G.R.O.W. – Making a Difference at Brewster Elementary School

I am Erica Coopwood, and as the 2014-2015 Chair of G.R.O.W. Brewster Pre-K / Kindergarten Reading Readiness, I want to offer our readers a glimpse of the rewarding work that the Junior League of Memphis is doing with its newest G.R.O.W. (Giving Reading Opportunities and Wellness) program at William H. Brewster Elementary School.

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Proud Brewster students and their Valentine craft created with G.R.O.W. volunteers

Brewster Elementary School is located at Collins and Sam Cooper Blvd. Every other Tuesday for two hours, JLM volunteers work directly with pre-kindergartners and kindergarteners by reading a book, hosting a craft activity and helping them complete an educational activity worksheet that correlates with their weekly curriculum. Each year before school begins, we meet with the teachers and principal, Dr. Angela Askew, to “map out” our year. Our goal is to make sure that each book, craft, and education worksheet that we choose follows the teachers’ curricula.

JLM Member and G.R.O.W. volunteer, Mandy Lamey interacting with Brewster students.

JLM member and G.R.O.W. volunteer, Mandy Lamey interacting with Brewster students.

As soon as we enter the classroom hallway, the kids catch a glimpse of their “G.R.O.W. Friends,” and we get many hugs, but only one question: “Are you coming in my room today, G.R.O.W. Friend?” (For the longest time, we all thought the kids were calling us their Girlfriends because they say it so quickly!) Being able to spend one-on-one time with the kids gives the kids time to read cool books, create imaginative crafts and complete worksheets that are right on target with what they are learning. The teachers benefit from our presence by having a staff of excellent women (might I say!) who are reinforcing their weekly lesson curricula in a different format. And for the volunteers, there is simply nothing more satisfying than being able to give your time and talents to children who need it! Whether it’s helping a child “get” what’s being taught in the classroom, or being able to comfort a child whose day didn’t start out so well—the volunteers benefit from the immediate gratification of being able to see the difference they make.


JLM member and G.R.O.W. volunteer, LaTina Thomas working with students on their activity page

Brewster also has many community partners who are ready to step in when they see a need. Last Fall, two of JLM’s provisional members who were completing their community shifts noticed that many of the kids were wearing school shirts that looked as if they’d been worn over and over. So they offered to wash the kids’ clothing!  They were adamant about it, too. They saw a need, and immediately offered a solution. I shared this concern with my husband, President and CEO for Regional One Health, and Regional One Health, along with many Brewster lovers, gifted each Pre-K and Kindergarten student with a new, embroidered long sleeve school uniform shirt from Agape North for Christmas. The teachers and children were overjoyed and so appreciative of this, but for us as Junior Leaguers, it was a no-brainer: the need was there and we found a way to meet that need. That’s who we are and what we do!


G.R.O.W. volunteers and Brewster students showing off their new shirts

JLM members have made great strides in solidifying G.R.O.W. as a top-notch, award-winning volunteer program in Memphis. Our members have had the privilege of impacting the lives of our City’s most vulnerable, and with our expansion to Brewster Elementary, we have certainly made a positive impact on many lives in this community. What’s more, we have a team of administrators and teachers at Brewster who are excited about JLM’s presence. We are into our second year at Brewster, and we look forward to continuing G.R.O.W.’s tradition of excellence with the children of William H. Brewster Elementary School. Go Brewster!

Please “like” us on Facebook to stay up to date on what’s happening with G.R.O.W.   If you’d like to learn more about how to become a member of the JLM and join us in making a difference in our community, please visit our website and email Jen Larkin at jen.l.larkin@gmail.com to find out more.

Erica Coopwood
2014-2015 Chair
G.R.O.W. Brewster Pre-K / Kindergarten Reading Readiness

What is Issue Based Community Impact?

Issue Based Community Impact (IBCI) is a new catch phrase around Junior Leagues all across the country, but what is it exactly? Simply put, it is a strategy to determine which issues the JLM can really impact and how the JLM can help move the needle in Memphis.

For example, the JLM averages eight to ten community projects annually across a myriad of issues – health and wellness, education, grief, diversity, etc. Therefore, we know the JLM’s projects are widespread but not necessarily very focused…which begs the question: “Are we truly making the kind of impact we desire in our community?”

After much thought and discussion among leadership and members, the Community Impact Committee was formed last year to help answer this question and to capture the pulse of Memphis’ current community issues where JLM could best serve. This research group, now in its second year, has held a series of focus groups, met with various organizations and combed through a multitude of statistics to help recommend issues to the JLM.

The three issues that have risen to the top are:

1.  Neighborhood Revitalization
2.  Education
3.  Literacy

In January, the Community Impact Committee will be providing more information on these three issue areas via this blog and other communication outlets, including our social media accounts.

Come to the General Membership Meeting tonight at the Orpheum to hear more and stay tuned to this blog for more details on each issue.

It’s an exciting time to be in the JLM as we’re working hard to transform Memphis! We hope you are as excited as we are about this next step in the future of the JLM.  If you have questions, please direct them to Kristen Bland, Community Impact Chair, at kmt23_2000@yahoo.com.


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.


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.


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?


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


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.


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.


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:


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


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


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


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.


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!)


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.


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

‘Tis the Season…for shopping!

November 13-15th, 2014 Memphis Botanic Garden

If you are anything like me, you are just about tired of hearing people say, “I’ve almost finished my Christmas shopping!” Uggh!!! It sends my anxiety into overload because, of course, I haven’t even started. The good news is that Merry Marketplace is THIS WEEK and it is the PERFECT place to check off a variety of gifts on your shopping list.

This is the second year that the market will be held at the Memphis Botanic Garden and you will love the high-quality vendors coming to the show this year. I will include a link to view of all the vendors later in this post, but first I wanted to tell you about a few of my personal favorites.

Agape North

Agape North

One of my first stops every year is the Agape North booth. Joe Williams has been a friend of the JLM for several years and we love partnering with him to provide custom embroidered school shirts for Memphis school children. You can read more about our partnership here but let me tell you about the quality of their clothing!  From long sleeve t-shirts and pullovers to hats and now even scarves, you are SURE to find the perfect gifts for the men, women and children in your life.



I’m super excited to see June Bug Designs on the list again this year. This father-daughter duo from Memphis turn beautiful old pieces of wood into custom painted art for your home. I purchased a wooden Christmas tree last year for our front yard and I can’t wait to put it out again.

Magic Light Wand

Magic Light Wand

Perhaps my favorite purchase last year was the Magic Light Wand.  Fellow JLM member, Lindsay Hammond, and her family developed this innovative and magical way to turn your holiday lights on and off. I purchased several for teacher gifts, hostess gifts and even a few for our home. My two girls have small Christmas trees in their bedrooms and they loved being able to wave their Magic Light Wand from their bed to turn their lights off at night. The other BRILLIANT thing about the Magic Light Wand? It works on outdoor lights, too. No more tromping down in the basement to unplug the outside lights at our house…one wave of the wand and “poof” out they go.   Now that is truly magical!

I hope this post helps get you in the mood for some fun holiday shopping…with a charitable twist!  Funds raised support the JLM’s ongoing efforts to improve the Memphis community.

Click here to see a list of this year’s merchants and be sure to like the JLM MMP Facebook page to see great photos of merchandise coming to the show – including beautiful handmade jewelry and fine art. Online ticket sales have ended, but tickets for all events can be purchased at the door.

General Admission: Friday, November 14, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Saturday, November 15, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. ($10 tickets)

Merry Marketplace Girls Night Out: Join us for cocktails, appetizers and exclusive shopping before Merry Marketplace opens to the public. Thursday, Nov. 13 from 6-9:30 pm ($30 tickets).

Boutique Breakfast: Attendees will enjoy brunch and mimosas while taking advantage of stroller-free shopping before Merry Marketplace general admission begins at 11 a.m.  Friday, November 14, 9 a.m. – Noon ($25 tickets).

Grab a friend and come shop with us!

Jeni Linkous
Community Outreach Director

Extreme Makeover – JLM Style


JLM Pre-K Room at Lester Community Center, Memphis, TN

JLM Pre-K Room at Lester Community Center, Memphis, TN

Since 2010, the Junior League of Memphis has spent countless hours at Lester Community Center in Binghampton, through our G.R.O.W. initiative.  We have witnessed  many positive changes in the area over the last 5 years and are proud to be a part of the revitalization of the neighborhood.  We recognize that we are only a small part of the positive change going on in the neighborhood and believe that collaboration amongst other groups and businesses is key to making the most impact on the community.  When we heard the Memphis Grizzlies were adopting Lester as part of Grizz Cares Day of Service, we were eager to meet with them and find out how the JLM could lend a hand.

The day of service project focused on full refurbishment of the outdoor basketball courts, exterior landscaping, a state of the art Blended Learning Lab and several other projects going on throughout the neighborhood.  200 volunteers participated, including the entire Grizzlies player roster and over 40 JLM members.  Thanks to a gift from the John Dustin Buckman Charitable Trust, the JLM was able play a significant role in the Grizz Cares Day of Service by officially adopting the Pre-K room at Lester, and pulled off an amazing renovation in just 10 short days!

Marc Gasol helping with a mural at Grizz Cares: Day of Service, courtesy of Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images.   Click Here and Here to view more pictures from this Gallery

The Pre-K room is used as part of the after school program at Lester and is FILLED with 35+ kids every weekday afternoon.  The room is also a vital part of the G.R.O.W. Thursday night supper club, as it houses the youngest group of kids during the educational portion of the weekly program.  Recently moved to a dingy room in the back corner behind the gym, the room was filled with mix matched desks and other furniture collected throughout the years.  The two teachers (angels) who care for the children every day are volunteers, and were doing the best they could with the room they were given.

Sound the horns!  This is where the JLM Extreme makeover begins!  And it is my hands-down favorite thing about being a part of this organization.  When you  give a group of JLM members a project, even if we only have 10 days to pull it off, we rally the troops, pull from the strengths of our members and accomplish something extraordinary.

You see, nearly 90% of our members have professional careers in addition to their volunteer and family commitments.  We’re business owners, marketing professionals, doctors, musicians, FBI agents…you name it, and we probably have it! With all that outside knowledge and expertise, we’ve learned to lean on each other to create impactful change in our community.

So, what did we do when we met to discuss the renovation of the Pre-K room?  We called Hayley Davis, a beloved G.R.O.W. volunteer, who also happens to be an Interior Designer by trade!  She went straight to work taking measurements of the room and produced a floor plan for a colorful, inviting space with several centers including : an arts and crafts area, a reading nook, a dress up station, and a traditional homework area.  About the same time, Rebecca Fountain, quite possibly the league’s biggest G.R.O.W. cheerleader, secured several pieces of classroom furniture via a Facebook post by a fellow JLM member, Susie Björklund.


 Floor Plan for the newly designed Pre-K room, courtesy of Haley Davis, of Haley Davis Interiors

Floor Plan for the newly designed Pre-K room, courtesy of Haley Davis, of Haley Davis Interiors

With Hayley’s design in hand, a Design Task Force was created to pull the room together.  Made up of about 8 members who share not only a love for G.R.O.W., but also a love for all things creative and crafty, the Design Task Force went straight to work.  Members were scouring the internet and stores around town looking for everything from storage baskets to colorful rugs.  Leslie Graff, a skilled seamstress, jumped right in with a plan to recover the teachers chairs to make them fit in the new design of the room.  A Pinterest Board was created to collect ideas and share pictures of the existing room and of the furniture and decor we were using to spiff it up.  We also interviewed several Pre-k teachers to make sure the centers we were creating would be useful and the toys we purchased would be a meaningful part of their learning experience.

A call for help was made about 3 days prior to the big “reveal” day.  We needed LOTS of extra hands to help paint furniture, so that the room could become the colorful, inviting space we all imagined.  Two days later about a dozen women, many of them JLM Board Members, showed up late at night to transform dull metal filing cabinets and old wooden bookshelves into beautiful, brightly colored, “like-new” pieces of furniture.  Brooke Helsley even brought her handy dad along to install 35 coat hooks, so that the children would have a place to hang their backpacks and coats each afternoon.


Spray Paint Masters and JLM Board Members: Page Boden and Jennifer Taylor

Spray Paint Masters and JLM Board Members: Page Boden and Jennifer Taylor

October 25, 2014 was a day we will not soon forget.  We arrived early that Saturday morning to an empty, brightly colored room (Grizz Blue – thanks to the Grizzlies Foundation for painting the walls!) ready to be transformed by a host of hard working volunteers.    Tables were assembled, walls were decorated, furniture was brought in and arranged and toys were unpacked and organized thanks to the help of many JLM volunteers, several guys from Peer Power and even a “hand” by some of our most favorite Grizzlies players.

One of our pinterest inspirations turned out to be a signature part of the room.    In addition to transforming the Pre-K room, we were asked to entertain about a dozen children in the room that morning – allowing them to participate in Grizz Cares Day.  They created several craft projects to hang on the walls and then added their own “touch” to the room by placing their thumbprint on a large canvas.  The thumb prints of the children and volunteers were turned into flowers and handprints were used to create the grass.  The biggest handprints (and most exciting ones!) were provided by several Grizzlies players themselves!

Jordan Adams and Kosta Koufos lend a hand to the  Pre-k room renovation

Jordan Adams and Kosta Koufos lend a hand to the Pre-k room renovation

Around noon that day, I stood back in awe at the transformation after 10 short days.   And because we know these families so well, we have a personal connection to the room and look forward to using it weekly during the Thursday Night G.R.O.W. program.

On a personal note:  I brought my daughter and her friend along with me that Saturday to help get the room organized.  They worked hard at unpacking boxes and organizing craft supplies and helped entertain the children with art projects.  They were star struck by the Grizzlies of course, but I’m most proud of their heart to serve others.  And I’m so thankful the JLM provides me with the opportunity to include them in projects like this so that they gain perspective on the community around us and realize their own potential to make impactful change on the world.

The Pre-K room renovation was only a small part of the revitalization going on in Binghampton that day and we loved walking around that afternoon to admire the work of others.  The basketball courts are nothing short of astounding, the mural brings joy to the area, and the learning lab will significantly impact the educational lives of the neighborhood children.    I am so thankful to have the chance to be a part of the transformation.

Tony Allen visits the Pre-K room during Grizz Cares Day.

Tony Allen visits the Pre-K room during Grizz Cares Day.

Jeni Linkous
Community Outreach Director

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.

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