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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!

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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

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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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!

Camp Good Grief–A First Timer’s Perspective…

Junior League Volunteers at Camp Good Grief

Junior League Volunteers at Camp Good Grief

As a provisional, I worried that my first month was representative of what my whole experience would be in the Junior League of Memphis (JLM). Was I going to spend the entire year (or worse, my entire membership) looking anxiously for familiar faces at general membership meetings, trying to keep my calendar straight (am I supposed to be going to Hutchison? Botanic Gardens? Someone’s house?), and waving goodbye to the majority of my Monday evenings for the next twelve months? My friends who were JLM actives raved to me about how much I would enjoy the close friendships, the sense of community, and the difference I would feel I was making in Memphis. But the only feeling that seemed to emerge during the first month was “overwhelmed.” New people, new information, and new commitments—everything was amplified.

It wasn’t until the September general membership meeting when something clicked. The ensemble from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra joined Angela Hamblen (from the Kemmons Wilson Center for Good Grief) for a reading of her book “What’s So Good About Grief, Anyway?” From there, I was sold. The book reminded me so much of what I had gone through as a child through the loss of my dad, and I realized that I wanted nothing more than to be a part of Camp Good Grief, which is an annual bereavement camp for children ages 6-12. Suddenly, all of my involvement in the JLM made sense. I was no longer overwhelmed; rather, I was ENGAGED. I threw myself into my commitments and enjoyed everything from tours of Regional Medical Center to extra shifts at the Repeat Boutique. I bided my time patiently, and when it came time to list our preferences for placement for the next year, I put Camp Good Grief at the top of my list. Imagine my excitement when we received our placements—and mine read “CAMP GOOD GRIEF.” Suddenly, however, what I had been hoping for now struck a kind of anxious excitement within me that I couldn’t shake. Now I actually had to go!

Memphis Therapy Dogs visit Camp Good Grief every year

Memphis Therapy Dogs visit Camp Good Grief every year

As I went through volunteer training with the other women in my placement, I realized that Camp Good Grief was everything I had hoped for from joining the JLM. It gave me the chance to connect with and enjoy the company of like-motivated and service-minded women, as well as the opportunity to make an individual impact in my community. I would come to find, however, that the individual impact that was most significant was the one made on me…

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Candidly? Camp Good Grief was hard. Really hard. It required a massive amount of physical and emotional effort, and I found that the end of each day resulted in a battle between using what little energy I had left to shower off the sweat/sunscreen/lake water/chlorine/bug spray layers or using that same limited energy to eat dinner (the latter usually won). During my drive to the first day of camp, I fought the excitement, anxiety, and vague nausea that seemed to have gripped me tightly. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I cry the entire time? I work with adolescents, so I’m pretty accustomed to mood swings, social politics, and students who act like everything is life or death (you remember being a teenager). These kids, however—their processes and complexities really are life and death. As I arrived, I realized that it was everything you expect from a traditional camp—and then some. There were songs and candy and swimming and games! But the best part of the three days of Camp Good Grief (besides pancakes on a stick) was the feeling you had every time you experienced a victory, no matter how small. Maybe it was a terrified kid finally conquering their fear of the water slide, or the first time your camper grabbed your hand, or watching as a child fully embraced their emotions at the memorial service. Each of these happened to all of us, and I think I can speak for all of the buddies and floaters when I say that each felt monumental in that moment.

My experience at Camp Good Grief has changed me both professionally and personally. As the Associate Director of College Guidance at St. George’s Independent School, I work with children throughout various points in their high school career, which all too frequently involves the ups and downs that come with being a teenager. During our first training, Angela reminded us, “a bereaved person’s life is like a piece of paper, upon which every caring adult has the dangerous opportunity to leave a mark.” That quote from Dr. Alan Wolfelt stayed with me throughout my entire Camp Good Grief experience. I was constantly mindful of engaging the children positively, being aware and considerate of our conversations, and helping them balance enjoying camp with processing their grief. But now that mindset is also inextricably linked with my daily work, as I employ that same approach with my students. I think my Camp Good Grief experience made me a more considerate listener, compassionate supporter, and resilient volunteer. I learned that you can find strength in vulnerability, fortitude in asking for help, and I embraced the difference that even the most minute connections can make in a child’s life (and in mine). I am counting down the days until next year’s camp. Even if it is not my placement, they will have to close the gates to keep me out—I’ll be there!!

I would be remiss not to give a shout-out to a few events on the horizon that benefit Camp Good Grief (as the camp is free to the participants, but is significantly more than free to facilitate…):

  1. Baptist Art of Caring is this Saturday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Memphis Botanic Gardens. There are some incredible pieces up for auction at this year’s event, which benefits the Kemmons Wilson Center for Good Grief and Baptist Trinity Hospice. You can find more information (and the opportunity to buy tickets!) here: http://baptistartofcaring.org/event-details/.
  1. On Sunday, October 5, you will not want to miss the Camp Good Grief 5K, which directly supports this wonderful camp! This family event has food, moon bounces, face painting, and more (including, you know, an actual race)! If you are training for the St. Jude Half Marathon, it’s also perfectly timed for a race-pace 5K—HOW PERFECT!! You can register here: http://campgoodgrief5k.racesonline.com.