Dr. Kenneth S. Robinson, MD, has been helping people his entire career. Whether in the field of medicine, religion, or philanthropy, Robinson has amassed considerable experience to chart an effective course for aiding a community in need. Several decades of his efforts at social work paid off with his appointment as CEO of United Way of the Mid-South in February of 2015. In addition to bringing aboard a new leader to helm its efforts, United Way also procured a sizable new office space for free.
Georgia-Pacific Cellulose, a pulp and paper company, donated its former 37,000-square-foot office building at 1005 Tillman St. to United Way, enabling the nonprofit enterprise to move more centrally into the heart of Memphis, as opposed to its old third-story leased space at an office building in East Memphis. For the organization, the new location, in a neighborhood called The Heights, is a prime opportunity to further its aim of revitalizing communities. “United Way is an iconic organization, but it is iconic for us to be located here in a real community that has real needs,” says Robinson. “We brought a lot of attention to The Heights by moving here, and many of our corporate sponsors come to interface with United Way and have come to be more aware of this community as well.” In the middle of an actual neighborhood, United Way is able to be the centerpoint of community events, such as the organization’s annual Halloween Trunk or Treat event.
Beyond the location, the building’s interior is well suited to a united and productive work environment. The three-story building is chock-full of conference rooms, offices, and extra desks for employees to navigate freely and easily collaborate on projects. The top floor, populated by Robinson and other full-time United Way staffers, has extra desks and computers for seasonal campaign workers, and two conference rooms that look outside to spaces curated by the Memphis Botanic Garden.
The second floor prominently displays another use for United Way’s extra office space. The organization leases out offices and desks to other nonprofits and small businesses, uniting many of these charitable organizations under one roof. The spaces are rented out for less than the going market rate. For those just needing an individual space, plenty of desks line the hallway, while there are also a few private offices available.
Finally, the ground floor hosts an auditorium, a large break room, and an executive dining room for donors and board members. For community functions and company-wide events, the auditorium can be filled with tables and chairs or cleared to have wide-open floor space for presentations.
United Way’s shared space proves the organization wants to be the functional embodiment of its name. There are many people living in poverty in and around Memphis, but United Way’s new office gives it a purposeful platform in which to help the city.