Success Stories


Leaf Raking and the Kingdom

If you’re keeping up with any of the posts over at Release Your RaiseDONALD AT WORK, you know that Advance Memphis and our friends are giving a lot of thought to ways that any of us can get involved with a vision for a Kingdom economy. Ideas for this involvement range from the sacrificial (giving up your raise?!) to the simple (consider who you hire for tasks around your house). The impact of either can be huge.

Meet Virginia, a twenty something MTR grad and teacher at The Soulsville Charter School. Virginia takes lots of steps to live her life in the Kingdom, but she’s also just a normal working woman with lots of leaves in her yard at this time of the year. So she has lots of choices to consider, right? Rake ‘em yourself. Google “lawn services Memphis.” Ask friends who they use for such services. But Virginia, as an Advance volunteer, knew of our LAUNCH program for entrepreneurs and checked with us to see if we knew anyone could help her with her lawn.

Meet Donald, a Jobs for Life and LAUNCH grad with a lawn care business. (You can read more about him over at Release Your Raise.) He took Virginia’s call and arranged a time to assess her lawn. He impressed her with his attention to detail and with the way he set up a time to come back and promised to call when he began work (since she would still be at school.) He then came back and did a great job, getting her lawn in great shape and taking care of the leaf situation. Donald has definitely won himself a new customer. That’s it, folks. Just the smallest decisions can result in new relationships, new business, and a bigger, brighter Kingdom.


Staffing Team Saves the Weekend!

Donald Evans, at right, pictured with Mike Shaw, GED/HSE Instructor

Donald Evans, at right, pictured with Mike Shaw, GED/HSE Instructor

Last weekend, a few of our Advance Memphis Staffing Program employees made us proud and grateful as they went above and beyond to solve a problem and get their work done with excellence and integrity.

On a Friday evening, Donald Evans, team lead (pictured at left), and 3 of his team members (Damien Clayborn, Chevi Murphy, and Glander Mickens) showed up to work. They were on a line that normally requires 8 workers, but the rest of the team didn’t show. Normally, this would mean weekend and late night phone calls to our Employment Staffing team, but in this case, there was no call. Instead, Don led this team to do the work of 8 with a team of 4. And they didn’t just do this Friday night — they continued it for Saturday and Sunday nights as well. Our staff didn’t even know of the problem until Don came in on Monday morning to deliver the time sheets.

When Juanita Johnson, Employment Support and HR Manager, realized what had happened over the weekend, she let Don know that he could have called — but she also let him know that this was an amazing example of going above and beyond and adding value in the workplace. We applaud the work that these folks did, as well as the character and excellence that went into that work.


Full-Time Employment: A Reason to Celebrate!

full timeAs we continue to intentionally stop, recognize, and be grateful for the numerous ways God blesses us daily, we want to celebrate with and be thankful for four of our Jobs for Life grads who are now officially employed as full-time KM employees: Algeaner Gill (left), Phyllis McCrary (center), Marcus Bell (right), and Mario Christle! We are encouraged by their continued perseverance to work through obstacles, move forward with their employment goals, and contribute to the restoration of this city. We are giving thanks to the Lord for His grace and mercy and for the mighty ways He is answering prayers!



LAUNCH: Marilyn’s Magic Cleaning

Marilyn, a LAUNCH grad, has developed her existing cleaning business. Other grads have launched t-shirt printing and DJ services, as well as a business selling hand made children's tutus.

Marilyn, a LAUNCH grad, has developed her existing cleaning business. Other grads have launched t-shirt printing and DJ services, as well as a business selling hand made children’s tutus.

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.

Marilyn stopped by the office to share her excitement when she got a new client.

Marilyn stopped by the office to share her excitement when she got a new client.

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.


A Story from Memphis Union Mission

Randy Smith opened an IDA (matched savings account) to save for a home.

Randy Smith opened an IDA (matched savings account) to save for a home.

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:

Memphis Union Mission

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.”


Thelma is Saving for a HOUSE!

Thelma Polk graduated from Jobs for Life in October and recently graduated from Faith & Finance. Somewhere between graduations, she also got a job—at Advance Memphis! She’s working as a part time receptionist and has quickly become an important part of our team.

After completing Faith & Finance, Thelma was ready to open an Individual Development Account. We’ll match her savings 2:1 as she saves for an asset. In her case, she plans to purchase a home. Stay tuned!