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University-Nonprofit Collaboration Provides Grants to Help Solve Neighborhood Problems 
For release: May 12, 2008
For press information, contact Susan Schmidt, 901-678-4395

Resolving problems such as safety, housing, health, transportation, education, and economic development in many Memphis neighborhoods is getting a triple focus thanks to a collaborative effort between the University of Memphis and two nonprofit agencies.

A new approach by the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, United Way of the Mid-South, and the U of M aims to attack and fix many of these problems. The goal is to bring students, faculty, neighborhood leaders, and non-profits together for the good of neighborhoods.

Five groups will receive the first grants, totaling $76,980, from the Strengthening Communities Initiative. Each project team will include one full-time University of Memphis faculty member.

Jacob’s Ladder will receive $18,000 for an oral history project with Beltline neighborhood residents to preserve and honor their past. Neighborhood young people will assist, working with digital and communications media. The project also will ensure that community residents have a voice in the Fairgrounds redevelopment process. Keri V. Brondo, U of M assistant professor of anthropology, will work with the group.

BRIDGES Inc. will receive $18,000 for the Middle School Math & Science Program in the Uptown neighborhood. The project involves the creation of a middle school curriculum and a series of field trips that teach environmentally sound building design. Michael D. Hagge, U of M associate professor of architecture, will work with them.

University Neighborhood Development Corporation received $17,980 for a public art project that will include community residents and young people in the design and implementation in a series of art projects throughout the neighborhood. Art workshops will help the neighborhood choose and create the art for public spaces. Cedar Nordbye, U of M assistant professor of art and foundation studies, will help coordinate the project.

The Pigeon Roost Neighborhood Association received $16,600 to conduct a study in the Rozelle-Annesdale area to gain a better understanding of how residents perceive the neighborhood and how they use its resources. The study will lead to a development plan and policy changes to increase pedestrian traffic in the area. Stephanie S. Ivey, U of M assistant professor of civil engineering, will work with the group.

The Frayser Community Development Corporation received $6,400 for a study of problem property in the Frayser-Rugby neighborhood. The grant will support student workers in a comprehensive study of foreclosed or abandoned properties. The study results will form the basis for a plan to reduce the number of problem properties as well as solutions that deal with the ones that exist. Gene Pearson, director of city and regional planning, will coordinate the efforts.

Projects will begin May 19 and must be completed within 18 months. The Community Foundation and United Way each awarded $40,000 for the grants. The University contributed $25,000. Funds remaining after the first grants are awarded will be held for smaller neighborhood projects.

“We are very pleased to be a part of this important initiative,” said Robert M. Fockler, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. “Neighborhood organizations need more than money to help them fix problems. This collaboration puts faculty and students in the loop to assess where and how the grant dollars can do the most good.”

“Our students will become the leaders in the non-profit community and in our neighborhoods,” said Stan Hyland, head of the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Memphis. “Bringing in students and faculty members from across the campus allows us to become a university that is more engaged in our communities.”

Hyland said he envisions community-university engagement leading to a role as urban developer for the University. “Recent literature has supported the idea that there can be – should be – a national movement toward proactive community engagement for universities across the country,” he said.

Regina Walker, senior vice president of community impact for the United Way of the Mid-South, said, “The big take-away for the community is that they will see the University of Memphis as a resource.” 

The Urban Serving University Consortium, of which the U of M is a member, is leading a legislative initiative that focuses on strengthening communities, health disparities, and urban education. The University of Memphis is the only university in Tennessee to be recognized as a member. 

The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis is a $300 million public foundation that works with individuals, families, and organizations to make the best use of charitable resources. Founded in 1969, the foundation manages 1,000 charitable funds.  Last year, it awarded $36 million in grants.

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