My First Year in the Junior League of Memphis

When I told my family and friends that I was considering joining the Junior League of Memphis, I got a lot of the same responses.  “Why would you do that?” “You have to have money to be apart of that group.” “Only married, stay at home mom’s are in the Junior League.”  All of their comments only contributed to the anxiety I had about joining.

Honestly, I had a lot of the same stereotypes.  I thought all the women would either be catty or housewives with nothing to do all day.  Boy, was I wrong.  Yes, some of the ladies are married but those ladies take care of home and volunteer their time with the Junior League of Memphis.  There are wives, mothers, entrepreneurs, business women, nurses, business owners, attorneys and doctors.

I was so nervous when I went to that first information session over the summer. I didn’t know if I should put on my Grove attire (my Ole Miss people know what that is) or jeans and t-shirt. Will the ladies be friendly?Would I be able to speak with active members?

I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the CRC (Community Resource Center – the JLM headquarters) for the first time. The ladies I met were great. The actives walked around and made everyone feel like they were home. After hearing more about the League, I was excited to be a part of this awesome organization.

I’m in what the Junior League calls my provisional year.  It’s a chance to get to learn more about the fundraisers, community projects, and all the volunteer opportunities that are available. There really is so much to do, and it’s a great way to try some things that you’re interested in. You are given the opportunity to enhance your skills and serve your community.

provisional bus tour junior leagueSo far I’ve been on the Provisional bus tour around the city, completed a community shift at Lester Community Center, attended two general membership meetings  and a provisional small group meeting. I had to change my small group assignment and Maggie Harris was so nice about handling my request. Mimmie McKnight and the other ladies on the GROW team were a pleasure to work with. Mimmie made me feel like a slacker because she was running around doing everything and she’s pregnant!  During the GMM, I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Vicki Clark and she is such a great lady. She lit a fire under me to “Transform Me, Transform Memphis.”

I am so excited about my provisional year and can’t wait to get more involved and do more for the city. I know we are not only making a difference in lives here in Memphis but also within the organization.  We are more than a group of women giving money to different charities. We have been changing lives and serving the city in many ways. For years, we have been identifying the needs of our communities and creating a solution. I’m proud to be a member of the Junior League of Memphis.

junior league general meetingjunior league of memphis Vicki Clarkimage (2)

Attention Teachers: This One’s For You!

Lea Leet, a first grade teacher at Hickory Ridge Elementary school, grew frustrated when she couldn’t find a grant to meet her Etiquette Club needs.

After paying for club activities the first year, Leet, along with two other teachers, knew they could not bear the financial responsibilities again. Most of their club members come from low-income families, so outside help was needed to continue with the club, which focuses on teaching lessons relevant to young girls’ everyday lives.

“I received an email reminder from the Shelby County Schools about the Junior League of Memphis Innovative Teaching Grants,” Leet said. “I knew this was what I needed to apply for. So many grants are for specific subjects or have stipulations that don’t let you think outside of the box. But this grant did!”

Lit's display board for the newly installed Etiquette Club - a project she founded with funds received  for an Innovative Teaching Grant in 2013/2014.

Lea Leet’s display board showing off her accomplishments with the Etiquette Club.

The Junior League of Memphis’ Innovative Teaching Grants, now in its 12th year, is a program designed to improve the quality of life for children by encouraging and supporting excellence in teaching. Teachers apply for the grants that will enable them to implement original and creative learning experiences beyond the basic curriculum in school budgets.

Leet applied, and was awarded $1,000 for her “The Art of Being a Young Lady” proposal. Leet and her fellow teachers planned lessons around proper hygiene, voice control, phone manners and when to write thank you notes. Each club member was gifted a strand of imitation pearls and a manners book. The culminating activity was a Father-Daughter Dance on Valentine’s Day, that included a ballroom dancing instructor.

Rachael Thompson, a first grade teacher at the Campus School, received a grant for an in-depth, integrated art project.

“We used the funding to purchase Dr. Seuss books for four classrooms,” Thompson said. “We wanted to get some of Dr. Seuss’ more obscure works that the students hadn’t previously been exposed to.”

After reading the works, Thompson brought in an artist to teach the students to draw the Cat in the Hat. Select student works were chosen and displayed at Collerville’s Harrell Theater during the performance runtimes of Seussical.

Both Thompson and Leet acknowledge that the Innovative Teaching Grants are something that all teachers should apply for.

“I would definitely recommend ITG to all teachers!” Thompson said. “I think so many teachers have big, innovative projects in mind, but often get bogged down into finding the resources to make their instructional dreams become a reality.”

Kathryn Jasper, Junior League of Memphis Innovative Teaching Grant chair, agrees. According to Jasper, who also works in academia with the Hutchison School as the Hutchison Leads Director, the scope of the grant has gotten much larger in recent years.

“We broadened our reach two years ago, as the grants historically were designated for Memphis City Schools,” Jasper said. “With the merger and the current education reform climate, we expanded our eligibility to any PK-8th grade classroom in need in the greater Memphis area, which includes public, charter and private schools.”

The deadline for the 2014-2015 Junior League of Memphis Innovative Teaching is Tuesday, September 30. For more information, or to download the grant application, please visit For questions, please email Kathryn Jasper, Junior League of Memphis Innovative Teaching Grant chair, at

Repeat Boutique: A Study of the True Memphis

Address: 3586 Summer Ave, Memphis, TN 38122 Phone:(901) 327-4777 Hours: Open today · 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

3586 Summer Ave, Memphis, TN 38122
Phone: (901) 327-4777
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm

When I moved to Memphis, I remember that everyone used to tell me that if I wanted to see the best cross-section of Memphians, I should go to Jerry’s Sno Cones. And I quickly learned they were right. Teenagers, young families, businessmen in power suits, businesswomen in power suits, the elderly—it seemed that Memphians couldn’t get enough of this establishment that brought the people together. I didn’t think there was a place that could rival Jerry’s in this regard—until my first shift at the Repeat Boutique.

I have always had a secret desire to work in retail, and there’s nothing more fun to me than hanging clothes and organizing them—you should see my closet! So as I marched in for my first fund development shift as a provisional, I expected the hanging and the organizing. What I didn’t expect was the community inherent in the Repeat Boutique, and the wonderful time I would have working there. Ms. Gracie and Ms. Jackie are spitfires—warm, engaging and quick-witted, they are always thrilled to have enthusiastic helping hands. I spent my first shift at Repeat Boutique hanging clothes that had just been dropped off by someone who clearly did not understand what was appropriate to donate. After we had deposited over half of the clothes into the “church pile” (including a number of tops that were not discernable between a tank for a child and what an adult woman would wear to a club…yes, they were that small), Ms. Jackie and I finally got to sort through the rest of the treasure. There was little notable about this, except the number of customers who peeked their heads into the service window to check on Ms. Jackie and tell them about their week. I loved listening to the gossip, the catching-up, the banter and the obvious way that the Repeat Boutique served as a family to these patrons and to Ms. Jackie and Ms. Gracie.

Toward the end of my shift, I emerged from the back to help hang clothes and organize what was already on the floor. And that’s when I got to see the cross-section I mentioned earlier. The peekers who had stopped in to chat were only the surface of the depth of the clientele at the Repeat Boutique. College students, suburban moms looking for a deal, parents and guardians alike shopping for school clothes for children and grandbabies (often with the kids in tow)—they were all there. I immediately struck up a conversation with an older gentleman who was trying to shop for a job interview he had that Monday. He hadn’t been employed full-time in nearly a year, and he wanted to be sure he looked the part. I helped him “dress for success” that afternoon, and I left the Repeat Boutique feeling like I had been helped as much as I had helped. What a special place this was; and so much more than just clothes or a shopping excursion. I was almost gleeful when I couldn’t make up a small group meeting and had to do an extra shift at the Repeat Boutique—I didn’t know I was allowed to work more than just my assigned shift (#classicnewbiemove)! Every shift at the Repeat Boutique is an adventure, and one that I find myself looking forward to every time I sign up.

Fabulous Formal Wear!

To those who are less familiar (or just need a refresher), I have some tips and notes for the Repeat Boutique:

  1. Bring food with you!– Seriously, at least trail mix or a granola bar. Maybe even a bottle of water. You will wear an apron with pockets and can easily cart it around with you. But you will be on your feet doing light labor for at least three hours—hydration and food are key!
  2. Be sure to bring your donation with you for your shift—and be even more sure that they are on hangers!– I can’t stress this one enough. Are you sick of hangers from your dry cleaners all over your closet? Don’t even think about it—the answer is yes. This is a great way to get rid of them, and to make everyone’s lives at the Repeat Boutique easier in the process. The fact that you won’t have to continually remind yourself to bring your quota later in the year? Just a bonus.
  3. We always need men’s clothes and plus-size clothes!!– If there is anything that we run through quickly, it is quality men’s clothes (refer to my “dressing for success” story earlier) and plus-size clothes for women. I have worked shifts where we can barely push the cart out onto the floor before customers start perusing the racks for those two categories of clothing.
  4. Ask friends if they have clothes you can donate on their behalf!– This can be a win-win for everyone. You get to satisfy quota or a special sale, and they get to clean out their closet. Hooray!
  5. Be ready to “keep your own pile”– One perk of working at the Repeat Boutique is having what I call “first dibs on the good stuff.” Some of the clothes brought into the Repeat Boutique are hilarious and unusable (see: “church pile” above); others are Kate Spade shoes and Coach bags and Crane stationary. I KNOW. I keep a note on my phone with the sizes of some friends or items they’re keeping an eye out for. Show up early for your shift, stay later or work in the back to get the first look at some pretty great buys.
  6. Wear comfortable shoes!!– Pay attention to the reminder emails you get from the JLM. You’re going to want to be in a JLM t-shirt and sneakers (and, you know, something on the bottom). You will be on your feet and sometimes doing less than fabulous tasks (including hauling furniture into cars or taking out trash); a Repeat Boutique shift is not the time to bring full glamour.
  7. Get ready to have a great time!– Seriously, I love working at the Repeat Boutique. I know the three-hour shift isn’t for everyone, but Ms. Jackie and Ms. Gracie need reliable, wonderful, self-sufficient volunteers who are cheery and industrious. If this sounds like you (and I assume it does, because you’re in the JLM!), then be sure to sign up for a shift. You won’t regret it—I know I never do!

Note: Repeat Boutique is a resale shop operated by the Junior League of Memphis. The store sells gently used clothing, shoes and accessories for all ages; small home furnishings; housewares; and children’s items. Junior League of Memphis members donate most of the items sold at the store, but we gladly accept donations from the general public. Please remember the Repeat Boutique the next time you clean out your closets! and Giving

GROW SUMMER 2012 034

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

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