Airport after an uptick in passenger traffic made it feasible for him to return, although on a shortened scheduled.

He has been averaging 100 customers a day since returning, including a whopping 150 customers Monday (June 29).

His initial plan for the Whitehaven building was to open a barber and style shop. However, he knows nothing about coiffing hair and wanted to open something that would allow him to be hands on.

So, he changed plans and will open the “Living Room Lounge,” a place to get a drink and a meal, and relax.

He is working with various agencies to secure funds to help with the rehab of the building and wants to have it opened by November or, better yet, on his birthday Oct. 12.

Good news on the grant front

Margaret Cowan, founder of the nonprofit I Am My Sister’s Keeper, has scored a couple of grants to help expand her mission to help single working mothers increase their earning potential.

She received word Tuesday (June 30) that Community Lift had approved a grant that will allow Cowan to hold a community fair. The event, titled Focus 38106, will allow I Am My Sister’s Keeper to partner with other nonprofits to inform residents in the 38106 Zip code about a variety of available services.

Community Lift works to “accelerate revitalization of disinvested neighborhoods to create a thriving Memphis for all.”

Cowan said her organization also has receive free services for a year, valued at $10,000, through the Network for Good’s Jumpstart program.

The nonprofit Network for Good advises nonprofits on how to maximize their fundraising, using the latest technology and resources.

(Jerome Wright is deputy editor for The New Tri-State Defender.)


Maneuvering through the perils of COVID-19

Living through COVID-19: A trio of profiles – Part II

Living through COVID-19: A trio of profiles – Part III

Living through COVID-19 — Part IV

Living through COVID-19: A trio of profiles – Part V

Living through COVID-19: Part VI

Living through COVID-19: Part VII 

Living through COVID-19, Part VIII

Living through COVID-19, Part IX

Living through COVID-19, Part X


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