G.R.O.W. Berclair

Contributed by Emily Schoenberger, G.R.O.W. Berclair Chair

Last spring a committee was formed to start the daunting task of determining what part of Memphis would be the best fit for the Junior League of Memphis to expand the beloved G.R.O.W. program. With the new mission of neighborhood revitalization in mind, the goal was to find a part of town that had a long-term need for the JLM’s assistance and would also be easily accessible to our members.  The committee soon narrowed its focus to the Berclair/Highland Heights area based on our already successful community projects at both Memphis Athletic Ministries and First Works.

The committee narrowed their focus within the Berclair neighborhood to two different existing community pillars – STREETS Ministries and Gaisman Community Center. Each location had its own pros and cons to where the JLM should start a G.R.O.W. program, and ultimately the decision was made to have programming at both facilities in order to take the opportunity to make connections with multiple partners in this new neighborhood.

This year, my committee of six has worked tirelessly to get this new program up and running, and it has definitely come with its challenges! Our first G.R.O.W. event was in October at STREETS Ministries, and I was so nervous to see how the night would turn out.  We had worked hard with the STREETS staff to coordinate the event and had great programming planned for the 3 groups – PreK-1st graders, 2nd-5th graders and adults, and the anticipation of who all would come out from the neighborhood was great.  As the night began, we waited for the families to come and instead we only had one family sign up to participate.  While this was definitely not the large turnout I had hoped for, that one family was able to have one-on-one discussions with dieticians about healthy eating, and the youngest child, Andre, was overjoyed with the amount of attention he got from the 11 JLM volunteers from both my committee and Kids in the Kitchen.  I was told later that there was no child more deserving and more in need of such undivided attention than Andre, and I was overwhelmed with happiness to hear that even though our numbers on the first night weren’t huge, the impact we made right out of the gate in the Berclair neighborhood was.

My committee immediately started brainstorming ways to get the word out about our new program, and the answer soon became clear that the Kingsbury schools would be a great resource to work with to let the families in the neighborhood know about our monthly programs. Instead of having a G.R.O.W. event in November, we participated in Kingsbury’s family reading night and passed out flyers to everyone and set up a table for the kids to make bookmarks.  Our decision to go to the families to recruit and spread the word was a huge success, as our next G.R.O.W. event in December brought out 14 new families to STREETS Ministries.

As we start the second half of our JLM year, we have big plans for G.R.O.W. Berclair. We’ve already had one successful event in January where 9 more families signed up, and we have 4 other events scheduled at both STREETS and Gaisman Community Center.  I’m very excited about the challenges and opportunities that will continue to present themselves for the rest of this year, and I know that they will be tackled head on by my team.

GROW Berclair Collage


From the Desk of the President

Contributed by Amy Stack, JLM President

As I type this, the JLM just wrapped up its first general membership meeting of 2016. And, as usual, I left with a full heart and with a reminder that there’s nothing quite like the experience that the JLM offers. I’m thankful that Memphis has so many incredible avenues for volunteers, from ways to individually serve to organized groups, but there’s just something special about the JLM experience.

Here are just of the things this particular meeting reminded me of that left me feeling energized and grateful for this organization and its mission:

There is a spirit of friendship and community that comes with getting to know other women over time.  I’m sure all of us can recall our first few meetings as new members and walking into a room full of hundreds of unfamiliar faces. But as the years go on, walking in the room becomes an opportunity to reconnect with that fellow volunteer with whom you worked on a big fundraising event a few years ago, or that member you saw last week while volunteering in a classroom. Those shared experiences allow us to build friendships and connections rooted in purpose and service – and those always stand the test of time. I’m thankful for walking into a room full of friends and for the new faces that join each year that are friends-in-the-making.

Our members can do incredible things on their own, but when working together, the impact we can make becomes even greater. At our meeting, we heard about some of the incredible work that has gone on the past few months, ranging from implementing a successful fundraising event (kudos, Merry Marketplace team!), revising bylaws and policies to ensure sound governance and management of the organization (go Advisory Planning!), planning and building a brand new fundraising and training event from the ground up (I see you, Memphis Women’s Summit team!), being told you’re the best group of volunteers a partner agency has ever encountered (yay, Lana Zeponi and GROW Memphis Gardens!), expanding our flagship G.R.O.W. program to a new neighborhood (whoop whoop, Emily Schoenberger and G.R.O.W. Expansion team) and slating the group of women who will lead the organization for the years to come (thank you, Nominating Committee!) Whew! That is an incredible amount of progress in just a few short months, and it honestly represents a fraction of the work done by you. We’re able to do more because we do it together.

We get the opportunity to learn, stretch and grow as leaders and change agents. It was such a privilege to have Anna Mullins from New Memphis Institute, Reggie Davis from STREETS Ministries, Noah Gray from the Binghampton Development Corporation and Jennilyn Utkov from LeBonheur serve on a panel discussing how their respective organizations are revitalizing Memphis through talent, collaboration, programming and hands-on service. I left with a deeper sense of understanding and appreciation of the work being done – and a sense of excitement at how the JLM is a part of the collaboration so critical to seeing real results. We also announced and celebrated the women who have answered the call to service and will serve as the incoming Board of Directors and Senior Management Council. I’m proud of the leaders they already are, but equally excited at the journey ahead of them that will include learning so much about themselves, how they lead and each other. Congratulations to our 2016 – 2018 President, Jenny Taylor, and our first-ever Executive Vice President, Cara Sievers. I’m excited to watch your leadership in action!