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Celebrating the Season of Giving at G.R.O.W.

While The Junior League of Memphis’ signature project G.R.O.W. Giving, Readiness, Opportunity, and Wellness focuses on families in the community throughout the year, the holiday season is a very special time to us. The season of giving really kicked off in full swing with the Grizzlies Day of Caring in October and hasn’t let up since. We started mobilizing for the year end and holidays with renewed focus the week following our special day with the Grizzlies. Cue the magic!

After five years of operations, G.R.O.W. is woven into the fabric of the JLM. Our members are always finding ways to incorporate G.R.O.W. into daily JLM life whether with General Membership Meetings, helping with shifts, or supporting project needs like supply drives. We were recently involved in a big way with The Junior League of Memphis General Membership Meeting & Holiday Party on November 24 held at The Community Resource Center (CRC). Ms. Harper (a volunteer from Binghampton who dedicates her time running the afterschool program at Lester) brought a group of the G.R.O.W. children to the party for caroling! They were amazing! Ms. Harper and The G.R.O.W. Carolers in action:  https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=767700029933111&set=vb.238545949515191&type=2&theater

The kick off for the necessities supply drive happened that night, too. Our members were asked to donate essential household items like toilet tissue, bar soap, footie socks for adults and children, laundry soap, kitchen garbage bags, and dish soap. The generosity of our members was overwhelming.

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All of the planning came to fruition this last week! New Ballet Ensemble  came to G.R.O.W. Thursday Night Supper Club on December 4 for a captivating holiday performance of NutRemix (a modern telling of the Nutcracker story) at our monthly family night. New Ballet is a great friend to Lester Community Center and to the Junior League of Memphis. They are an incredibly inclusive dance company and have regular weekly dance classes at The Community Center.

Next we celebrated students at William H. Brewster Elementary School  by donating new embroidered uniform shirts to each student and teacher in four PreK and two kindergarden classrooms. Generous and gracious JLM members partnered with Regional One Health to sponsor Agape North shirts for the children. Uniform shirts are important and being able to provide them serves a tangible need.

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We continued promoting a life long love of reading and learning at Cornerstone Prep. The JLM gifted each student  in the tutoring program books from the Harry Potter series. What better way to spend the upcoming holiday break than reading Harry Potter?

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GROW Thursday Night Supper Club on December 11 was the last supper club of 2014. The PreK children wrote letters to Santa.

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The kids ages 6-12 partnered with another fabulous community project, The Forrest Spence Fund, to have our kids help out with another charity and teach them the importance of giving their time during this holiday season. Kristen Ellis, a JLM member who chairs our Forest Spence Fund Project, led the G.R.O.W. kids to help complete care packages that will be distributed to the families of LeBonheur.

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G.R.O.W. teens made Christmas ornaments with G.R.O.W. volunteers Katy and Leah. Hayley and Lauren led the adults in making the always popular Christmas wreaths!

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Marcie Maxwell, a talented professional photographer who is a member of Thursday Night Supper Club, took family holiday photos. Check out her blog post on G.R.O.W. family photos here: http://triplemphotos.blogspot.com/2014/12/christmas-at-grow.html

FINAL BLOG Dec 11 2014 (9 of 12)

On the day before the grand finale (the December G.R.O.W. Saturday Special Event) a few members met at the CRC and packed out the mountain of supplies raised in the necessities drive! We then played Santa and transported everything to Lester for the big day.

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The 2014 grand finale was a stunning success. Our Saturday Special Events team put on a great party and family celebration. We had cute craft and holiday card making stations. Families were able to use Marcie’s photos in their cards!

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The G.R.O.W. Carolers back in action for a follow up on their JLM GMM performance:

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We served lunch and passed out the necessities baskets to each of our G.R.O.W. families and G.R.O.W. teens!

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Lester Community Center Director Casey and JLM President Carolyn Danley visiting at G.R.O.W.:

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G.R.O.W is a very special project which highlights the importance of collaboration to build “infrastructure” for little minds. I am grateful to my team – the village – who help make it all possible.

I hope you will consider learning more about G.R.O.W. Check out our Facebook page for more info and photos.

GROW on Facebook!

THE MEMPHIS VILLAGE: How MAM & JLM are partnering to change the lives of kids in Memphis

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Have you heard the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child?” I personally believe this proverb is blatant truth. The good news is there are hundreds (maybe thousands) who are living this mission out for the hope of Memphis children every day. I am blessed to work with some of them by volunteering with The Junior League of Memphis’ partnership with Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM).

Each active member of The Junior League of Memphis commits to a yearly placement after her first year (aka provisional year). After visiting Memphis Athletic Ministries’ Leawood location during my first year, my decision to apply to volunteer there was easy. If you don’t know about the greatness going on at MAM, the quick summary is this: MAM loves Memphis kids. The people at MAM believe that they can make a significant and positive impact on Memphis kids. MAM makes this impact “by providing access to year round, quality mentoring programs with well-trained staff to all at-risk youth, ages eight to 18, through 10 neighborhood centers in disadvantaged neighborhoods in partnership with families, schools and other community organizations.” The Junior League of Memphis believes in Memphis kids too and is committed to improving their communities and futures. So… the partnership with MAM makes perfect sense.

For the individuals involved in the partnership, it is a rewarding and personal experience. I felt an immediate bond with the kids during my first visit as a guest volunteer last year. Despite my being a brand-new volunteer, they welcomed me with hugs and smiles. That particular night, a pediatrician was responding to kids in a Q&A format, and the kids were enamored with his expertise on rashes and incisions. They listened… and they laughed. Most importantly, they learned while doing both. I believe that all the adults involved also hoped that some of the children would think about the possibility of choosing a career in medicine in their futures. After one visit, it was to easy to see that MAM was a safe haven for these children – a place to connect, learn and grow. It was also easy to see that the adults involved believed in these kids and their futures.

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The logistics of the Junior League’s MAM team is simple. We plan a theme (lesson) for the first and third Tuesday of each month. Under the leadership of the always smiling and superbly positive JLM member Mary Agnes Ellis, team members split up the responsibilities of picking up food, planning crafts, buying supplies, contacting speakers and any other tasks. The first Tuesday consists of a healthy snack and on the third Tuesday, we invite the families of the children at MAM to a family-style dinner.

Our planning efforts are always worth it. Watching the kids respond to the lessons and planning is nothing short of exciting. I loved the energy they had during our Zumba for kids night and the bright eyes on their faces as they watched Memphis firemen talk about fire trucks and fighting fires. Their heartfelt messages writing thank-you notes during our Thanksgiving lesson made our hearts swell. The kids in MAM at Leawood are always eager to raise their hands and ask questions and quick to explain what they just learned.  (The snowman-making contest was too much fun!)

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The Junior League team members come along with MAM staff members and volunteers to engage each child and provide love and support. MAM boasts that, “97% of youth say that MAM made them a better person.” I am proud to be part of an organization that wants to be part of their effort, and I am grateful to work with the incredibly hard-working people dedicated to changing the lives and futures of these young Memphians.

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The MAM S.L.A.M. Committee members are Mary Agnes Ellis, Linea Adcock, Ashli Avis, Elizabeth Barzizza, LaShawnda Boddie, Amanda Crowder, Maya Ervin, Hope Gilbert, Catherine Guidry, Lindsey Mackie, Kathryn Parham, Amanda Pounders, Katherine Wright and me.

For more about MAM, visit http://mamsports.org. For more about the Junior League of Memphis, see http://www.jlmemphis.org.

Jamie Kidd
2014-2015 MAM Committee Member