On Thursday (April 18), four Memphis nonprofits will be uplifted themselves with the first Uplift the Community grants.

Building Blocks Mentoring Program; Principles of Manhood; Safeways Direct Blight Action Program; and Strong Tower, Staying Power will be presented with their Uplift the Community grants at 11 a.m. at the Memphis Branch NAACP headquarters, 588 Vance Ave.

“I couldn’t believe we won,” said Carol Jackson with Principles of Manhood. “I must have jumped up and down 20 times, and I told my husband, ‘You will be going,’ not ‘Will you go?’ I wanted him to know that he was definitely going to be at that news conference.”
Jackson explained that Principles of Manhood is a program under the larger organization, Families Matter.

“Principles of Manhood is a part of our Fatherhood Initiatives,” said Jackson. “They are taught in schools on every level, from elementary to high school. I have 16 men. All of them are African-American except one.

“I think it’s important for our boys to see black men being mentors and guides. They teach them things boys normally learn from their fathers and grandfathers. Most are from single parent homes, and there is no father in the household.”

The funds are provided through a new grant program announced in January by the Memphis Branch NAACP, Kroger Stores-Delta Division and The New Tri-State Defender. The grants are designed to help Memphis communities be strengthened and improved by the efforts of nonprofit organizations.

Vickie Terry, executive director of the Memphis NAACP, said the Uplift the Community Grants concentrated on three particular areas: improving the community, decreasing blight and decreasing crime.

“Those who receive the grants must come back to us in six months and tell us how receiving the grant impacted their efforts,” said Terry.

Terry amplified on the “improve the community” aspect.

“One of our grant awardees is teaching boys and teens how to be men – respectable and honorable men. Their program teaches the skills and qualities involved in becoming men of integrity. That particular organization grant improves the community as a whole. Programs and efforts which improve the quality of life for community residents will improve the community.”

Teresa Dickerson, community affairs manager for Kroger Delta Division, wanted to partner with the NAACP and The New Tri-State Defender as an ongoing effort to always be a good corporate citizen.

“This is the first year for the Uplift the Community grant awards, and we hope to provide fund support in this effort for many years to come. This is a really big deal,” said Dickerson. “These grants empower nonprofits to uplift our community.”
Dickerson said all of the programs being awarded are very much in line with Kroger Delta’s role in the larger community.

“We feed the human spirit,” she said. “We want to see our community, our associates and our customers thrive, and we feel that these grant dollars will be well spent.”

Stephon Smallwood, facilitator of Building Blocks Mentoring Program, works primarily with boys on the high school level, particularly with Project STAND, an organization touting resources and tools of awareness for domestic violence survivors.

Smallwood works with at-risk males at White Station and George Washington Carver high schools.

“We are involved in a number of community outreach efforts. We work in the schools to improve academic performance, address behavioral problems and to provide overall support for our boys who are growing into young men. We provide scholarships and we give out rewards each year to encourage students who have accomplished some milestone.

This grant will help us greatly in expanding our services to all students, both girls and boys,” said Smallwood.

Janine Heiner Buchanan, director of Safeways Direct Blight and Action Program, started her nonprofit against blight in 2013.

“Through an effort of the University of Memphis criminal justice and sociology departments, along with the Shelby County District Attorney’s office, we devised that apartment complexes were a laboratory for crime. We wanted to be involved in crafting an environment where crime doesn’t often occur.

“There are two properties in Frayser that we’re working with. They are surrounded by blight along an isolated street that separates them. This grant will help boost the efforts of Lifeline, an organization that comes through and cleans up that street. It makes such a difference when a child doesn’t have to be fearful that a crime can happen any minute. We clean up graffiti, even if it comes back. We want to improve the environment in these communities.”

Cynthia Banks of Strong Tower, Staying Power explained that this entity is a part of East Trigg Baptist Church’s effort to help make their community safer.

“We were so excited to be receiving an Uplift the Community grant,” said Banks. “This will enable East Trigg to add another layer of security for the residents in our community by adding three skycams in the area. It’s important that our church and people in their homes feel safer and experience some degree of protection from the crime that often plagues our community.

“We are located at the corner of Bellevue and South Parkway East. Our pastor, Rev. Julius Bailey, is a law enforcement officer and very conscientious about helping our community feel safer. This grant for those three skycams will help us so much in this effort.”

Karanja A. Ajanaku, associate publisher/executive editor of The New Tri-State Defender, said reviewing the grant applications was humbling and stimulating.

“While the need is great in various pockets of Memphis, scores of individuals and groups are stepping up and many of them have been doing so for many years,” Ajanaku said. “The Uplift the Community grant program is designed to foster even greater works. It’s the first year and there is plenty of room for those who want to contribute to growing the grant pool.”