Tag Archives: memphis

Ten Year Stories: Roundhouse Revival

ioby was founded in 2008 in order to make it easier for local leaders to gain the funding, knowledge, and resources needed to make positive change on a local level. For the past ten years we’ve worked alongside more than 1,600 passionate, committed community leaders and have watched as small projects have turned into larger initiatives and collaborations have become movements.

In the coming months, we’re taking a look back at the past ten years, and tell some of our favorite stories of positive neighborhood change. We want to know: what kind of things can start with a conversation, a neighborhood meeting, a few dollars raised?

This month, Roy Barnes tells us about how Memphis is rallying together to save a historic coliseum from being demolished, and creating new memories and community along the wayContinue reading Ten Year Stories: Roundhouse Revival

Tactical urbanism, the Memphis way

“Memphians don’t always do well with rules,” explains lawyer and city planner Tommy Pacello. Memphis-raised, he left for college and was drawn back to join the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, an effort funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies to generate neighborhood economic vitality and reduce gun violence among youth. “The city’s got this grit and soul and texture to it that comes from being a river town, I think. It’s part of our DNA as Memphians.”

But that grit and that soul, in a city that faces its share of systemic challenges, haven’t always found creative outlets. “For many years,” says Pacello, “we had lived in an environment where people felt somewhat stifled. Felt they had to wait on other people to do things for us, to find the silver bullet.” For a community to see itself as dependent on slow-moving government, or on anyone, for positive change, safety, and cohesiveness, is deeply demoralizing. Something had to give.

Continue reading Tactical urbanism, the Memphis way

Meet our City Action Strategists

ioby works nationwide; through the magic of the internet and good old-fashioned phones, we are able to provide support to anyone in the United States with a great idea to bring more good to their neighborhood. We also have staff on the ground in Pittsburgh, Memphis, Detroit, and Cleveland–our City Action Strategists. They’re especially tuned into the cities they live in, are experts at supporting neighbors organize and fundraise online, and help residents turn great ideas into great community projects. Get to know our team!

Continue reading Meet our City Action Strategists

Awesome Project: STREETS Ministries uses data to diversify funding streams

For faith-based community organizations, fundraising can pose particular opportunities and challenges. Megan Klein, Chief Development & Communications Officer at STREETS Ministries in Memphis, puts it this way: “It’s heaven and hell all together.”

Continue reading Awesome Project: STREETS Ministries uses data to diversify funding streams

ioby’s Racial Justice Toolkit: A guide to taking action in your own community

“It’s never too late to act. There’s always time to make your voice heard and to do something, even if it’s a small thing—especially if it’s a small thing. That’s the best place to start.” 

— Indigo Bishop,  ioby Cleveland Action Strategist, in ioby’s new Racial Justice Toolkit

Fifty years ago today, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Commemorations are taking place across the country to honor his vision and achievements, from panel discussions to walking tours to the symbolic ringing of church bells. The anniversary of Dr. King’s tragic death can serve to remind us of how real the challenges to racial equity movements can be.

Continue reading ioby’s Racial Justice Toolkit: A guide to taking action in your own community

Three great youth music programs we love

Love music? Love working with young people? Interested in organizing a music program for youth in your community, but not sure what it could look like?

You’ve come to the right place. Over the years, we’ve worked with many leaders who have started creative initiatives in their communities that get young people involved in music, often in conjunction with something else engaging like the outdoors, visual arts, or technology. They’re all different,  but they all have some common threads (such as, we’ll just say it, being awesome).

Continue reading Three great youth music programs we love

Neighbors making neighborhoods: Khara and NJ Woods

ioby is more than just a crowdfunding platform: we’re a team   of  individuals who are passionate about  helping neighbors make their neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and more fun.  We love hearing from ioby Leaders about  their experiences planning, funding and implementing a project with us. We think by sharing  these experiences,  complete with both triumphs  and roadblocks,  we can help spread knowledge and  maybe even inspire others  to  take action towards positive change where they live.

 

Looking for signs

As a self-identified sign-hunter, Khara Woods is always on the lookout for street art in Memphis. On leisurely walks through her hometown, she documents property signage and graffiti as reference for her graphic design and hand-lettering projects.

Khara and NJ Woods

[Photo by David Leonard]

One day in midtown, Khara stopped in her tracks and took notice of a colorful new  graffiti-inspired mural  on a formerly unsightly wall along Lamar Avenue. The stark contrast between the mural design and surrounding disrepair drew into focus  the strange mix of rapid transformation and neglect  that for her characterizes the historic neighborhood of Rozelle-Annesdale. The wall sat adjacent to a freeway that now the divides the area, which was formerly a bustling corridor   for residents and commuters. Her curiosity piqued, Khara was determined to track down the artist responsible and soon learned that the art was one of eight installments comprising the “Paint Lamar” ioby campaign led by  Kyle Taylor. Khara kept ioby on her radar. She bookmarked the site to her browser and checked in periodically.

 

A family affair

She also sent the link to her mother. While Khara scouts emerging street art, her mother NJ Woods keeps busy as a “primitive folk” artist building on a collection of self-portraits depicting Mid-South and Civil Rights- era living. For some time now, they had been looking for a way to collaborate,   and they had an idea to  work on   a large scale public mural together.  They had applied for grants, responded to city RFPs and sought funding from arts commissions to no avail. Feeling defeated,   they tabled their collaborative project until they had the resources to execute on their own terms.

NJ and Khara Woods

[Photo by David Leonard]

 

A connection is made

In the early stages of ioby’s 85K  Memphis Match, Khara skimmed our blog announcement and promptly got in touch with our office  to float a question about what permission she’d need for a potential public mural project. After connecting with ioby’s   Ellen Roberds in person at an Urban Resource Center meeting, Khara shared her concerns about her lack of fundraising experience and navigating permissions for public property use. Drawing on her local relationships, Ellen facilitated introductions between local business owners, weighed in on potential sites, and even proofread Khara’s draft emails to property owners.

After much back and forth with  local stakeholders, Khara secured   the site of a welcoming local eatery in Midtown: Moore Food Company. Launching their ioby campaign “Headshots”, Khara and NJ quickly racked up   match funds for their $1,000 funding goal for wall clean-up materials and paint supplies. Inspired by NJ’s past collage work, the mother-daughter pair spent a couple of weekends rolling out a cast of minimalist geometric figures to represent  the diversity of their   Memphis neighbors. After Khara and NJ’s mural  went   up  on behind the  Moore Food Company, the restaurant  saw business profits spike – their beautification project  was clearly doubling as a placemaking success and a striking new neighborhood landmark!

Headshots mural

[Photo by David Leonard]

 

Vision meets guidance

Khara and NJ’s mural project reminds us that fundraising is just one of many barriers that can stand in a way of potential leaders starting a project. After being burned by grant opportunities, Khara felt discouraged by bureaucratic language, sluggish timelines, and by veteran organizers competing over resources  for public arts projects.

When the Woods pair came to ioby with the  vision to get their project off the ground, ioby provided the footing they needed to ask for buy-in from their community. Ellen’s guidance   throughout the process speaks to one of ioby’s core principles: we believe that our neighbors   know what’s best for their neighborhoods. While we’re confident that local residents are the ones best equipped to make on-the-ground change, our hands-on approach offers leaders the chance to build confidence and expand their skillsets. We’re here to affirm ioby leaders’ right to improve their neighborhoods   and to guide them through unforeseen hiccups along the way. ioby is proud to be a part of Headshots fundraising success and we hope it’s one of many for the Woods family!

And  remember: if you’re ever headed east from Downtown Memphis, keep on the lookout for the Woods’ bold and whimsical 10-foot  geocentric headshots to jut into view.

Memphis Match: The numbers are in!

Success!

The numbers are in: ioby leaders and project donors in Memphis raised more than $160,000 during our Memphis Match campaign for projects that will make the city safer, greener, more livable, and more fun.

How’d it happen?

In February, ioby and Livable Memphis put the word out about a matching funds campaign for neighborhood projects in Memphis and were quickly inundated with great ideas. Leaders came forward with ideas large and small, from re-striping public basketball courts to creating “bee gardens.” Murals were designed, new park signage was planned, and neighborhood cookouts were coordinated. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

number block

Then, the magic really happened.

On Saturday, April 11, the match period kicked off at the much-loved community event MEMFix: the Pinch with live music, pop-up shops, food trucks, and an ioby installation in an empty storefront where neighbors could meet the leaders making all these great projects happen.

MemFix
Some of our awesome project leaders at MemFix

 

The inspiration going around that day proved highly contagious, and resulted in a tidal wave of giving: as part of this campaign, citizen philanthropists, together with the matching funds, had raised $161,100.58 that will benefit 66 projects! Pretty stellar.

More eye-popping numbers:

  • More than $100K of the total was given by individuals.
  • 36 ioby leaders (more than half) met their original fundraising goal before the match period deadline of April 15, and 28 of them surpassed it! Some have since adjusted their goal and are now raising even more money.
  • More than 60% of the leaders had never before raised money online.
  • Campaigns raised an average of $2,440.92
  • Nine projects were city-wide; the others focused on one or more particular neighborhoods. Together, the projects cover 17 zip codes.

Here’s what we love about these projects: While they include the typical mix of project types  (14 involved gardens, 11 included art, 7 dealt directly with education, and so on), their benefits transcend categorization. A community garden can provide fresh food, but creating one together also gets kids outdoors, teaches them about science, and gets neighbors talking to each other, maybe for the first time. Painting a mural can brighten up a wall, support a local art scene, encourage community pride, and even make a neighborhood feel safer. The  benefits of each project are real, long-lasting, and powerful. Now multiply that by 66 and you get nothing short of a groundswell of positive neighborhood change in Memphis. Needless to say, we can’t wait to see where this goes!

You can read more about this smash-hit campaign and the people and initiatives who made it happen on our blog (increasing the match amount; stories behind  some great ideas) and take a spin through the super-cool projects now in process on our Discover ioby page.  We owe a big and hearty thanks to the Kresge Foundation for the initial  $50,000 in match funding, and to  the Hyde Family Foundation, Livable Memphis,  and  the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis for helping us “grow the pie” when it became apparent that the opportunity to support awesome projects in Memphis was even bigger than we had imagined!

And what’s our favorite part? That the best part—bringing these projects to life—is just getting started.

 

Double your impact for Memphis neighborhoods at MEMFix! (and Online)

Calling all Memphians, neighbors,  and friends who care about making a difference for Memphis neighborhoods:  the big day is almost upon us! Tomorrow, Saturday, April 11, from 11am to 4pm, the Pinch district in Memphis comes alive with the latest manifestation of beloved community event series MEMFix. And we’ll be there loud and proud, to celebrate the seventy, yes, seventy – Memphis ioby campaigns currently running as part of our MemMatch challenge. Want us to throw some more awesome numbers at you? Don’t mind if we do:

Total raised to date:  $98,043

Number of MemMatch campaigns already fully funded:  10

Largest amount raised so far for a MemMatch campaign: $11,105 for  Trinity Playground Revitalization

So come find us tomorrow at our pop-up storefront at 358 N. Main Street. We’ll be there with Liveable Memphis and Sweet Potato Baby. Expect games, sweet treats, a book signing  by Tactical Urbanism author Mike Lydon, and the chance to learn about some really cool projects coming down the pipeline in your neighborhood.

Here’s   the best part: All donations given at MEMFix or online until  April  15 will be doubled, thanks to the match!  To whet your appetite, read a little bit below about four of the inspiring MemMatch projects.

 

Strengthening Memphis communities by improving public basketball courts

When Daniel Peterson was a junior in high school living in Putnam County, New York, the middle school in his town renovated its basketball court. No big deal – just your average renovation. But it changed Peterson’s life. His school team, “perennial losers,” as Peterson puts it, had within three years of the renovation started sending kids to play in college. He started practicing by himself every night – getting to know the cops, who always kicked him off at midnight – and soon found himself playing Division 1  in college. Fast-forward a few years and a few careers, and he was stepping into a new role as senior coordinator for health and fitness initiatives for the Memphis Grizzlies. Today, he’s the director of an organization called Project Backboard, which strengthens communities by improving courts. The game has never left him. And it all started with that renovation back in Putnam County. “Having those courts renovated really changed the trajectory of my life,” says Peterson.

A Memphian now, Peterson is focused on making as many improvements as he can to as many public Memphis courts as possible. Even something as minor as painting posts and covering graffiti makes a difference. “My feeling is that if you add minor improvements that draw people out of their cars and off their bikes and out of the house and into the parks, then you start getting that social interaction that strengthens community ties.”

There are 51 public courts in Memphis parks, only 13 of which are striped. Most of them are in pretty bad shape. Peterson is raising money right now to get to 15-20 of those that need stripes, and to replace backboards where possible. Striping and painting an entire court takes only $150, which means that with the current one-for-one match offer, $75 of your cash will go a long, long way. Click here to learn more about the campaign.

 

Memphis churches coming together to save the bees… and to serve survivors of prostitution and trafficking

Last year, Calvary Episcopal Church in downtown Memphis found itself with a massive bee problem on its hands. The church’s bell tower, it turned out, was teeming with tens of thousands of the little guys. But instead of calling the exterminator, Calvary did something remarkable: they put out a call to other churches in the area, and set to work on finding a new home for the hive. That’s how the “bee garden” at the Church of the Annunciation, in Cordova, was born. The bees now make their home here, on a gorgeous nature trail near a meditation garden and a very special spot that the church calls the Stations of the Cross. The Church of the Annunciation offered the land for free; they simply wanted “to be good stewards of the land,” as Amanda Jemison, director of operations at All Saints Presbyterian, puts it.

Jemison got involved in the project early on. She was particularly excited to learn that the honey produced by the project would be sold locally, and that proceeds would be donated to Lives Worth Saving (LWS), a prostitution intervention program in Memphis. For her, that made the honey that much sweeter. Her reaction to the first honey harvest? “Amazing! I just finished my jar. It was delicious. It’s local honey that’s contributing to a dream and a mission that I just believe in so fully.”

Now Jemison is helping to lead the charge to raise the funds to another three apiaries in the bee garden, which will make five, total. The original two hives produced twenty pounds of honey in their first go-round; the second big harvest will take place in September, and is expected to produce 95 pounds of honey. Click here to help make that possible!

 

Bringing bats back to Buntyn  (Late breaking: This project is now FULLY FUNDED, although donations are still being accepted!)

When Shannon Langellier, Vice President of the East Buntyn Historic District Neighborhood Association, heard about ioby’s MEMmatch challenge, she put out a call to community members, asking how they thought the neighborhood could best be improved. And a very interesting suggestion came in from Caroline Carrico, who works at the local natural history museum. We need more bats, Carrico said. And more homes for bats.

Some of the best insect-eaters around, bats are critical to ecosystems, especially in areas where mosquito-borne illnesses are a problem. That includes Memphis, which is starting to see more and more West Nile virus. And bats are equally critical for their top-notch pollinating skills; organic gardeners love them.

But Carrico was right – bats had all but left the neighborhood of Buntyn. “I’ve lived here 30 years,” explains Langellier, “and it was not uncommon to see bats and chimney swifts around. At twilight, you could go out and see them fluttering around and such. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a bat anywhere in our area. I haven’t seen any in years and years. And you don’t realize it until someone points out that they’re gone!”

The money that Langellier and her partners are raising now will go toward the construction and installation – with the help of experts from the local nature center – of ten bat houses and one chimney swift tower in the neighborhood. So here’s to healthier gardens and fewer skeeters next year! Click here to learn more.

 

New rock garden and rotating art exhibit coming to an empty Soulsville lot  (Late breaking: This project is now FULLY FUNDED,  although donations are still being accepted!)

At the corner of Mississippi and Mclemore, in Soulsville, Memphis, is an empty lot about to get a serious makeover. It’s a high traffic corner (the Stax Museum and Stax Music Academy are both nearby) in a very walkable part of town, and residents often sit and hang out amidst the remains of the building that was demolished across the street. Lori Robertson, VP of the neighborhood association, wants to build an inspiring and permanent space where residents can gather. There’s a fabulous “I love Soulsville” mural in place in the empty lot already, and all it needs now, says Robertson and her team, is the attention of some Memphian creatives.

Robertson’s hope for the art garden? To “create a little happy in Soulsville,” she says. She and her team are raising money now to turn the lot into a rock garden, which will serve as a canvass on which local artists will create their own public works. The exhibition will change – if all goes according to plan – every two or three months.

“My husband and I have this personal mantra that we try to live by,” says Robertson, in explaining why she loves her corner of Memphis. “It says ‘live in the vision, not in your circumstances.’ And I feel like the residents of Soulsville truly believe in that. Despite that Soulsville is part of an inner city neighborhood, they focus heavily on the opportunities. What can we do to make sure that Soulsville grows into something greater than what people may see it as today?” To learn more, click here.

AWESOME PROJECT: Protected Bike Lanes Coming to the Mile-High City… Sooner Than You Think

Oh hey, people who want to bike safely to work, and people who hate traffic, and people who like clean air, and people who want our coastal cities not to be underwater in 100 years:

Would it surprise you to know that Copenhagen itself, that shining eco mecca of robust and teeming protected bike lanes – bike highways, really – was not always so? That up to the 1960’s, Copenhagen, too, according to People for Bikes, was just as jam-packed with smelly cars as the rest of the developed world is?

Well, yes. It was that late in the game that the bike-heaven of the world turned it around, creating vast networks of protected bike lanes and clearing public squares of cars. Think we can do it, too?

Signs point to yes. In fact, lots of the cool kids already are. New York is doing it, Chicago’s doing it, Minneapolis is doing it. Memphis, a city particularly dear to our hearts, is doing it. And here’s some very exciting news: up next to the plate is a city that for many of us probably still calls up images of SUV’s packed with outdoorsy gear, rather than of bicycles. Time to throw out your old ideas about the mile-high city; cyclists, meet the new Denver.

Aprapahoe - 2v rendering

By this summer, two major protected bike lanes will have opened, with many more to follow.

The imminent changes are thanks in part to Aylene McCallum, Transportation & Research Manager at non-profit Downtown Denver Partnership, and her D.D.P. colleagues. About a year ago, McCallum and her boss approached the city of Denver to say that they planned to crowd-resource money to design some protected bike lanes for downtown. City officials immediately jumped in to partner on the project, and to greatly expand its scope.

“The city said, well, wait a second. Why don’t you let us do a protected bike lane plan. We’ll fund it,” says McCallum. “We’ll focus on downtown, but we’ll do it for the entire city. And how about you use the money that you raise to accelerate the implementation of one of the corridors that we identify in this bike lane plan? So we said ok, we’ll do that.”

In an incredibly streamlined and speedy fundraising push, McCallum personally approached local businesses that stood to benefit from the increased bike and foot traffic the protected lane would bring them. She approached, in other words, people who were already stakeholders in the project, but didn’t know it yet.

“You can’t just get a story on a blog or just get a story even in the newspaper or just get a story on TV,” says McCallum. “That’s not going to bring you to your goal. You have to set aside some time to send out personal emails and personal phone calls, and that’s really what makes the difference. We pulled lists of companies that were directly on the route, on Arapahoe Street and on the adjacent corridors, and did the majority of our outreach to those companies.”

The money was raised in no time, at which point a community meeting was held, and a straw poll taken to determine which major roads residents wanted to tackle first. McCallum says it was the most fun she’s ever had at a public meeting; the poll was a hit. Arapahoe Street won, and a summer 2015 opening is slated for the new protected lane, along with it’s sister lane, which will run on a parallel street, in the opposite direction.

McCallum is herself exactly the kind of Denver resident and hopeful cyclist that she wishes were out pedaling on the roads. She’s what she calls an “interested but concerned” cyclist. She’d like to bike to her work in downtown Denver, but with two young children and a husband at home, it simply isn’t worth the risk. The city still doesn’t quite feel safely broken in for cyclists.

“I’m a mom now, I have two kids,” says McCallum. “A lot of people that work in downtown have families and are really worried about their safety, but they want to ride bikes because they’re active people and they want to use active transportation more. They’re concerned about their safety in Downtown with the high volumes of traffic, and distracted drivers. You want a little bit more protection.”

Looks like McCallum and her many interested but concerned peers won’t have to wait long; maybe we’re not as far behind Copenhagen as it seems. For a map of the new protected lane site, and lots more info, check out the Arapahoe Street Protected Bike Lane ioby campaign page.