Memphis, TN – August 23, 2017 – Advance Memphis is very excited about a multi-year research study that was developed and started this summer by Josh Fikkert, an intern from Covenant College. The study will evaluate the long-term impact of Individual Development Accounts (IDA). IDA is one of the programs utilized by Advance Memphis and used around the country to stimulate savings, banking, and asset purchase as a means to financial stability for people who may be working, but remain trapped in poverty. Most studies currently available on the effectiveness of IDA only follow participants for about six months after purchase, and tend to focus exclusively on asset acquisition. This new study will attempt to follow and compare our participants in Work Life, who receive little financial literacy training; Faith & Finances, who receive very specific training in financial management; and IDA participants, who actually enter into a matched savings and asset purchase program. The study will compare saving and banking habits of the groups for up to two years after they complete the programs. The study specifically asks two questions: (1) “Are Faith & Finances and/or IDA participants more likely to demonstrate long-term savings behavior?” and (2) “Is IDA participation positively correlated with long-term banking habits?”. Saving and banking are factors that contribute to financial stability in peoples’ lives.
A presentation that introduces the research study and provides anecdotal information based on recent interviews can be found here: Evaluating the Impact of Individual Development Accounts on Savings Habits and Banking Relationships.
Josh Fikkert, a senior at Covenant College, is a Community Development and Philosophy major. We are thankful for Josh’s work this summer as an intern and for our continued relationship with Covenant College and the Chalmers Center at Covenant College. The Chalmers Center is a non-profit that works to equip churches and organizations to declare and demonstrate to the materially poor that Jesus Christ is making all things new. Advance Memphis has hosted numerous interns from Covenant College’s Community Development major over the years and is grateful for its ongoing relationship with the Chalmers Center as a training partner, a field-test site for curriculum development, and as a co-developer of the Work Life curriculum.
Advance Memphis will be looking for volunteers and interns to help gather and collate data from interviews and surveys of over two hundred program participants in the next several years to ensure study efficacy. If you would like to participate in any of our programs or help facilitate the study please contact Bryce Stout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
The Advance Memphis Anger Management class focuses on the acceptance of an ever-present reality: The reality that people make us angry sometimes. The reality that things don’t always go the way we want them to. The reality that life can and will throw some serious curve balls. It’s not the emotion that we should worry about, it’s the way we handle it. In class, we learn that our body responses come from the way we perceive the “unjust.” Were we wronged? Were we threatened? Were we disrespected, or lied to? These are just some of the things that can make us anywhere from irritated to enraged. By learning what “ticks” us off, we can combat these outbursts. We can learn that there are options. We can learn to handle anger through appropriate responses.
I ask the class, “what are some good reasons you should learn to handle anger appropriately?” The number one response is “to keep my job.” So what can we do differently? If habits are a repetitive behavior that begins to occur automatically, how do we overcome them? Habits are overcome only by establishing new habits that oppose the old ones. The person that argues all the time has established a habit that can be overcome by developing a habit of listening to others. We have to learn to listen to others, even when we don’t want to hear what they have to say. It’s important because we can learn from others. Developing these new habits is a key objective of the class.
One thing I share with the participants is that I once got in trouble on a job for disagreeing with my supervisor and not wanting to listen. It could very well have cost me my job. I also hear responses of others who have walked off a job because of the wrong way a conversation was going. We have to learn alternative behaviors. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17. This is scripture that we learn and mediate on in Anger Management.
It seems as if submitting to authority is harder for some than others, especially on the job. Lucretia, a recent class participant, stated that taking a time-out when she is angry is working for her. She uses the time to evaluate why she is angry and ask herself about the root cause of her anger. Then, after she meditates on this for a few minutes, her anger subsides.
I enjoy facilitating the Anger Management class because I get to encourage people to let God reconcile relationships that they have damaged due to their anger. We pray about these relationships and we role-play speaking and listening skills. We also write letters to those we have hurt because of our anger and this teaches humility.
Because many of our participants have experienced trauma, emotions can be raw and feelings can run deep. Our prayer is that by understanding where anger comes from, how our bodies and minds respond, and developing alternative habits, our participants can be empowered to manage anger in healthy ways and have lives that are more stable and more fulfilling as a result.
In 2015, Advance Memphis, powered by 240 volunteers, 15 staff members, dozens of donors, and an incredible community of participants, operated programs that empowered the people of 38126 to move into financial security.
Below, you’ll see just a few of the tangible outcomes of the work this community did this year. There are many more life changes that are less easily measured: the 40 year old who opens his first bank account, the woman who stopped drinking, the man who proudly supports his children, the woman who earned her GED, the man with a drivers license and a new job.
THIS is how our Lord will “undo the straps of the yoke to let the oppressed go free.”
PARTNER IN THIS WORK!
Volunteer hours, donations, and prayers are essential. Get involved using the information below.
LAUNCH grad Quincy Foster spent 13 weeks building his photography business through Advance Memphis’s program for entrepreneurs.
He shared the following thoughts on the program: “There has been tremendous benefit as far as focusing on the task at hand, a reasonable level of accountability, completing important steps in the process toward getting the business legal, and good record keeping.”
LAUNCH Coordinator Bryce Stout has put together a newsletter with more information about this years’ graduates, their businesses, and the program outcomes. To read the LAUNCH Newsletter, please click here.
For the spring semester of 2015, Advance has been lucky to host Jackson McNeil as he served as an intern to complete requirements of his Urban Studies program at Rhodes College. We’re grateful for the selfless and effective way Jackson serves. We’re also grateful for the work he did on his semester-ending assignment for his Nonprofits in the City class under the instruction of Dr. Peter Hossler.
Below is the paper in its entirety, including explanations of Alternative Staffing Organizations, Advance’s role in this niche, and data to help demonstrate results. If you’ve ever wanted to understand what Advance was attempting to do by running a not-for-profit temporary staffing business, this should help.
Advance Memphis’ Alternative Staffing Organization
A recent study done by Forbes listed Memphis as the top city for temporary jobs in 2015. 2014 data supporting this claim stated that the temporary workforce in Memphis was 30,816 individuals, accounting for 5% of the total workforce population in the city (Dill). With a high rate of poverty and unemployment in the city of Memphis comes a high rate of low skilled workers and cheap labor that attracts many companies using temporary work. In the 38126 zip code, many residents are struggling to find and keep jobs, and a local nonprofit is attempting to meet this need through multiple programs and a staffing service connecting community members with jobs.
“Alternative Staffing Organizations” is the name given to “social-purpose businesses created by community-based organizations and national nonprofits to ‘broker up’ job seekers, starting with temporary assignments and forming bridges to better jobs” (Carre, Holgate and Levine). Advance Memphis, a local nonprofit focused on economic development in the 38126 zip code operates a staffing service that connects program graduates with local temporary to permanent jobs and direct hires. My research examines whether or not this staffing service, which is typically a job taken on by the mainstream for profit industry, is meeting its own goals of finding employees meaningful work for individuals which empowers them and enables them to become economically self-sufficient.
History of Advance Memphis
Advance Memphis is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1999 by Steve Nash to serve the 38126 zip code, which consists of the Cleaborn Pointe and Foote Homes Public Housing Developments in Memphis, TN. This mission of Advance Memphis is “To serve adults in the Cleaborn/Foote community of inner city Memphis by empowering residents to acquire knowledge, resources, and skills to be economically self-sufficient through the gospel of Jesus Christ”. The vision of Advance Memphis is “To see the Cleaborn and Foote neighborhood transformed into a revitalized community through the empowerment of local adults.” The same year Steve created Advance, the 38126 zip code was named the 3rd poorest urban zip code in all of the United States. Some alarming statistics offered on Advance’s “About” page are that 70% of residents are unemployed, 58% of households are without a car, and 47% of residents have less than a high school degree. In the “History” section of the website, it states that “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.” (About Advance Memphis) While Advance recognizes that the neighborhood is plagued by social ills, the organization also recognizes the sacrificial philanthropy already happening in the neighborhood through informal ways that residents support their family of neighbors. This is supported by research on communities of color that suggests that there is a large amount of intra community philanthropy happening that does not always get classified as philanthropy in the mainstream conversations of charity and service (Smith, Shue and Vest).
Advance Memphis began with Nash connecting friends from the neighborhood with job opportunities and developing more relationships in the neighborhood. Eventually, programs began to be added around the theme of economic self-sufficiency and individual and community empowerment. Their main program is “Jobs For Life”, which “is a six-week, soft skills job training program, designed for those who are unemployed or underemployed” (About Advance Memphis). Other programs include a financial literacy class, professional counseling, professional legal aid, substance abuse rehabilitation program, High School Equivalency Preparation Program, Anger Management, an Individual Development Account Program that matches every dollar saved by participants with two dollars, LAUNCH entrepreneurship program, and a Community Steering Committee (About Advance Memphis).
Another programmatic effort launched in October of 2009 was a staffing service. After hearing Steve Nash speak at an event about the programs happening at Advance Memphis, an executive at KTG USA, a tissue manufacturer with a location in Memphis, convinced Nash that he should think about starting a staffing service to better connect graduates with local jobs usually filled by for-profit staffing services. Shortly after, Juanita Johnson was hired by Advance to create the Advance Memphis Staffing Service and Employment Support and oversee this activity because of her experience working in the for-profit staffing service industry in Memphis and the connections she had because her work. Since 2009, two other employees have been hired by Advance that focus on staffing (Johnson).
History of Alternative Staffing Organizations
Extensive research conducted on Alternative Staffing Organizations by The Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston states that these organizations first emerged in the 1970’s, and as the temporary work industry grew tremendously in the 1990’s and federal spending on workforce development was reduced, a large number of nonprofits stepped in as to fill this role of workforce development and job brokering for many individuals transitioning from welfare to work (Holgate, Carre and Levine). Other research adds to the context of this historical period by noting that the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which intended to move individuals from welfare to the work world increased the need for workforce development (Perlmutter, Deckop and Konrad). Another aspect of the PRWORA was that it began to prioritize “work first” approaches over “training first” approaches. The “work first” approach is said to be a more disciplining non-compliance approach and overemphasizes personal deficits of unemployed people (Peck and Theodore). “Work first” activation programs have also been found to further social exclusion of individuals, when they are designed in part to include these individuals in society through the formal labor market (Perkins).
Research has shown that this “work first” approach is also problematic for a specific population that typically faces many social disadvantages and needs intensive individual support, which can help improve retention rates and provide long-term support (Cortis, Bullen and Hamilton). A three year study of workers at Alternative Staffing Organizations that served primarily racial minority workers living in poverty noted that “Poverty itself aggravates the limitations imposed by any barrier on obtaining and holding a job” (Levine, Holgate and Takenaka). A problem with this “work first” approach for those experiencing poverty and many other social ills also arises in the for-profit sector specifically. The need for a positive work environment and intensive individual support doesn’t necessarily fit with most corporate goals focused on the bottom line. It also creates the risk of this population falling into “the category of low value and low uniqueness of human capital” (Perlmutter, Deckop and Konrad).
Human Resources and Best Practices
Advance Memphis strives to show people the innate value that they possess, even when they don’t see it themselves at times. Many residents of this neighborhood that come to Advance have internalized the stigmas attached with the area they live in and have never had meaningful work that empowers them and reinforces their value (Oliver). There is also literature on the stigma around temporary work and the psychological damage it can have on temporary workers (Boyce, Ryan and Imus), which can decrease confidence that individuals need to begin work after long stints of unemployment.
Juanita Johnson, who heads up the staffing service as well as Human Resources for Advance Memphis employees, shares the responsibility with the two other staffing service employees of acting as Human Resource staff for all the employees on the payroll of the staffing service. In an interview with Johnson, she emphasized Advance’s commitment to their employees and their commitment to their growth. (Lepak and Scott A. Snell) discuss human capital theory within human resources and the benefits of developing employees by recognizing their value and uniqueness. Advance does this through developing deep relationships through programs that are prerequisites for being eligible for employment by the staffing service, such as the Jobs For Life class and other programs such as MAPS that emphasize the individuals unique talents and strengths.
Advance’s staffing service staff knowing their employees so well before sending them to work also gives them a leg up in the competition. Companies state that many alternative staffing services are able to solve the problems of entry level hiring by screening employees and customizing their product to what the company needs by also knowing the companies on a level where they know the workplace environment and skills necessary to be a productive worker (Carre, Holgate and Takenaka). For example, if the Advance staff sees that an individual works more productively when they are not interacting with people, they can place them in a job that doesn’t require them to interact with coworkers often.
What (Konrad and Mangel) would refer to as work-life programs, which are “initiatives adopted by organizations to help employees manage the interface between their paid work and other important life activities, including family”, are essential to Advance’s staffing service effort to increase work productivity and retention rates. Advance offers services and programs such as parenting classes, counseling, anger management, and substance abuse groups to address barriers faced in the workplace and outside of the workplace. Johnson also stated in her interview that the personal hours that all Advance staff puts in as a team sets them apart from other staffing services, from frequently calling employees going to work for the first time to encourage them and check up on them, to giving people rides to and from work last minute when the situation arises (Johnson).
Advantages/Disadvantages of Nonprofit Status
The staffing service industry is an industry that achieves financial results through high volume and low margin (Carre, Holgate and Takenaka). Due to Advance’s locality and relatively small number of employees, their commitment to paying above minimum wage (Johnson), and commitment to people and their success over financial gain, the staffing service does not achieve tremendous financial results. Although in the year 2013, the staffing service did produce a profit for the first time that helped subsidize other programs at Advance, currently the staffing service is running at a deficit (Oliver).
Mainstream for profit agencies have to focus on corporate goals, which means that either there is a low incentive to transition their employees to permanent work and transfer them to the businesses payroll instead of keeping them on their own, or they charge the employees a fee for making this transition (Carre, Holgate and Levine). Advance Memphis’ staffing service’s main objective is finding their employees permanent work, which means incentivizing other businesses to transition them to their permanent payroll instead of wanting them on their own for their own profit. Advance and other organizations operating Alternative Staffing Organizations also differ from most for-profit staffing services by not charging a fee when a company wants to directly hire from the staffing service (Carre, Holgate and Levine). These two practices would not be seen by for-profits as effective and efficient strategies, but Advance exhibits their commitment to their employees over their own personal gain as an organization.
Research shows that Alternative Staffing Organizations, such as Advance’s staffing service, incur greater indirect expenditure due to value added support services. As previously mentioned, the population going to work through Alternative Staffing Organizations typically needs more extensive support than a typical for-profit staffing services are able or willing to offer. Due to the fact that Advance serves a specific zip code, they are able to focus more highly on their smaller number of employees and give them the support they need. Though this serves as a financial disadvantage from a profit standpoint, it actually seems to serve as an advantage to Alternative Staffing Organizations because of their ability to focus on individuals and their organizational mission and goals.
Recently there has been a push for operational efficiency as the nonprofit world becomes more competitive and grant money becomes harder to get, putting more pressure on nonprofits to operate more like a business and less like a value driven organization. “Business firms must produce profits and answer to the expectations of shareholders and government must respond to the desires of voters, but nonprofits appear to face neither the test of profitability nor the test of electability. Rather, they face a far more complex test of relevance that is related to their mission.” (Frumkin and Andre-Clark).
The solution to sustainability that is suggested is one that Advance meets very well. The research suggests that a nonprofit “must develop a clear strategy for competing against for-profits, one that capitalizes on the commitments and values that donors, volunteers, and staff bring to their work.” which gives them an edge over for-profit businesses (Frumkin and Andre-Clark). Johnson stated that although some companies do like the idea of contributing to the social goals of Advance Memphis, and the reason that Advance’s staffing service was initially created was because of this draw to the potential social good created, many companies are surprised and pleased with the quality of work that Advance offers through their staffing service and this is what keeps them as customers. This has been a large part of Advance’s customer base growing from one business at the beginning of 2010, to twelve different companies today (Johnson).
Although Advance may not be competitive with larger mainstream staffing services in Memphis in regards to their profit margin, research would suggest that Advance actually possesses an advantage in terms of sustainability and opportunity for success because of their dedication to the values and mission of the organization and their ability to achieve their mission through their work in the staffing service.
Advance Memphis’ staffing service has achieved results that may not seem like much at first glance, but put in the context of the community that Advance serves, there are huge gains happening in the community because of the work that Advance is doing through their staffing service and other programs offered. In the 2013 Annual review, in the staffing service’s third year of operation, 138 graduates went to work, while 52 graduates found permanent work and earned $421,682. Graduates that went to work through Advance’s staffing service earned $885,000. This results in over $1 million dollars that is being earned by residents of one of the poorest and under resourced zip codes in the country (Lareau, 2013 Annual Review). In 2014’s Annual Review, 100 graduates were reported as having started temporary work, while 26 transferred into permanent jobs and 26 more were directly hired into permanent positions. Advance’s commitment to paying above minimum wage was also reflected in the reported average wage of $8.81 (Lareau, What We Did This Year: Outcome, Progress, Change). In Advance’s staffing service’s 5 year history, approximately 1,000 graduates of the program have found work of some form, with approximately 100 transitioning to permanent after starting out in temporary work.
Through Advance Memphis’ staffing service that I find to utilize best practices of Human Resource practices in Alternative Staffing Organizations, I believe that Advance as an organization and the staffing service operated by Advance both successfully address their mission “To serve adults in the Cleaborn/Foote community of inner city Memphis by empowering residents to acquire knowledge, resources, and skills to be economically self-sufficient through the gospel of Jesus Christ” (About Advance Memphis). When asked what their greatest success is as an organization, Chris Oliver responded that “when someone who has been unworked or has low skill levels can obtain a permanent job and provide for their family and take ownership of helping those around them take the same steps”. This has been seen by those at Advance and the empowerment that happens when this takes place is evident (Oliver).
Future Goals and Research Limitations
As far as Advance and the staffing service’s long term goals as an organization, the staffing service hopes to see more graduates in positions where they can gain skilled labor and partnerships or the creation of a program that can train employees in skilled labor (Johnson). As an organization as a whole, they would like to see more job opportunities in the 38126 zip code, such as small businesses started out of Advance’s LAUNCH entrepreneurship class, and more stability with home ownership and employment. They also hope to address larger structural problems now that they have established relationships in the community and can work alongside the neighborhood to address these problems (Oliver).
Limitations to my own research include not enough data to easily access and analyze that would have given be better quantitative knowledge of the staffing service, and also of other for-profit staffing services in Memphis. I think a comparison of retention rates, wages, and work conditions of employees working through staffing services would be valuable to add to this research and better support my findings. Also recidivism rates would be interesting to analyze and research in relation to convicted offenders going to work through Advance’s staffing service, if this data was available.
About Advance Memphis. n.d. <http://advancememphis.org/about/>.
Boyce, Anthony S., et al. “”Temporary Work, Permanent Loser?” A Model of the Stigmatization of Temporary Workers.” Journal of Management (2007): 5-29. Electronic Document.
Carre, Francoise, et al. Brokering Up: The Role of Temporary Staffing in Overcoming Labor Market Barriers. Research Report. Boston: Center for Social Policy Publications, 2009. Electronic Document.
—. Why Use the Services of Alternative Staffing Organizations: Perspectives from Customer Businesses. Research Report. Boston: Center for Social Policy Publications, 2012. Electronic Document.
Cortis, Natasha, Jane Bullen and Myra Hamilton. “Sustaining transitions from welfare to work: the perceptions of employers and employment service providers.” Australian Journal of Social Issues (2013): 363-372. Electronic Document.
Dill, Kathryn. The Best Cities for Temp Jobs in 2015. 1 April 2015. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathryndill/2015/04/01/the-best-cities-for-temp-jobs-in-2015/>.
Frumkin, Peter and Alice Andre-Clark. “When Missions, Markets, and Politics Collide: Value and Strategy in the Nonprofit Human Services.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (2000): 141-163. Electronic Document.
Holgate, Brandynn, et al. Alternative Staffing Organizations and Skills: Linking Temporary Work With Training . Report. Boston: Center For Social Policy, 2012. Electronic Document.
Johnson, Juanita. Advance Memphis Staffing Service Jackson McNeil. 24 April 2015.
Konrad, Alison M. and Robert Mangel. “The Impact of Work-Life Programs on Firm Productivity.” Strategic Management Journal (2000): 1225-1237. Electronic Document.
Lareau, Kate. 2013 Annual Review. End of Year. Memphis: Advance Memphis, 2013. Document.
—. What We Did This Year: Outcome, Progress, Change. 12 December 2014. Website. 20 April 2015.
Lepak, David P. and Scott A. Scott A. Snell. “orgThe Human Resource Architecture: Toward a Theory of Human Capital Allocation and Development.” Academy of Managment Review (1999): 31-48. Electronic Document.
Levine, Helen, et al. The Alternate Staffing Work Experience: Populations, Barries, and Employment Outcomes. Research Report. Boston: Center for Social Policy, 2012. Electronic Document.
Oliver, Chris. Advance Memphis Jackson McNeil. 10 April 2015. Document.
Peck, Jamie and Nikolas Theodore. “‘Work First’: workforce and the regulation of contingent labour markets.” Cambridge Journal of Economics (2000): 119-138. Electronic Document.
Perkins, Daniel. “Activation and social inclusion: challenges and possibilities.” Australian Journal of Social Issues (2010): 267-287. Electronic Document.
Perlmutter, Felice Davidson, et al. “Nonprofits and the Job Retention of Former Welfare Clients.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (2005): 473-490. Electronic Document.
Smith, Bradford, et al. “Philanthropy in Communities of Color.” Ott, J. Steven and Lisa A. Dicke. The Nature of the Nonprofit Sector. Boulder: Westview Press, 2012. 308-317. Book.
Your gifts, prayers, and service are essential to this work. We’ve produced our 2015 Involvement Guide to give you an easy way to see the needs of the ministry and plan the right time to get involved. Use the information and calendars, and let us know your thoughts and questions. It is our great joy to serve alongside each of you, and we look forward to more of that in the coming year.
One thing we continue to strive for here at Advance Memphis is a smoother transition for our Jobs for Life grads as they move into the workplace. We get pretty creative in order to reach that goal, and over the last year, the garden around the corner from our building has been a lab for that creativity. It has helped us build relationships and experiment with crops and small business ideas—and now we’re turning it into a classroom. Our Employment and Education departments teamed up to develop a Garden Work Day: the students take a class day and go do some physical work in our community garden.
I was involved with this process because of my role in our Employment department. My task is to bring in an employer view point, since a lot of the class will start working for me, through the Advance Memphis Staffing Program, after they graduate. During the Garden Work Day, participants helped to dig and amend four 4 x 10 garden beds and planted a cover crop of organic peas, clover, buckwheat, and rye grass. I believe that the Garden Work Day was beneficial in several ways:
After the work day, we came together and discussed how the experience went. We were able to get feedback from the graduates and see what they noticed and to hear their perceptions of their work as individuals, and as a team. They were then able to hear what other staff and I saw and observed. The experience allowed participants to see how employers look at things and perceive them as employees.
The more that we can help our graduates understand how employers think, the easier it will be for them to let go of the “victim” mentality and take more responsibility. Working with graduates and business clients as closely as I have, I have been fortunate to see and understand how both employers and employees feel in a wide variety of workplace situations. I know firsthand that an employee who has no context for understanding how his or her boss is thinking can easily feel that he or she is being picked on. The truth, of course, is that managers have a standard that they are required to meet just like everyone else. Misunderstanding communication about these standards can cause an employees’ excitement and desire to work to diminish—and we need to rid our graduates of that as best as we can. I am grateful for the opportunity to get to join the class in the Garden Work Day and I look forward to doing it again.
Please continue to partner with us and pray for our graduates as they see the importance and dignity that God created in work.
To tell you the story of Marilyn’s Magic Cleaning, I want to first tell you another story. It’s short, I promise. It’s the story of how I complete data forms for grant reports. I don’t do it myself; I’m a words person and God has given me the gift of Ann Brainerd, a numbers person. So together, we pull data for the year covered by any given grant and then summarize that data for our funders so that they can see the way their investment affected this community for the chosen time period.
One of the frustrating parts of this process is knowing that it leaves out some of the very best stories. And here’s an example of why: we’ve known Marilyn Lyles for over ten years. Marilyn is not a “one and done” graduate, she is a friend. She visited us at our first building on Crump, and participated in our very first class: it was a financial literacy course called Financial Freedom. Then she was one of our first participants inJobs for Life. Since then, she’s participated in our Anger Management course, our new Faith & Finances course, and most recently, our LAUNCH program for entrepreneurs (more details about this course are here).
While participating in LAUNCH, Marilyn was able to take her nascent cleaning business and give it structure and legitimacy. She’s got a business plan, a business license, and brand new business cards. She’s marketing herself to businesses and homeowners and (drum roll please) recently got her first business contract and began cleaning for the Memphis
Center for Independent Living on Madison in Midtown. Talking to Marilyn about her work is a joy: it’s clear that, for her, cleaning is not just a job, but a gift. Recently, she lit up as she talked about a home she has cleaned for several months “Over some weeks, I can slowly help to get things more organized – places like laundry rooms – so that it’s easier for the homeowner to keep things neat. That’s one thing I really love.”
Meet Marilyn, everyone. A business owner and Advance grad whose story defies categorization in a single set of annual data. And we love her for that.
This Fall, Advance Memphis will offer a 10 week entrepreneurship course called LAUNCH, based on LAUNCH Chattanooga (http://www.launchchattanooga.org/). Based on the highly successful Co.Starters course (http://costarters.co/), this program helps potential entrepreneurs or existing small-business owners think through their business idea, garner customer input and feedback, and get ready to launch. In addition to aspiring entrepreneurs, the class will include a number of mentors with relevant experience and a commitment to help the participants move from the course into the start-up phase.
The vast majority of spots in the class will be filled by residents of the 38126 zip code, but a few spots are being offered to Memphians outside the neighborhood who believe that their business idea would contribute to economic development in South Memphis by either providing a needed service/product, creating jobs for residents, or both.
Graduates of this class will potentially receive ongoing support from Advance in raising capital, connecting with mentors, finding employees from the community (if relevant) and marketing through the ministry’s connections. Applications for these spots will be judged based on:
Randy Smith graduated from Jobs for Life about two years ago – a favorite among his classmates and staff, he always had kind words and helping hands. Addiction crept in, though, and eventually took over. We missed seeing Randy at Advance, and prayed for his recovery. Below is an excerpt from a recent Memphis Union Mission newsletter that shares the way God used the body of Christ to intervene in Randy’s life. We praise God for the Mission’s work in our city, and for Randy’s continued recovery. Randy is now working at Spa Parts Plus and recently opened an Individual Development Account (matched savings) at Advance Memphis to save for a home. Please pray for Randy’s continued health and that he’ll succeed in meeting his professional and personal goals.
From Memphis Union Mission:
Randy’s alcoholism not only brought an end to an 18-year relationship, it left him homeless! “When I was drinking, I was a monster. I was verbally abusive, and it came to where I could have been physical. That frightened her. I realized then that words can hurt just as much as fists.” It was only then that Randy realized he desperately needed help and came to the Mission. “When I first came in, I tried to pray but I couldn’t. At first, all I could say was ‘Jesus, Jesus.’ Later I would just pray, ‘Help me.’ I didn’t know what to say, I was so broken.” It took three months in our program at Calvary Colony for Randy to begin to change. “The devotionals really helped me a lot… and having time to be alone with the Lord.” During his time in the program Randy’s relationship with God and understanding of God has grown, and he now wants to minister to others. Randy not only graduated from our recovery program, but he’s been baptized! “I’m thanking God for what He’s doing in my life. I realize that I was drinking because of unresolved things in my life. I didn’t realize until being at the colony that I had been holding on to a lot of things. I drank because I felt like a failure. I was a prisoner in my own mind, and the Lord set me free from that. I want to thank God for the Mission, all of it. I pray that other men will reach out and take advantage of it. It’s truly a life-saver.”