South Memphis got a significant financial boost last week when “The Works” sponsored its first ever “SoMe Nights (South Memphis Nights).”
Set on the scenic grounds of downtown’s Metal Museum, the uniquely designed event was staged outside last Thursday evening, with tablecloth-draped tables and “Bubbles & Bourbon” bar stations.
The Mississippi River at dusk was the dramatic backdrop for an evening of meeting up with old friends and making lots of new acquaintances. Alex Turley, better known as “Capital A,” a popular Memphis DJ, kept the vibe smooth with 1970s soul, sprinkled with throwback R&B selections.
“This is our very first fundraising event,” said Roshun Austin, president of The Works, a non-profit organization committed to South Memphis. “Of course, additional funds are always helpful, but we just wanted to host an event to celebrate our past success and ongoing efforts, as well as to have a great party for our sponsors to enjoy. It is a great opportunity to appreciate our sponsors.”
Paintings, a fully autographed Grizzlies basketball, and a number of other valuables were sold off in a silent auction. Representatives from long-time sponsors of The Works mingled with staff, volunteers, and an expansive network of community supporters.
The Works was established in 1998 as a housing and community development resource entity serving the South Memphis community. According to the entity’s website, The Works was founded “to rebuild, restore and renew our community’s families, and the environments in which they live through housing, economic development, and social services.”
Funds raised on the SoMe Nights affair will benefit SoMe RAP, the South Memphis Revitalization Action Plan, a comprehensive plan to improve the quality of life for residents in that community.
“We are working to transform South Memphis into a model, urban space comprised of affordable housing and a wholesome, healthy environment for children and families,” said Austin. “New and innovative entrepreneurship, along with job training will ensure progressive economic development. That will improve the quality of life in South Memphis, and that is what we want to see.”
Katherine Lambert-Pennington, director of the School of Public Policy at the University of Memphis, spoke about the school’s work with SoMe RAP.
“We helped with some of the planning — the bike lanes that have been created all over South Memphis,” she said. “We are also involved with the South Memphis Farmers Market. It’s that store on the corner of Mississippi Boulevard and South Parkway East, right across the street from St. Andrew CME Church. Our efforts with seniors and aging have just expanded. We deal with every facet of life for them, including, safety, health and wellness, nutrition and exercise, finances, and end-of-life planning.”
Lambert-Pennington, who is also an associate professor of anthropology, said that partnering with The Works is so rewarding because everything is evidence-based.
“Planning is done according to what research studies show,” she said. “Outreach efforts are designed to solve problems and address issues according to what is shown to work. And that’s all they deal with – solutions that are proven to work. They are all evidence-based. These efforts are therefore more impactful for those living in our target community.”
Today, SoMe RAP operates annually on a $6 million budget. It is supported by the South Memphis Renaissance Collaborative (SMRC), a joint venture of The Works Inc., St. Andrew AME Church, the University of Memphis, The Hyde Family Foundations, Self+Tucker Architects, and the Memphis Regional Design Center. Additional partners include: Pinnacle Bank, Belz Enterprises, Genesis Contractors, TechnoLogyx, Inc., ComCap Partners, and the Castle Retail Group (operates five Cash Saver Stores).
“Yes, this is our inaugural fundraiser, but we want planned for it to be so much more,” said Tanja Mitchell, director of Community Engagement. “We wanted the gathering to be fun and enjoyable for our partners, our sponsors, and our volunteers. Fundraising is our primary goal, but we want this to be an evening to remember. Mission accomplished.”