2016 Memphis Women’s Summit

Contributed by Ebonye Stewart, Memphis Women’s Summit (MWS) Chair

When I heard about the JLM’s plans to launch a conference that would bring women together from across the Mid-South for a day-long experience, I was in! I was excited about the opportunity to be a part of what will be a new footprint for the Junior League of Memphis, and intrigued by JLM Leadership’s vision for the conference. What a dynamic and impactful event. As the chair, I thought, ‘I’ve attended conferences – this will be easy.’

Wow was I wrong!

Chairing an event – not to mention a new event – with no framework was definitely a challenging task.  Our committee was formed, and so, last year, we began on a mission to create the wheel and develop a platform that could be built upon year after year. We think that we’ve done just that.  We have a line-up of fabulous vendors, leaders from across the city hosting breakout sessions, a panel of female executives, and a key-note from award winning author and journalist Joan Lunden. Our committee was responsible for major decisions, such as the key note speaker, and very intricate details that would aid in our participants’ enjoyment.

So here we are, the event will be here before we know it, and as the time grows increasingly closer, I have found a moment to reflect  on how this placement has impacted me.  Signing up to take on such a huge endeavor can definitely prove both challenging and rewarding.  Yes, it will consume a lot of your time between other competing priorities-professional and personal. This is where I really truly learned the value of time, balance and of having a strong team.  I am thankful to be a part of such a solid group of women who definitely have each other’s backs and will do what it takes to get the job done! There is also an unwavering amount of flexibility that is required-you can plan, plan well, and plan ahead but something will occur to cause you to shift gears and adapt quickly.  You must definitely learn to manage expectations, workloads, personalities and learn to find a balance in the differences in opinion and abundance of ideas.

Through all of the challenges and navigating through the unknown, it is so rewarding to see what was once someone’s vision coupled with the committee’s feedback and insight from others develop into an event that will bring women together with the mission of offering a platform to encourage learning from one another, inspiring one another, creating connections and impacting the community. I am proud to be a part of our first inaugural event!

Community Garden Expansion with GrowMemphis

Contributed by Lana Zepponi, Community Garden Expansion with GrowMemphis Chair

What is an auger? Have you ever used a post hole digger? Have you seen what asparagus looks like before it’s cut and bundled in those pretty purple rubber bands? Maybe you are three for three, but these things were all new to me. I was ecstatic to be asked to chair the Community Garden Expansion with GrowMemphis committee because I love gardening, even though I’m limited to planting in pots on a balcony. The idea of helping grow food for the community sounded like the perfect way to expand my love for growing things, and it meant I could finally garden in the actual ground. Those things have been really great, but I still couldn’t have known how rewarding this placement could be.

While it’s easy to confuse GrowMemphis with our G.R.O.W. programs, GrowMemphis is something different entirely. GrowMemphis is a local non-profit that partners with existing community gardens around the city offering support through education and funding. Their mission is to educate people about growing food and end the problem of food insecurity in our area. The Junior League of Memphis (JLM) has partnered with GrowMemphis, giving them a grant and volunteer hours to be applied to special projects in GrowMemphis-affiliated gardens.

Already this year, we have worked in the beds at McMerton Gardens in Binghampton, helped to rebuild handicap-accessible raised beds at Angelus Street Community Gardens, built a compost tumbler at St. Mary’s Garden, helped to rejuvenate a large hoop house at Washington Bottoms Garden, and built a greenhouse and a brick pathway at CBU Peace Gardens. Having these projects completed helps each of these gardens grow more food and serve more people.

In addition to making an impact in these gardens, a remarkable thing for me has been being part of a group of women showing up for these shifts eager to roll up her sleeves, get a little dirty, and do something she may not have done before, with a can-do attitude. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would feel safe betting that most of us have never been faced with the task of building a compost tumbler or a green house before. However, we do it together, we have fun and the work gets done. To me, accomplishing these tasks together is inspiring and empowering. It goes to show that you don’t have to already know how, you don’t have to be outdoorsy or athletic to do this, (again, I’m zero for three here), you just have to be willing. If that doesn’t grow the potential of women, I don’t know what does.

GrowMemphis Community Garden photo collage

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