Turning a Negative Into a Positive

With COVID 19, I know many of us have been experiencing some very tough times.  We have faced the dangers to our health and our friends and family’s health that have come with the pandemic, and we’ve also experienced the negative economic circumstances that have emerged in our nation and community.

I know one thing that has been tough for me is the social isolation experienced. I miss seeing my friends and family, going to meetings, and participating in person in my networking group. If you had asked me before the pandemic hit if I were more of an extrovert or introvert, I would tell you that I lean to more of the introverted side of the spectrum. But these three months have revealed to me that I am in fact an extrovert, and greatly enjoy and thrive off being around people.

One thing I have tried to do more of in the past three months is staying in contact with people over the phone. I was having a conversation with a friend who shared with me his frustrations with wanting to do something positive during this time, and if I knew of any volunteer opportunities available. Unfortunately, I did not have an answer for him, because of the needs of social distancing and separation that help prevent the spread of the virus.

I thought more about our conversation and my brain sprung into action, thinking about ways or things that could be done to positively impact the community during this time. I began thinking about my friend Ventrice Hodge, who is a bus driver for the Knoxville Area Transit (KAT). It occurred to me that our KAT bus drivers were front line workers during this pandemic, providing an essential service to people who relied on public transportation to get to work, go to the grocery store, or make a doctor’s appointment. It also occurred to me the risks to their own health they took, as they drove large metal vehicles that could potentially hold many contagions, trapped inside.

My friend Ventrice Hodge

I met Ventrice in 2018 at a luncheon at the Foundry. We sat at the same table and struck up a conversation and immediately hit if off, becoming friends. I discovered she was the Vice President of the KAT (Knoxville Area Transit) Bus Driver’s Union, and I shared with her in my previous career that I had been a union organizer.

It was from these flow of thoughts that I came up with the idea that our community should do something to show our appreciation to these workers.

I approached my friend Andrew Roberto, who was elected to the Knoxville City Council in 2017, to see if he would partner with me in promoting an event. Andrew and I went to UT together some 20 years ago and have been friends since. I had known of his work in the community supporting various nonprofits and other causes, and with no hesitation Andrew came on board.

With that partnership, thus was born KAT Worker Appreciation Day. It would be an event where we would bring free meals to the workers to honor their sacrifice and contributions.

We wanted to support a local restaurant during this event. Small businesses had taken the brunt of the shutdown, facing massive losses of revenue and with many struggling to stay in operation.  We approached Yassin Terou, the owner of Yassin’s Falafel House, located in downtown Knoxville with also a west location. Reader’s Digest had named Yassin’s the “Friendliest Place in America” and it was widely known what a generous person Yassin was to our community. Yassin immediately came on board and supported the idea.

We started a go fund me page to raise money for the event. After sending out emails and promoting on social media, we were able to raise several thousand dollars to pay for the event.

I advertised the online event on my facebook group, Friends of Knoxville Homes with Cameron Brooks. If you haven’t joined I encourage you to do so- I post regular content related to life, real estate, dogs, and other matters. Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/friendsofcameron/ and click the join button!

On June 5th Ventrice, Andrew, and I met at Yassin’s Falafel house downtown to pick up the 200 meals. We wore masks and gloves and slowly loaded up the vehicles with the individually bagged meals to deliver to the KAT office on Magnolia. We barely escaped the rain that had fallen that morning in Knoxville, with it stopping shortly after 10:30 am. It was very muggy, and I was covered in sweat from all the heat! But it was a wonderful feeling as we loaded everything up. Excitement and adrenaline was rushing through me, as for the first time since the pandemic had hit Knoxville I felt like I was doing something truly productive and good.

Ventrice, Andrew, and I with the meals

We arrived at the KAT facility and delivered the 200 meals shortly after 11:30 am. The employees there were incredibly grateful and surprised that the community had thought of them and supported them and their work. Yassin, Andrew, Ventrice, and I unloaded the meals onto carts and brought them into the facility, where the workers could get them. We had gyros with lamb and chicken, individually bagged with each having a serving of Yassin’s delicious French fries.

The KAT Workers with their meals

Discovering my mission in life during the pandemic

I recently began working on a mission statement for my life. It is a working document, but I have begun to develop some tenants to it.

The circuit of capital, in economic theory, is premised that capital circulated and invested creates more capital, which in turn when circulated creates even more capital. This is the foundational tenant of our economic system we live in, with all of its good and negatives.

Part of my mission is expanding my own circuit of positive impact, to where the positive impacting that I can do through my business and my philanthropic work will ripple out into the world to create more positive impacts for more people.

On the individual level, I believe in the value of helping persons and lifting them up to meet their God given potential, which is often impeded by the obstacles that the world can put in the face of people. By doing this and lifting people up, they in turn can be in a place to do the same for someone else, thus expanding the circuit of positive impact.

How I help others can be divided into the macro and micro. The macro will be the events I hold to give back to the community and raise money for various charities, doing this with partners from other industries, and the micro will be the identification of certain individuals that could benefit from my help.

But the story isn’t quite over yet

I have intentionally in previous issues of my newsletter stayed away from writing about politics, for not wanting to alienate anyone. I have many friends from all different political persuasions, and I greatly value them and their perspectives, even if we do not agree on everything. I think that is something that is missing in America today, the ability to dialogue with people of differing opinions. When we stop talking to each other, which is what has happened in our country today, nothing good can come from that situation.

But in saying this, I feel I need to make folks aware of a situation in our community with our KAT workers. I had become aware of the struggles they were facing and wanted to share this document with you that outlines some of their concerns. When any group in our community feels they have been mistreated or aggrieved, I believe in their right to speak out and let the community know their situation. The following document addresses some of their concerns.

KAT WORKERS REQUEST REFORMS DURING COVID 19

With the re-opening of the Knoxville economy and the relaxing of restrictions which came with COVID 19, we are seeing a spike of cases of COVID 19 within the Knoxville community. KAT bus drivers are on the front line of this pandemic, providing needed public transportation to our community, most of whom have no other means of transportation.

KAT workers deserve to be protected from the virus during this time, as do our passengers.

Unfortunately, our buses are no longer being cleaned multiple times a day to prevent the spread of COVID 19.

Initially, riders were required to wear masks but the City of Knoxville is presently not enforcing this vitally important safety measure.

Other municipalities have erected plexi-glass separators between drivers and the public to prevent the spread of the virus to the drivers.  There have been persistent rumors this would happen in Knoxville as well.  Again, unfortunately, it has just been a rumor.

We ask that the four proposals below be immediately implemented by KAT management for the safety and well-being of our drivers and the Knoxville community:

1.       We request that buses be cleaned on a regular schedule, multiple times a day, with disinfectant to prevent the spread of COVID 19.

2.       We request that all bus passengers enter through the middle door, not the front, to prevent the possible spread of COVID 19 to the drivers.

3.       We request that it is be mandatory all bus passengers wear masks and sit socially distant while on the bus

4.       We request immediate installation of Plexiglas barriers on buses to protect drivers from the spread of COVID 19.

This document has been presented to the KAT management team, and in future issues we will update you on the status of this situation.

Thanks for reading this story! Let me know if you have any thoughts or feedback!

Your friend,

Cameron Brooks

Realtor, Realty Executives Associates

865-387-4408

Author and Publisher of Cameron Brooks News and Views and Affiliate Broker with Realty Executives Associates. Call or text me at 865-387-4408 or email at cameron@cameronviews.com.