Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

GiVE 365: Neighborhood Christian Centers

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Continuing in our GiVE365 series is the following post by Tina Sullivan. Neighborhood Christian Centers is one of 12 organizations that received a grant from GiVE 365 last year. GiVE 365 is a group of charitably-minded Memphians who each give $365 a year, a dollar day, to collectively support local nonprofits. Each year, members of GiVE 365 choose a theme and nonprofits apply for funding based on their fit within that theme, this year’s being “Home is Where the Heart is” – projects to make Memphis neighborhoods more vibrant, livable, and secure.

My husband and I were excited to join GiVE 365 as soon as it launched. I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for years, but I’d never had the opportunity to be on the grant making side of the relationship. While we were living elsewhere, we missed the sense of community and the generosity that Memphians are known for. GiVE 365 seemed like a celebration of that identity.

The finalist presentations are my favorite part of the program. At these events, members are introduced to the vast diversity of talent, creativity, and passion that drives local nonprofit leaders. At one of these events, I met Ephie Johnson, Executive Director of Neighborhood Christian Centers (NCC). She invited me to join a tour of their operations the very next morning, and I spent several hours learning about their mission and meeting some of their neighborhood partners. At the end of the tour, we had lunch at The House, a women’s resource center in Orange Mound. It was a beautiful old house, lovingly restored, sunny, and inviting. I imagined how comforting it would be to walk in and feel supported if I found myself in need.  I was surprised at the diverse array of services NCC provides through The House.

Ephie is a tower of strength. You can hear the power of her conviction when she talks about NCC programs. You can see it in the energy she brings to her interactions with her staff and volunteers. Over lunch, she revealed her more vulnerable side as shared her vision for the future of NCC, and the challenges she will face trying to achieve that vision. As with all nonprofit leaders, the uncertainty of funding is a significant threat.

When I got home, I immediately put a check in the mail to NCC. I found myself wishing I could do more, and I soon had that opportunity when I voted for NCC to receive funding in the next round of grants. That year, GiVE 365 members donated $10,000 to The House that I had visited with Ephie – a vast sum compared to what I could afford to give on my own.

The GiVE 365 program achieves several things: it allows members to combine resources to make a more significant collective impact on our city; it introduces members to local organizations that we might not have otherwise known about; and it helps members become educated and informed philanthropists. It is working. Every year, I learn a bit more about where Memphians need help, what organizations are providing that help, what those organizations need, and how I and other GiVErs can support them. Together, GiVE 365 members have given almost a quarter of a million dollars to some incredible organizations. This is how we do it in Memphis.

Tina Sullivan is the executive director of Overton Park Conservancy and lives in Midtown with her husband, Pete. She is actively engaged in the movement toward more walkable and bikable neighborhoods, and is grateful for the art, music, food, and unique sense of community the city of Memphis offers.

 

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