It’s probably bad form to take pride in being charitable. But the fact is that Memphis is a notably philanthropic town and one can’t really be blamed for feeling good about the City of Good Abode. In this issue of Inside Memphis Business, we take a look at a cross-section of nonprofits who are all working to meet needs not otherwise being met. It’s hardly a comprehensive look as there are multiple organizations driven by the need to do good things, but we wanted to give a nod to this small variety of nonprofits — some have been around a long time, one hasn’t even existed for a year; some focus narrowly and others cast a wide net; some get plenty of press, others work in near obscurity. All, however, serve. And maybe instead of taking pride in this community goodness, we could get in touch with an organization and give of our time and ourselves.
The Assisi Foundation: Community enrichment with a historic perspective
The Assisi Foundation occupies an attractive, one-story modern building in East Memphis, complete with airy interiors, a large courtyard and a colonnade. What captures the attention of visitors first, however, is Elvis, a fluffy little black dog that runs to the front doors in raucous, though nonthreatening, greeting. Two other dogs and a here-again/there-again cat are also in residence. It’s all very Saint Francis, appropriate for a non-profit organization named after the Italian birthplace of the patron saint of animals and founder of the Franciscan order.
Overseen by executive director Jan Young, the Assisi Foundation awards grants totalling $10 to $12 million annually in the areas of arts and culture, education, social justice, health and human services and community enrichment. The group is what Young described as “place-based,” that is, it serves greater Memphis along the amorphous boundaries once served by St. Francis Hospital. So, yes, a connection exists between the foundation and the hospital, but its history takes it back to 1885 and the founding of St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis.
“There would be no Assisi Foundation without St. Joseph Hospital,” says Young, who trained at the now-demolished Catholic-operated facility and worked there as a nurse and nurse practitioner. St. Francis Hospital, founded in 1974 by Sister Rita Schroeder, was affiliated with St. Joseph, though what Young called “a falling-out” occurred between the two institutions, and St. Francis was sold in 1994 to Tenet Healthcare Corp for $129 million. The proceeds from that sale resulted in the establishment of The Assisi Foundation. Despite its Catholic heritage and adherence to the compassionate, service-oriented philosophy of the actual Saint Francis (born 1181/82, died 1226), the foundation is not religion-based.
Young was the foundation’s first program officer, then interim director, then executive director beginning in 2005. “We didn’t come from a philanthropic background,” she said of the foundation’s beginning, “so we had to learn as we went along. Other foundations in the area were helpful and provided guidance.”
Assisi Foundation does not award grants to individuals, only qualified groups and institutions. Each quarter is devoted to a particular category of the foundation’s fields of interest. Applications can be made throughout the year, though deadlines apply to the specific areas, spelled out on the foundation’s website. The application process is open and available online. The next deadline is February 10, 2020, for applications in the field of education.
The foundation’s 22-member board meets four times a year to vote on applications. The Assisi staff, including Young, has no voice in which applications are approved, a fact that can lead to disappointments. “Oh, we always have favorite applications,” says Young, “but we have to make sure to stay out of the process and let the board do its work.”
A “pretty high percentage” of applicants is accepted, she said, but sometimes not until the third attempt. “Our goal is — if they’re doing something of value to the community, we try to help, even if only with constructive criticism.”
In its role of providing non-monetary assistance, Assisi Foundation offers workshops on grant applications and directs a program called “Before You Ask” designed to help nonprofits develop programs and applications. When applications are rejected, it tends to be for one of three reasons: a failure to follow or understand the technicalities of the process; a lack of coherent vision; a weakness in the articulation or comprehension of the intended results. These factors, and the different rules that apply to the various types of non-profit groups, illustrate what Young called “the complicated process of philanthropy.”
While the Assisi Foundation freely acknowledges its religious origin and awards grants to faith-based organizations, it explicitly details on its website the requirements of tolerance and non-discrimination that such groups must adhere to, including having both Christians and non-Christians on their boards and not precluding services to non-Christians or people of different faiths.
Assisi Foundation is “blessed,” Young says, not to have to rely on donations or fund-raising. “We’re sitting on assets of $210 million. It’s from those earnings that we are able to fund the grants that the board approves.”
Recent grantees include Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis, Christ Community Health Services, Knowledge Quest, Latino Memphis, New Ballet Ensemble, Street Ministries and William R. Moore College of Technology. — Fredric Koeppel
Christ Community Health Services: Health care for those with low incomes.
If you mix, motivation, direction and prayer with a mighty dose of health care you’ll find Shantelle Leatherwood’s passion for leading an organization that provides medical services to low income and uninsured people in Memphis.
Leatherwood is the chief executive officer of Christ Community Health Services, a Memphis-based, nonprofit health care provider that operates eight clinics in Memphis.
She grew up in South Memphis in a neighborhood that was a mix of low- to middle-income families. After she received her master’s degree in hospital administration from the University of Missouri in Columbia and completed a fellowship at a family health center in Missouri, she moved back to Memphis to be closer to her family.
“I began praying about and pursuing ways to gain service in a faith-based organization providing health care to the poor,” Leatherwood says.
In 1999, she put her foot in the door as an administrative assistant at CCHS. She spent the next 18 years with steady promotions until she reached the top job in 2017.
Today, Leatherwood makes $170,000 as the CEO. CCHS is a successful nonprofit with net assets of $11.9 million, according to a financial statement for fiscal year 2018. With $36.1 million in revenue and $33.8 million in expenses, CCHS finished FY 2018 with a net income of $2.4 million.
The organization operates seven medical and dental clinics combined and a free-standing dental clinic peppered throughout Memphis in locations such as Hickory Hill, Frayser, Orange Mound — areas of the city where medical practices rarely open. The clinics provide a variety of services such as pediatric and adult primary care, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, prenatal and obstetric/gynecological services and spiritual health counseling to over 57,000 patients annually.
CCHS plans to open its first clinic outside of Memphis in January in Jackson. She says the organization’s data shows clinics are also needed in DeSoto, Crittenden and Tipton counties. There aren’t any plans currently to open in those counties, but it’s something CCHS will consider at some point, she says.
Currently, CCHS is looking to build a 20,000-square-foot clinic to replace the 9,900-square-foot facility at 3362 S. Third, which was the original clinic that was opened by CCHS founders in 1995. Leatherwood said CCHS is discussions with property owner Belz Enterprises about gaining control of the entire Southwest Shopping Center, where the clinic is located.
The property at the northeast corner of South Third and Mitchell Road is the site of the former Crystal Palace skating rink. Leatherwood says the plan is to develop the property in two phases. The first would be the clinic. The second phase would be to find tenants that would help people who live in that area.
“Phase two includes inviting community partners to join us in meeting the needs of the community by providing many with an opportunity to lease space,” Leatherwood says. “These plans are being fleshed out.”
She envisions a police presence, youth programming, a place to exercise, additional specialty services and more mental health services for the area.
“It’s a healthcare desert in that area,” she says.
Leatherwood said her experience as a native Memphian shaped her passion for meeting the needs of those who are hopeless, in need of support, guidance, motivation, direction and prayer.
“I understand the unique challenges that our patients face, especially young women,” she says. “I understand the need to invest in our targeted communities, to invest in the youth residing in these areas, and the need to bring life back to some of the areas we serve.”
“I understand the social determinants that they face and the system of care that we need to establish to help overcome these issues,” she said. “It is what gives me my passion and drive to carry out the vision that I have for CCHS.” — Cindy Wolff
Arrow Creative: Building a creative hub for artists.
For generations, the Memphis College of Art was at the center of the local art scene, a place where art was taught and events were held that reached out to the community.
But it’s going away at the end of the upcoming spring semester and there’s no exact replacement on the horizon. However, the area’s art scene is a constantly growing and evolving thing, and two women with a vision are bringing their idea of invigorating the creative community to life.
Arrow Creative, the brainchild of Abby Phillips and Dorothy Collier, is planned to be “a creative resource center that will marry creative with entrepreneurship. It will bring customers to products.”
Phillips made this statement recently in announcing Arrow’s new, temporary home on Broad Avenue. It is something of a prototype, a functioning enterprise that is pointing the way to an ambitious premise that will include a newly constructed 80,000- to 100,000-square-foot facility in the Broad Avenue Arts District.
“The space will be more than a building, more than a program, and more than just studio space,” Phillips says. “Arrow will be a one-roof creative district in the heart of Memphis. We will house micro retail opportunities, creative community education with a focus on workforce development and artist development.”
For now, there are six art studios and six to eight classes a month in the temporary quarters. “This summer, we are hoping to take over where Memphis College of Art is closing and serve hundreds of students in a summer camp,” Phillips says. “We are really excited about being able to pick that up where MCA unfortunately is closing. But all of these students will still have a home with Arrow. We will also work with creative organizations to house their office space, and host meetings and events.”
The new headquarters will have some 40 studios and creative offices, as well as co-working and shared equipment. Arrow has acquired some of the equipment from Memphis College of Art that will be available to the Arrow community. About $2 million has been raised toward acquiring the property and Arrow will mount a capital campaign to get another $10 million. The hope is the new facility will take about a year to complete.
Arrow is not brand new. It started as an event during Memphis Fashion Week and evolved into Memphis Fashion Design Networks a few years ago. “We saw a need in the community for education,” Phillips says. So we went to Memphis College of Art and sat down with them telling them there are fashion designers in the community that want to grow their business and want to gain more resources.” The relationship with MCA resulted in fashion design courses being taught. When MCA announced it was closing, Phillips and Collier decided to up the ante.
“We have found that the largest areas of need are the support network, a creative hub, connections to clients and education,” Phillips says. “These are the key components that we are looking to focus on as we build Arrow Creative.” —Jon W. Sparks
The 275 Food Project: Raising awareness of local food.
The 275 Food Project was founded in October 2018 by Heather Jamerson and Diane Terrell, both of whom have extensive experience in the nonprofit sector. The name came from the radius in miles around Memphis where they get food from farmers.
On their website (275foodproject.org/), the folks behind the 275 Food Project declare their intent “To build an equitable local food economy in Memphis that shifts 20 percent of food spending to local farmers and producers. In order to achieve that goal, we have built a series of partnerships and developed programming designed to increase farmers’ yields, build greater demand for local foods on the part of restaurants, groceries, large public/private institutions and individual consumers while positioning food entrepreneurs for greater success.”
Or, as Terrell put it in an interview with the Memphis Flyer earlier this year, “Our mission is to help realize the economic, health, and social impact of local food on the community. I think there’s consensus around the nation, perhaps around the globe, that local food does have significant health impacts. And those health impacts, particularly for a community like ours, with its high rates of diabetes and heart disease, are important for the future of our community.”
But that’s not all this nonprofit organization hopes to do. Their ambitious agenda goes beyond just getting more locally sourced food into the area’s restaurants and stores. According to the organization’s website, Jamerson and Terrellhave several programs in various stages of progress:
The 275 Food Fellowship Program, which works with women and minority chefs through professional mentorships in the hopes of helping them succeed in business.
The Ground Up Initiative, presented by Dave and Amanda Krog. This one is also devoted to chefs of color through an 18-month culinary fellowship.
The Women’s Chef Initiative presented by Kelly English, proprietor of The Second Line and Restaurant Iris. “We believe there is a pressing need for more women to be in higher ranking positions in the restaurant industry. To address this problem, Chef Kelly English and 275 Food have partnered with Chef Edward Lee in Louisville to launch a six month mentorship in Memphis for high achieving women chefs,” the organization says.
The 275 Container Restaurant Initiative, which hopes to use “container restaurants” — small spaces that resemble shipping containers — as a way to bring new food options to areas where healthy options are limited. The first such restaurant, radical.TACOS, is expected to open soon at 1025 College in the Soulsville neighborhood.
New South Memphis, which includes a “grant awarded to the New South Produce Cooperative to build a local food hub in Memphis, aggregating source-identified produce, proteins and dairy for distribution.”
Puck Food Hall at 409 S. Main Downtown, which features 10 local beverage and food sellers..— Jody Callahan
The Works: Building homes and health for the community.
Roshun Austin has been at the helm of The Works for a decade and can fire off a list of the nonprofit’s achievements.
“We have a combination of experiences in doing single family detached for home ownership and that’s mostly in the South Memphis area,” she says. “And we have a multifamily development for very low income families that we did about 20 years ago and our office is located on this property.”
And there’s a $17 million multi-family development project in Frayser with construction expected to be completed next September. That’s among the big projects, but The Works also does minor home repair providing service to homeowners in South City and elsewhere.
But wait, there’s more. Healthy food initiatives are part of The Works’ mission, including a greengrocer in South Memphis, operating the South Memphis Farmers Market, and doing cooking education.
And The Works is a lender with a residential mortgage loan fund for a small dollar mortgages, and is a partner with Pinnacle Financial Services. It also has made loans to a grocer and is involved in the reopening of the closed Kroger store in Southgate as a Cash Saver grocery.
There’s even more, including working with national foundations like Kresge for improvements to MLK Park and various infrastructure improvements.
And this is nowhere near all of what The Works is involved with. In other words, as Austin says, “We’re comprehensive in our scope. We’re like a classic community development corporation in other places like Chicago or New York.”
Austin has run the CDC as CEO for 10 years and before that was in mortgage services as a licensed broker; hence the expertise in developments. And her staff is also highly qualified: “We have an anthropologist who’s our research and evaluation specialist — that’s her whole job. We have another on staff who is the director of multifamily.” And there too, the list goes on.
Austin grew up in the Hyde Park area of North Memphis. She thought her life would be in biochemistry, but eventually found that urban anthropology and community development was to be her destiny. She graduated from the University of Memphis and followed her dream.
What is she looking for in the future? “I just want to do more of what we do at a larger scale to ensure that the most vulnerable populations are served,” she says. “The private developers can do the market rate deals, but I want to make sure that there’s policy in place at the state and local level to protect those who are vulnerable. I want to see us scale up and be able to provide resources to families and small businesses and neighborhoods and make sure that they can stay, and they’re not pushed down.” —Jon W. Sparks
Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation: Keeping up with the changes in healthcare.
Jenny Nevels uses a tasty metaphor to describe how the mission of the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation has changed over the years.
“I like to phrase it as now we’re funding the cake,” she says, “where we used to fund the icing on the cake.”
What that means is that, as health care continues to evolve in this country, the mission of the Foundation — founded in 1983 — has had to evolve as well.
In the past, Nevels says, the Foundation might have spent its money on things such as programs. Today, though, while programs are still part of its mission, that money is more likely to be spent on equipment or technology.
“Health care is not the same as it once was, as we have continuing reductions in reimbursement, and things of that nature, that make it hard to meet all the needs. So fundraising helps fill the gap in terms of patient care,” says Nevels, director and CEO of the Foundation. “We have seen in the last few years that we are funding a lot more things along the lines of technology and equipment where in the past we might have funded programmatic kinds of things.”
An example, Nevels said, is that the Foundation, along with a private donor, recently purchased an interoperative radiation device for their women’s hospital.
“It can provide all the radiation to the surgical site, the tumor bed, during the course of the surgery, so the individual doesn’t have to undergo the traditional 6-8 weeks of radiation after the surgery,” Nevels says.
Another recent purchase, Nevels says, is a series of small cameras attached to bassinets that allows parents to remotely view their new baby if they can’t be at the hospital at that moment.
As of 2018, the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation had net assets of more than $500 million. However, some of that money can’t be touched for general grants, Nevels says.
About $122 million is restricted funds, meaning they can only be used for specific purposes. Another portion is for endowment funds, which also can’t be used. In the most recent fiscal year, the Foundation raised about $10.3 million, Nevels says.
One of the signature programs the Foundation supports is the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief, along with the Good Grief Camp.
“We provide counseling for those who have lost a loved one, primarily in Memphis and parts of Mississippi and Arkansas,” Nevels says.
Another signature program the Foundation helps support is Baptist Operation Outreach, a program that provides medical care to the homeless. The Foundation helped purchase the newest mobile van, Nevels says, which helps treat between 3,000-4,000 people annually. — Jody Callahan
Jewish Community Partners: Supporting members of the Jewish community.
The Jewish community in Memphis is estimated to number somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 people. The members of that community may often need special services such as housing or medical care for seniors, support for those with special needs, scholarships for education and the like.
That’s when the Jewish Community Partners become involved. JCP was founded in 2015 when two long-term fixtures in the Memphis Jewish community — the Memphis Jewish Federation and the Jewish Foundation of Memphis — merged into one group. Now, that umbrella group does its best to see to the needs of Memphis’ Jewish population.
The Federation raises funds as well as oversees an ambitious slate of programs in the Memphis area. So far this year, the Federation has raised about $4 million; last year, they granted about $3 million to agencies and programs.
“The Memphis Jewish Federation is the central planning, convening, and fundraising arm of the Memphis Jewish community. We raise money for both local needs in Memphis and for needy Jews worldwide, including Israel,” says Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein, chief strategy officer for JCP. “We raise money both for social services to help the most needy and vulnerable and also to strengthen Jewish life and engagement for the continuity of the Jewish people.”
The Foundation’s mission, while similar, primarily concentrates on fundraising. “We are donor-centric. We work with families on what they want to give,” said Sherri Gadberry, director of operations for JCP. “We help our agencies raise endowment money. We focus on legacy giving.”
In addition to serving the elderly and those with special needs, the JCP also operates numerous other programs, including:
Support for Israel and other Jewish communities around the world. Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein said that about one-third of the money JCP raises goes toward this. As another aspect of this, the Lemsky Endowment Fund is also used to help high school students visit Israel as well as for programs about Israel, including bringing Israeli speakers to the local community.
Holocaust remembrance. This takes the form of education and outreach as well as such events as the local observance of the Yom HaShoah Day of Remembrance.
Jewish Camp Scholarships for needy children.
The PJ Library, a national program that sends Jewish children 8 or younger a book every month. JCP helps cover that cost in Memphis.
But perhaps the most important work they do, Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein added, was with the city’s senior Jewish population.
“Our support of senior services, which includes senior meals [is important]. We deliver meals to the homebound elderly. We provide meals at meal sites. The support for Plough Towers and the Jewish Home falls under seniors. We provide a transportation program for seniors,” Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein said. —Jody Callahan
Slingshot Memphis: Creating a poverty fighting ecosystem
Justin Miller admits that, upon first glance, Slingshot Memphis is a bit confusing.
After all, the organization that Miller leads is steeped in traditional Wall Street terms such as “value investor,” perhaps leading one to believe that Slingshot is your average brokerage or hedge fund.
Instead, though, Slingshot Memphis is a nonprofit devoted to reducing poverty in the Memphis area.
At times, even Miller himself has a little trouble explaining that.
“I’m the CEO and one of the founders and I’ve been doing this 24/7 for three and a half years and I still have trouble with an elevator pitch,” Miller says.
What Slingshot does, Miller said, is try to take that Wall Street approach and apply it to making people’s lives better here through working with other nonprofits directly engaged in that battle against poverty.
“Our mission is to reduce poverty by creating a results-driven, poverty-fighting ecosystem. By that I mean helping nonprofits get better, certainly helping funders make better decisions,” he says. “We’re trying to help people to ask different questions, measure different things, ultimately to invest in things that have the evidence or the potential to create the most impact in our city.”
Slingshot does that in three phases.
The first is to narrow the options. Slingshot, Miller says, tries to find the best partner organizations that can make an impact in the fight against poverty.
“We’re looking to work with organizations that are trying to create a better quality of life for our neighbors who are living in poverty by way of increasing their income or their health,” Miller said.
The second phase is look at that nonprofit to determine how it could be better at their mission.
“Researching best practices, creating a healthy feedback loop, measuring infrastructure to make better decisions over time, thinking about the systems level, howyou can create impact beyond the beneficiaries you might impact directly,” Miller says. “All are important for an organization to become best in class. Many of our nonprofits don’t have the bandwidth to do this, so our team does this in partnership to help them improve.”
The third phase is financial. Slingshot raises money from the community. Some investors donate large sums, but Miller likes to tell the story of a law student at the University of Tennessee who sends $10 every month.
“We want people to reconsider how they invest. Not based on what feels good or has the best story, but what has the best impact in the lives of our neighbors who live in poverty,” Miller says.
And when they raise that money, they try to spend it. They also don’t use that money to pay salaries — all such costs are covered by Slingshot’s board of directors and some funders.
After Slingshot’s founding in 2017, they raised about $500,000, working with four local nonprofits. In 2018, they raised about $1 million and increased their nonprofits to 10.
This year, they are working with 17 nonprofits — many of them well known such as Hope House, MIFA and Porter-Leath — and have a goal of raising $1.5 million.
“We aggregate those dollars,” Miller says, “and we strategically and expeditiously get that capital into the hands of these nonprofits.” —Jody Callahan
The Collective Blueprint: Building a template for professional success
In Memphis, there are 45,000 young adults who are out of school or work, despite there being up to 15,000 open jobs at any given time. Memphis struggles ensure that young adults are able to pursue thriving careers and while there are many organizations that help with the poverty crisis, the 18-30 age range is often ignored. Thanks to the efforts of Sarah Lockridge-Steckel, CEO of the Collective Blueprint, there is a path forward for many disenfranchised young adults.
Growing up in Detroit, Lockridge-Steckel quickly noticed that where someone lived dictated what opportunities people had access to. “It was very frustrating that we can almost predict what happens to children based on the zip code they’re in,” she says. “I felt like in particular, Memphis is losing young adults because we have so few services that are targeted at folks once they turn 18. People need a lot of support, especially if they’re not taking a traditional four-year college pathway, or can’t find a way around having to take on hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.” To address these issues, Lockridge-Steckel piloted the Collective Blueprint in 2016.
“We strive to create pathways for young adults to get to economic mobility in our city,” says Lockridge-Steckel. “Our work encompasses a few different things: we create programs that get people to economic self sufficiency, and we also advocate for more equitable policies so that postsecondary education and employment works better for young adults.” Her team has been working with the City of Memphis and Shelby County on an opportunity youth plan to help provide more support to the 45,000. She also examines what barriers are preventing people from thriving, and how city policy can help to change that.
The Collective Blueprint’s main focus is the year-long Leaders program. The first intensive phase lasts about 10 weeks and has the cohorts meeting five days a week. “They spend every day with us, and we have them ask ‘who am I as a person, what do I want to get to, what’s my career pathway?’” The group has school visits, meets various industry professionals, and goes through the process of applying and financing for schools. Along the way, skills like crafting a resume or cover letter, networking, and interviewing are built up.
The second phase has participants go down one of 12 different school pathways. “We have training for EMT, MTS, hardware repair, and others, so our cohorts go into these actual work environments.” The organization partners with other local groups such as Code Crew, Tech901, Moore Tech, or Regional One to help people get certified in different fields. As the cohort gains professional experience, the Collective Blueprint hosts community dinners, provides professional mentors, and monthly workshops. When that all wraps up, the organization partners with employers to help participants start their careers. Typically, 50 young adults make up a cohort, but the Collective Blueprint wants to increase that number. “We’d like to build out more and offer deeper employer support,” says Lockridge-Steckel, “and our next programming is going to really focus on how we ensure people thrive once they finally do start their jobs, make sure that they’re retained, and have the opportunity for upward mobility.” Each participant gets a $400 a month stipend, access to a psychologist, and trauma support.
The Collective Blueprint has 12 team members, but wants to add more to provide more comprehensive services. “Change is collective, and it does require a collective effort for us to make progress in these things because we’re dealing with so many different pieces,” says Lockridge-Steckel. “But young adults are going to shape the future of our city and our country, so we have to invest in them and we have to invest in their success.” — Samuel X. Cicci
cityCURRENT:Networking, philanthropy, and positive media
The organization began in 2005 as the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, focused mainly on networking opportunities for individuals and businesses.
Over time, though, the organization’s mission evolved beyond just networking to include philanthropy and what CEO Jeremy Park calls “positive media.” With that expanded mission, their name evolved as well, as the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club gave way to cityCURRENT.
Now, cityCURRENT — with the aid of more than 100 corporate partners, including such big names as FedEx and AutoZone — focuses on that three-pronged mission in both Memphis and Nashville, after expanding east in 2018.
“We kind of position ourselves as a privately funded catalyst and city-building organization,” Park says, noting that cityCURRENT is not registered as a nonprofit but is instead a limited liability corporation. “What it boils down to is we host a lot of free events in the community, (and we do) a lot of philanthropy and a lot of positive media.”
While the organization in its earliest days did perhaps a dozen events a year, that number swelled to 183 events in Memphis last year alone, Park says. The biggest event is the Signature Breakfast, held eight times a year and featuring national speakers.
“It’s a lot of events, workshops, seminars, executive luncheons, bringing in a lot of national speakers,” he added. “We’re doing everything we can do to offer enrichment and collaboration, to help people with their businesses and personal lives, anything to help we can do,” Park says.
They also concentrate on philanthropy, Park says, including the Memphis Police Department’s Fallen Officer Memorial and an event called Samaritan’s Feet, where they wash children’s feet and give them new socks and shoes.
Beyond just giving money, Park says, they also want to encourage people to participate in events, such as cleaning up trash at McKellar Lake.
“But we really focus just as much on the physical engagement. Turnkey volunteerism is a big thing for us,” Park says. “A dollar bill doesn’t mentor a child, doesn’t tutor, doesn’t physically solve any problems. People do. So we need people to be physically engaged to make a difference in the Mid-South.”
The final aspect of their three-pronged mission is “positive media.” They try to accomplish that through shows on WKNO-TV as well as podcasts, videos and radio shows.
“We live in a world that’s very negative. For us, we spotlight the positive of what’s going on so that people can see it. But it’s not a rah-rah thing. It’s shows that these are the individuals and organizations that are out there making a difference,” Park says. “Really, (it’s) so that people know the good that’s going on and how they can get involved.” —Jody Callahan