Turning lives around so they can walk tall


The Means Report continues its annual giving episodes with a look at Walking Tall Ministry with Felisha Westall and Sharon Mosley.

Brad Means: It’s our chance to profile some agencies that could use your support and then you, in turn, when you’re pondering your year-end giving or your annual support for organizations, might consider them and we certainly hope that you will consider Walking Tall Ministries. They are most worthy of your help. Felisha Westall is here. She runs Walking Tall Ministries. Her mother, Sharon Mosley, is a key part of it as well. Ladies thanks for being here and thank you for what you do.

Sharon Mosley: Thank you.

Felisha Westall: Thank you for having us.

Brad Means: So let’s kinda go back a few years in time when you started all this you were going around the country helping people? Tell me how.

Felisha Westall: Yes sir, so I’ve been to 19 states and I pretty much just walk up to a community that I see homeless and I ask them would they like a free haircut. I pull out my folding chair and a little TV tray and my clippers and everybody always says yes and thank you.

Brad Means: Why did you do this? What made you go around and give people haircuts?

Felisha Westall: So, when I was in cosmetology school to be an instructor that’s what I really thought I wanted to do and god had other plans for me. I kept getting tagged in this video of a barber in another state doing it and I said, okay god if this is your will show me how to do it. So I made a Facebook post and it has grown from then all through Facebook and social media.

Brad Means: Sharron is this something you taught Felicia growing up? You should always help others?

Sharon Mosley: Her dad and I always tried to instill in them to always give everything that you have and we were very fortunate that it took . So we’re very proud of her because we have seen her go from wanting microcore purses to giving, you know, everything she’s got to the homeless.

Brad Means: Do you even think about yourself anymore or is the joy in giving just too much?

F Felisha Westall: It feels so good to give back. To see the change in people’s faces just by showing them that you care.

Brad Means: What’s the big deal with the haircut? Why’s that change lives?

Felisha Westall: So what happens is you get in these situations where you’re doing things you’re not supposed to be doing or you just kind of reverted back from society. You don’t want anything to do with anybody, so you let yourself go. So when they’re able to have a free haircut and a change of clothes and a new look, they’re able to have the confidence to walk tall, to reunite with family, to stand before someone and ask them for a job. It’s about building their self-esteem back up.

Brad Means: I want to talk about Walking Tall Ministries has become. It’s haircuts and so much more. It’s some of the things you mentioned. Clothing, assistance with transportation, you name it. What’s your typical client look like when they show up? Where do they come from?

Sharon Mosley: Most of ours are just off the street.

Brad Means: Just homeless folks?

Sharon Mosley: Homeless, they’re living in the woods. On people’s porches. Wherever they can find a place to lay their head at night. That’s where they’re coming from.

Brad Means: Let’s just kind of walk through that transformation. You see ’em at the door. You hear that knock. What happens?

Felisha Westall: So they come into Walking Tall. We just tell them to have a seat and we’ll be right with them. We’re a soup kitchen now and a food pantry. So we get all walks of life it’s not just homeless anymore it’s low income families also. So as soon as they come in they start to talk to other people who have been there a while. We just kind of adopt them as family from moment one and it’s about building trust with them at their lowest of lows so that they trust you to be there for their highs. Like, we’ve got three people off the street and into homes and that’s all done through Facebook and the furniture comes from people donating through Facebook and we’re able to be there with them at the end when they don’t need us anymore. Now they’re helping us help other people.

Brad Means: Is this men, women, or are there ever children involved? Tell me about that.

Sharon Mosley: There are some children involved. Like this Saturday we’re having a birthday party. We like to give birthday parties for the kids. We provide the cake, the presents, everything for them.

Felisha Westall: Yup, all done through people.

Brad Means: Tell me about the clothing ministry that’s a part of Walking Tall now and how you can help people look their best.

Felisha Westall: Yes sir, so whenever people go through their closets, everything that’s given to us for free we give things away for free. Everything for free and so we’re able to find their sizes through our volunteers and amazing people that come together and help us like my parents, my family, and our other volunteers and one of the things that they do when they come into Walking Tall, like in our building is we ask them what size clothing they wear. What are their specific needs. So that way we can address each specific need. Sometimes it’s a hygiene kit. Sometimes it’s new clothes. Sometimes they need a warm coat. Especially right now, It just got cold out of nowhere. Homeless people don’t have cell phones. They don’t have a way to watch the weather. They don’t know that storms are coming and that cold weather’s coming. It just hits.

Brad Means: Is it easy to find jobs for these folks and if so, who do you give credit to for that? You know, companies that are out there that are willing?

Felisha Westall: So we have a work program at Walking Tall. So, as they do little things for us, a big misconception with the homeless is that they don’t wanna work. Well that is so far from the truth. They just ruined these relationships with everybody they used to work for. With their family members and so now, starting over, rebuilding, nobody wants to hire them. So we take them under our wing. We have a construction crew and we do this through Facebook also. People say that they need different repairs in their homes, so we let them know hey we have a group of homeless people that has been doing chores and things for us and around our property and family’s property that way we make sure we can trust them and we build that relationship and that work ethic again and then we put them out there in the real world and we rebuild from the inside out.

Brad Means: They used to be somebody, right?

Felisha Westall: Yes.

Sharon Mosley: Yes.

Brad Means: They weren’t always a homeless person.

Felisha Westall: They’re just like us.

Sharon Mosley: They’re just like us.

Felisha Westall: A natural disaster can make you homeless. A relationship that has ended can make you homeless. A job loss. A medical situation. Anything can make you homeless. It’s not just about drugs.

Brad Means: Y’all talked about the birthday parties. Christmas is coming up. What kind of help do you give folks to make that the best it can be?

Sharon Mosley: Okay, like I said, Saturday we’re having a birthday party for this little girl and then Wednesday we’re having Thanks Giving lunch. December the 2nd we’re having the big Christmas dinner and we’ll have presents for all the kids.

Brad Means: Where do the presents come from?

Felisha Westall: From little people like us.

Sharon Mosley: Donations

Felicia Westfall: People that are at the store buying something. They pick up a Barbie Doll or a ball and that all comes together to make Walking Tall possible.

Brad Means: Y’all are proof of the power of social media, aren’t you?

Sharon Mosley: Yes.

Felisha Westall: Yes, we really are. Our whole ministry has grown simply from social media.

Brad Means: Speaking of growth. You’ve gotta be busting at the seams at that building.

Felisha Westall: We literally are.

Brad Means: What are you gonna do about it?

Felisha Westall: I’m telling, and god saw me, I get chill bumps when I talk about it. We only owe $58,000 on that building and then I want to build up. I want to have a men’s and a women’s separate dorm. We can house people. That’s the only thing missing with us right now and being able to have a free store where people can come in and actually shop but pay nothing. I’m so excited about that. I can’t wait for it to happen.

Brad Means: Are y’all still in the valley.

Felisha Westall: We are.

Brad Means: So you’re in Gloverville.

Felisha Westall: Yup, we’re right on highway 421. You can’t miss us.

Brad Means: And so are most of the folks who come to you valley residents, people from that area?

Felisha Westall: Yes sir, most of them are.

Brad Means: And what can the community do to help you? We’d love to have that building paid off.

Felisha Westall: Yes, oh my goodness.

Brad Means: First and foremost, but what about people who want to help in other ways and even if it is certainly money always works that’s why we asked you to consider your donations. How can we support you otherwise?

Felisha Westall: So just coming in and talking to the people. Reminding them, that hey, I see you where you are and God’s got something special for you. Do not give up. You know, if we give them an accountability partner then they’re more likely to make good choices throughout the day and just showing them that the people that they live around, they don’t have a home, but the people that do have homes, that they care.

Brad Means: I know it probably changes with each client, but if you had to put a timetable on it from that first knock on the door to success, how long does that take?

Sharon Mosley: Well it took, it took about what? A year and a half to start getting people into their own homes.

Brad Means: Yeah, so they’re with you for a while.

Felisha Westall: Oh yeah. Yup, everyday. We’re open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. for the public and then after that we start our work program. So anybody is welcome during the week or the weekend to bring their family out and come out and serve breakfast with us. Bring bag lunches that you can leave outside. We always have food outside of our door so people in the community know that even if we’re closed there’s food for them waiting and we love for people to just drive by. You know, make some bag lunches with your family and drive by and drop them off at Walking Tall.

Brad Means: Do you ever get a day off? Do you ever get to rest?

Felisha Westall: I do a lot of outreach, so that’s my time off. I love to get in the car and drive. Like, I’m hoping to go back to New York for Christmas and give street haircuts and we give out Christmas presents to the homeless and that is when you walk up to somebody whose sitting there feeling like nobody cares and you hand them a Christmas gift. Oh man, the videos online are so true. They just light up. They feel so good that somebody cares about them on a holiday.

Brad Means: What’s it feel like to you? Both of you I’ll ask you. When you get to wave goodbye to somebody and you know that they’re independent once again because of Walking Tall.

Felisha Westall: It’s so humbling because I’m nobody and God chose to use me and that is humbling. It’s beautiful.

Sharon Mosley: You know, it’s like your children.

Brad Means: Yup.

Sharon Mosley: We’re sending them off to college and then they finish college and start their new life.

Felisha Westall: They don’t need you anymore.

Sharon Mosley: That’s the way we feel about our homeless guys and women.

Brad Means: And then can they ever come back and just say look at me?

Felisha Westall: Oh yes.

Sharon Mosley: Yes.

Felisha Westall: Yes, that’s the exciting part. One of our guys, Mr. Joe, he’s always going up and down 421 on his bicycle and he’s in an apartment now and sometimes he doesn’t stop by and sometimes he does and it’s always the biggest hug, you know, and thank you from them and that means the world to us.

Brad Means: Well Sharron and Felecia we’re going to put your information up on the screen. I want to do that before we run out of time so that people can support you at Walking Tall Ministries. There’s the information you need. Everything good on that?

Felisha Westall: Everything’s great, yes sir.

Brad Means: That’s not your cell phone, is it?

Felisha Westall: That’s beautiful, yes but I love that. I get calls at three o’clock in the morning when they’re tempted to use and I can talk them off of that cliff.

Brad Means: Really? You can even do that kind of intervention.

Felisha Westall: All the time, yes sir.

Brad Means: Oh my word. That’s why I asked you if you ever get to rest.

Felisha Westall: Oh, it’s okay .

Brad Means: We appreciate you so much and best of luck in the future. I know that great things are going to happen to your ministry and just bless both of y’all.

Sharon Mosley: Thank you.

Felisha Westall: Thank you so much for what you do.

Brad Means: Absolutely, you’re welcome here anytime.

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The Means Report first aired in January of 2009 offering coverage that you cannot get from a daily newscast. Forget about quick soundbytes -- we deliver an in-depth perspective on the biggest stories. If they are making news on the local or national level, you will find them on the set of The Means Report. Hosted by WJBF NewsChannel 6 anchor, Brad Means, The Means Report covers the topics impacting your life, your town, your state, and your future.