G.R.O.W.ing and Giving

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If anyone would have asked me six years ago what role, if any, I would hold in the Junior League of Memphis (JLM), I never would have guessed I would be serving on the Board as Community Director, Internal. Yet, here I am today, title and all, and I love it! Once I transitioned from Rochester, Minnesota to Memphis, Tennessee, I joined the JLM with the gracious support and spirited encouragement of Sustainer and mentor, Judy Akins. She assured me I would meet new friends and would be provided volunteer shifts to serve in the community. How right she was!

G.R.O.W. Committee Chairs with Director Casey from The Lester Community Center. (left to right: Brooke Helsley, Rebecca Fountain, Director Casey, Bowen Cook and Natalie Price)

My first active year, I was assigned to G.R.O.W. (Giving Readiness Opportunity Wellness). This JLM initiative started in 2011 with three programs, all within the Binghampton community.

  • Thursday Night Supper Club: a weekly program where we provide educational and recreational activities and dinner for the families participating in the program
  • Lester Elementary School (now Cornerstone Preparatory School) Pre-K and Kindergarten: a twice-monthly program in the classroom that includes reading, tutoring and craft activities
  • Saturday Special Events: a monthly Saturday event with special programming and lunch

In 2013, G.R.O.W. “grew” and we expanded the Pre-K reading program to Brewster Elementary in Binghampton as well.

My JLM placement quickly became my passion. I had no idea how much I would personally grow (pun completely intended!) during these past years. From being a G.R.O.W. committee member, to chairing G.R.O.W.Saturday Special Events, to leading G.R.O.W. for two years, my involvement with this initiative has been the most fulfilling, enriching experience I could have ever asked to possess. Now as I serve as the Community Director, Internal, I am still involved in the G.R.O.W. program and have the distinct perspective of watching it expand and evolve.

Thanks to the Give 365 Foundation, the G.R.O.W. Saturday and Special Events program has had a remarkable year.  Give 365 is an innovative program that allows members to pool their money, for only a dollar a day, to make a positive impact on our community.  Formed in 2010, GiVE 365 was created by a group of community leaders and the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.

The JLM submitted a proposal for GIVE 365’s “Home is Where the Heart is”  Grant, for projects to make Memphis neighborhoods more vibrant, livable and secure. Our G.R.O.W. project was selected as a finalist. This gave us the opportunity to give a brief presentation on G.R.O.W. to all Give 365 members (see video link below). The Give 365 members vote on their favorite project presentations, which determines the winners of the grants. To be considered alongside other great projects in Memphis, was such an honor. Imagine our elation when we heard the JLM had won!!!!

Rebecca Fountain and Director Walter Casey present G.R.O.W project to Give 365

Each monthly G.R.O.W. Saturday event was held at Lester Community Center (LCC) – a partner in which the success of the G.R.O.W. program completely depends upon. The City of Memphis Parks and Neighborhood Division and the staff of the LCC willingly opened their doors and gave of themselves on the day of our events, joining with JLM G.R.O.W. volunteers to provide a festive atmosphere and safe-haven for families in the community. From making musical instruments to painting clay ornaments to devising Halloween masks, they were allowed to create unique works of art. The December Polar Express themed holiday party was one of the multiple highlights of the year. After constructing crafts and cookie decorating, the JLM provided each family with a basket of everyday necessities.  Mayor A.C. Wharton attended and made a special presentation, declaring December 14th Junior League of Memphis Day. Another highlight of the year was the April Spring Fling; consisting of a petting zoo, horse rides, Easter egg hunt and balloon animals. What a way to end another fantastic, unforgettable year!

Memphis Mayor AC Wharton declares December 14th Junior League of Memphis DAy

Memphis Mayor AC Wharton declares December 14th Junior League of Memphis DAy

This year’s G.R.O.W. Special event was held in conjunction with the Junior League of Memphis 5K for Kids.  We were able to offer free participation for the G.R.O.W. attendees to take part in the race. They were eager to sign up and we helped them prepare for the race with training events on Thursday nights and educational classes regarding the importance of health and nutrition. More than 65 children and adults from G.R.O.W. engaged in this event, with one of the young men placing third in his age division!

Rebecca Fountain with a G.R.O.W.  participant who won 3rd place in his division!

Rebecca Fountain with a G.R.O.W. participant who won 3rd place in his division!

Every child and every family was provided multiple occasions to grow, to create and to learn. Cherished memories were made and endless fun was had by all. Tapping into the childrens’ potential and inspiring them in unique ways, cultivated and molded this year’s G.R.O.W. program. During the committee-planned activities, many members witnessed the transformation of children and adults first hand. With the Give 365 grant and G.R.O.W., a difference is being made in lives of families in Binghampton. The G.R.O.W. families I adore and the loving Junior League friendships I have made are unparalleled. For this, I will always be beyond grateful to the Junior League of Memphis and its community partners for transforming Memphis and transforming me.

Rebecca with a G.R.O.W. participant

Rebecca with a G.R.O.W. participant

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Camp Good Grief–A First Timer’s Perspective…

Junior League Volunteers at Camp Good Grief

Junior League Volunteers at Camp Good Grief

As a provisional, I worried that my first month was representative of what my whole experience would be in the Junior League of Memphis (JLM). Was I going to spend the entire year (or worse, my entire membership) looking anxiously for familiar faces at general membership meetings, trying to keep my calendar straight (am I supposed to be going to Hutchison? Botanic Gardens? Someone’s house?), and waving goodbye to the majority of my Monday evenings for the next twelve months? My friends who were JLM actives raved to me about how much I would enjoy the close friendships, the sense of community, and the difference I would feel I was making in Memphis. But the only feeling that seemed to emerge during the first month was “overwhelmed.” New people, new information, and new commitments—everything was amplified.

It wasn’t until the September general membership meeting when something clicked. The ensemble from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra joined Angela Hamblen (from the Kemmons Wilson Center for Good Grief) for a reading of her book “What’s So Good About Grief, Anyway?” From there, I was sold. The book reminded me so much of what I had gone through as a child through the loss of my dad, and I realized that I wanted nothing more than to be a part of Camp Good Grief, which is an annual bereavement camp for children ages 6-12. Suddenly, all of my involvement in the JLM made sense. I was no longer overwhelmed; rather, I was ENGAGED. I threw myself into my commitments and enjoyed everything from tours of Regional Medical Center to extra shifts at the Repeat Boutique. I bided my time patiently, and when it came time to list our preferences for placement for the next year, I put Camp Good Grief at the top of my list. Imagine my excitement when we received our placements—and mine read “CAMP GOOD GRIEF.” Suddenly, however, what I had been hoping for now struck a kind of anxious excitement within me that I couldn’t shake. Now I actually had to go!

Memphis Therapy Dogs visit Camp Good Grief every year

Memphis Therapy Dogs visit Camp Good Grief every year

As I went through volunteer training with the other women in my placement, I realized that Camp Good Grief was everything I had hoped for from joining the JLM. It gave me the chance to connect with and enjoy the company of like-motivated and service-minded women, as well as the opportunity to make an individual impact in my community. I would come to find, however, that the individual impact that was most significant was the one made on me…

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Candidly? Camp Good Grief was hard. Really hard. It required a massive amount of physical and emotional effort, and I found that the end of each day resulted in a battle between using what little energy I had left to shower off the sweat/sunscreen/lake water/chlorine/bug spray layers or using that same limited energy to eat dinner (the latter usually won). During my drive to the first day of camp, I fought the excitement, anxiety, and vague nausea that seemed to have gripped me tightly. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I cry the entire time? I work with adolescents, so I’m pretty accustomed to mood swings, social politics, and students who act like everything is life or death (you remember being a teenager). These kids, however—their processes and complexities really are life and death. As I arrived, I realized that it was everything you expect from a traditional camp—and then some. There were songs and candy and swimming and games! But the best part of the three days of Camp Good Grief (besides pancakes on a stick) was the feeling you had every time you experienced a victory, no matter how small. Maybe it was a terrified kid finally conquering their fear of the water slide, or the first time your camper grabbed your hand, or watching as a child fully embraced their emotions at the memorial service. Each of these happened to all of us, and I think I can speak for all of the buddies and floaters when I say that each felt monumental in that moment.

My experience at Camp Good Grief has changed me both professionally and personally. As the Associate Director of College Guidance at St. George’s Independent School, I work with children throughout various points in their high school career, which all too frequently involves the ups and downs that come with being a teenager. During our first training, Angela reminded us, “a bereaved person’s life is like a piece of paper, upon which every caring adult has the dangerous opportunity to leave a mark.” That quote from Dr. Alan Wolfelt stayed with me throughout my entire Camp Good Grief experience. I was constantly mindful of engaging the children positively, being aware and considerate of our conversations, and helping them balance enjoying camp with processing their grief. But now that mindset is also inextricably linked with my daily work, as I employ that same approach with my students. I think my Camp Good Grief experience made me a more considerate listener, compassionate supporter, and resilient volunteer. I learned that you can find strength in vulnerability, fortitude in asking for help, and I embraced the difference that even the most minute connections can make in a child’s life (and in mine). I am counting down the days until next year’s camp. Even if it is not my placement, they will have to close the gates to keep me out—I’ll be there!!

I would be remiss not to give a shout-out to a few events on the horizon that benefit Camp Good Grief (as the camp is free to the participants, but is significantly more than free to facilitate…):

  1. Baptist Art of Caring is this Saturday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Memphis Botanic Gardens. There are some incredible pieces up for auction at this year’s event, which benefits the Kemmons Wilson Center for Good Grief and Baptist Trinity Hospice. You can find more information (and the opportunity to buy tickets!) here: http://baptistartofcaring.org/event-details/.
  1. On Sunday, October 5, you will not want to miss the Camp Good Grief 5K, which directly supports this wonderful camp! This family event has food, moon bounces, face painting, and more (including, you know, an actual race)! If you are training for the St. Jude Half Marathon, it’s also perfectly timed for a race-pace 5K—HOW PERFECT!! You can register here: http://campgoodgrief5k.racesonline.com.

Provisional Bus Tour

JLM Provisionals on the bus learning all about our community projects. – Photo by Maggie Harris

Year after year, the Junior League of Memphis (JLM) proves to be just as relevant in the lives of Memphis women as it was when we were founded in 1922.  This year, a record-breaking number of women signed on to become provisional members of the JLM, so that they can carry on the legacy of being agents of change in our city. On a sunny Saturday morning in August, more than 100 women kicked off their JLM journey at the Provisional Bus Tour.  The tour is an opportunity to get to know other members and learn about community organizations that the JLM is currently working with or has worked with in the past. It’s a unique chance to get a glimpse of how we touch lives before these women get the chance to roll up their sleeves and get to work themselves!

JLM Provisionals tour LeBonheur Children’s Hospital – Photo by Maggie Harris

Our partner Holiday Deli & Ham Co. helped fuel these women for the day ahead, by providing breakfast at the Community Resource Center (CRC). Jen Larkin, 2014-2015 Provisional Chair, and Carolyn Danley, 2014-2015 President, inspired the Provisionals with a discussion about the JLM mission and the organizations on the tour, and then they were off. The buses departed CRC for the JLM Repeat Boutique, LeBonheur Children’s Hospital or Binghampton Christian Academy. The women learned about how the JLM Repeat Boutique serves the community by providing affordable, gently used items for sale and how we rely on donations from members for continued success. At LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, the women took a tour of the hospital and got to see the learning lab sponsored by the JLM. The learning lab provides resources to help teach parents how to care for children’s specific needs before they leave the hospital and provides education regarding nutrition information, healthy cooking tips, and, for patients requiring medical home care, information about putting in tube and other potential at-home procedures.  The Binghampton Christian Academy offers both a Day School and Residential Program, where some of the students can live on campus, in order to be given the opportunity for a more successful educational experience. This school draws a large international crowd of refugees, offering a unique set of challenges that the JLM will help serve this year.

Provisionals Visit the Repeat Boutique – Photo by Maggie Harris

 

These stops provided just a glimpse into the many ways that the JLM touches the community, and Provisionals were able to reflect on the journey on which they will soon embark by meeting with the Board of Directors during lunch. They gathered in the gym of  The Salvation Army Kroc Center Memphis, after passing through The Kroc Center Art Gallery, sponsored by the JLM. This new Memphis landmark serves as a health and wellness facility accessible to all citizens, yet another example of our mission of impacting the community in a positive and healthy way. All in all, the day served as a spring board for 150 women who are eager to make their mark and move Memphis forward by joining the ranks of the JLM – so stand back and watch what they will do in the year ahead!

 

The Provisional committee would like to thank the following people for making the day a success: Jourdan Patton, Gracie Tuten, Jackie Jefferson, M.L. Weber, Michelle Connors, Sara Burnett, Tim Flack, Brittany Adams, Jarmeese Morrow, Tami C. Harris, Delois and Travis Crutchfield, Nancy Emmanuel, Katie Dickinson, Andria Lewis, Laura Wymore, Pat Pope, Wanda Brooks, Holiday Ham & Deli Co. and Hogwild Catering.

Jen Larkin and Sally Pace

Junior League of Memphis + Agape North = Happy Kids in Binghampton Schools

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For the past few years, the Junior League of Memphis has partnered with Agape North to donate 900 uniform shirts to kids at Cornerstone Prep and Brewster Elementary School.    Agape North is a cause-based clothing company that focuses on offering high quality polos, t-shirts, outerwear and caps to its consumers, while empowering them to give back to students in need.

The JLM worked with Joe Williams, the founder of  Agape North, to design t-shirts that we could sell to our members.  The beautiful colors and wonderful quality of the shirts were a huge hit!

 

Agape North Shirts designed for the Junior League of Memphis

Agape North Shirts designed for the Junior League of Memphis

Every shirt sold equals a uniform shirt for a child at one of the schools that we support in the Binghampton community through our G.R.O.W. program.  We love knowing that we are helping to provide students with a clean uniform, made of quality construction that allows the student to attend school, dressed for success, confident and ready to learn.  As an added bonus, our members were able to participate in the delivery of the shirts to the schools.  As you can imagine there were lots of happy faces that day!

So many organizations and businesses order custom shirts for various occasions.  Why not choose Agape North to print your shirts and know that you are giving back to community at the same time?    Or – think about Agape North when shopping for gifts!  I’ve given several shirts as gifts and the receiver always likes hearing the story behind the shirt.

You have the perfect opportunity to check out their full line at their open house this Saturday (August 16th) from 10 am – 4 pm in their brand new showroom located at 9030 Poplar Pike, Suite 107 in Germantown, TN.    Please help us spread the word of this wonderful business located right here in our community!  Check out  www.agapenorth.com orwww.agapenorthfondation.org to learn more.

Agape North Showroom

The only thing that feels better than our clothing is the feeling you get when you know the clothes you wear make a difference.

Agape North Showroom

 

Welcome to the Junior League of Memphis Blog!

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“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Welcome!   The Junior League of Memphis is excited to join the the blogging community!  We plan to use this space to spotlight people and organizations making a difference in the Memphis community.  We will highlight the community partnerships we currently have, as well as other notable organizations doing good work in our city.  There will be member profiles, guest posts, and all sorts of other fun information.  Please add us to your “favorites” or to your blog reader so that you can stay up to date on good things happening in Memphis!

See you again soon!

Jeni Linkous

Community Outreach Director, 2014-2015

Junior League of Memphis