Six weeks ago, Mission Possible: COSM founder Thelma Nelms was standing in front of an overflow crowd at the National Civil Rights Museum to accept a Living Legacy Award presented by state Rep. Barbara Cooper. At the time, she was pushing forward with plans for the non-profit’s 40th anniversary celebration.
That celebration took place this past weekend, however, it was a far cry from anything in Nelm’s past.
The coronavirus pandemic made it untenable to host the sit-down-together gathering that annually brought together supporters “from small to great, individuals to corporate donors, schools and churches, law enforcement to lawbreakers, food and restaurant giants to small mom and pop operations.”
As she has done since founding Mission Possible: COSM (Christian Outreach Service Mission), Nelms – along with her team – improvised. The result was the Mission Possible 40th Anniversary Web-A-Thon.
The online happening featured Imogene Stanbury’s a cappella rendition of Happy Birthday, testimonials and more.
Nelms, who serves as president, and Mission Possible: COSM are passionate about ministering to the needs of thousands of Memphians each year. Services include food and clothing; elderly assistance; counseling services and training for youth, married couples, workplace employees and employers; and prayer support based on Christian principles and concepts.
In a letter “From the Heart of Thelma Nelms” distributed in advance of the online celebration, she sat the context, pivoting off the naming of Lucille Hawthorne as the winner of the group’s Teacher Award.
Hawthorne, Nelms wrote, “lived in the ‘neighborhood’ in a pretty white house on Pontotoc, where Street Ministries is now housed – just across the street from Leath Elementary School – located at 427 Linden, Memphis, Tennessee ‘38126’, where she obviously loved the little ‘poor’ children who she taught; thusly, making a difference in the lives of thousands who her students touched and continue to touch!!!
“You too can ‘reach out and touch someone’s life and make this world a better place!!”
Teachers, Nelms wrote, were “Relationship” driven, teaching more than reading, writing and arithmetic. “That spirit of service went far beyond the call of duty and spilled over into our churches through Sunday School teachers – many who were less formally educated. It was a collaboration at its best in our little ‘38126’ village.”
Noting that 38126 is one of the poorest communities in the Mid-South, Nelms said, recently a question has resounded: Can any good thing come out of ZIP code 38126?
Rooted in 38126, Nelms said the answer is, “Yes!” And, Mission Possible, she said, “has helped that community make improvements and aims to continue its efforts by bringing ‘class’ through workshops and training to brothers, sisters, families and fellow citizens in the ‘38126’ area, as well as the entire Mid-South community.”
Before as now, Mission Possible: COSM’s needs include volunteers, non-perishable food items, copy/typing paper, coats, transportation, cell phones, life coaches, computers & ink cartridges, computer supplies, postage and envelopes and monetary donations.
Wrote Nelms: “Even though we are unable to celebrate our 40th anniversary ‘together’ in our usual vast crowds, please be reminded that needs have not changed, and we still need ‘Your’ HELP! NO Deposits – NO Returns!!!”