In 1999, Advance Memphis was formed by Steve Nash to bring resources for economic self-sufficiency to the population in and around the Cleaborn/Foote Public Housing Developments. The same year, 38126 was listed as the 3rd poorest urban zip code in the nation. For decades, the community has been plagued by generational poverty and its symptoms: crime, unemployment, low graduation rates, and a high infant mortality rate. Conversely, the neighborhood is blessed with residents who unquestioningly share with their neighbors and who take care of one another, even at great cost to themselves.
Steve Nash started the work at Advance Memphis by helping friends from the neighborhood connect with job opportunities. As Steve continued serving and dreaming, staff and programs were added, beginning with financial literacy programs and growing to include job readiness and much more. From the beginning, the vision at Advance Memphis has been to see the neighborhood transformed into a revitalized community through the empowerment of local adults. We work to help our neighbors see their value in the workplace, and take their place in the workforce. It is not enough to simply offer a job to an individual raised in an environment of generational poverty. Instead, Advance Memphis offers holistic programs that rely heavily on instilling knowledge and skills in an environment of relational support.
The Work Life program is at the heart of our services, and begins with teachers giving students a vision of their own value as workers with unique skills sets. Volunteer mentors further develop this theme, leading small group discussions with a focus on identifying barriers to employment, setting professional and educational goals, and developing relationships that will provide a support network beyond graduation day. All the while, job readiness basics such as integrity in the workplace, effective communication, resume building, and interview skills are covered. Work Life is published by the Chalmers Center grew out of a multi-year collaboration with the Chalmers Center for Economic Development and Jobs for Life. Learn more here.
Other “stepping stone” programs at Advance Memphis help students move toward economic self-sufficiency. These include matched savings programs, GED preparation, an addiction recovery program, and more. Today, Advance Memphis is a team of about 12 staff members, over 100 regular volunteers, and a neighborhood full of program alumni who are still working toward the Vision that was formed almost 15 years ago: an empowered and revitalized neighborhood. By the grace of God, the work will continue, and we will all continue to be blessed by the journey.