In our Community

At Gaskill Strategies, we value all things community.  We work with organizations that are community-minded and that want to make our city a better place.  Here, we'd like to focus on the people, places and things that are improving and inspiring our world.

Do you have great news to share? Please email us.

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Move over millenials - GenX is far from finished!

Millenials play an important role in so much of the good stuff taking place in our city and our country and our world right now. But MAYBE - after reading ANOTHER study or statistic about millenials - you find yourself  wondering where GenX and even Baby Boomers fit in to all this.

The short answer is WE'RE NOT DEAD YET!

Check out this post from the Nonprofit with Balls blog and you'll be reminded that GenX and yes, even Boomers, are still living, leading and giving in big ways in our society. 

If you've never read anything by blogger Vu Le, start now. (Also, there's a rant about double-spacing after periods that John loves almost as much as arguing about the Oxford comma. So there's that.)

Posted by John Gaskill at Monday, February 22, 2016 | 0 comments

Give good this holiday season

In 2015, Gaskill Strategies celebrated 11 years of working with nonprofits and community groups to inspire growth, giving and doing in Memphis and the Mid-South.

We are inspired every day by these incredible organizations and the people they serve. Here's a list of 12 ways you can give and help make Memphis better. Give good this holiday season by making a donation to one of these great causes in honor of a loved one, co-worker, teacher or friend. 

Looking for more ways to give? Get additional giving inspiration at Where to Give Mid-South. Your generosity truly does make Memphis better. 

From all of us at Gaskill Strategies, may you be blessed with love and goodness this holiday season.

Here's the list:

Ballet Memphis
Ballet Memphis dancers rely on their shoes to help them deliver the athletic and artistic performances you love. Those beautiful pointe shoes are strong enough to support the highest leaps and quickest turns, yet they are so fragile, some last only a few days! Ballet Memphis dancers will wear through 250 pairs of pointe shoes this season and each pair costs $100. Help us to keep our dancers on their toes by making your gift today!

The 2015 BRIDGES holiday card is a great way to simplify your gift-giving and support the BRIDGES mission at the same time. This year's card features one-of-a kind artwork by Bridge Builder Margie Peeler, a junior at St. Mary's Episcopal School.

Girls Inc. of Memphis
Honor the strong, smart and bold girl in your life with a gift to Girls Inc. of Memphis. A minimum gift of $17.81 will provide a week of effective, pro-girl programming for a Girls Inc. girl. By honoring your girl, you help other girls in the Memphis area grow. The girl you honor will receive a personalized card letting them know that you have donated to Girls Inc. on their behalf. 

GiVE 365
GiVE 365, the dollar-a-day giving circle at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, lets members pool their money and make a positive, collective impact on our community through grants to nonprofits.

Jubilee Catholic Schools Network
The Jubilee Catholic Schools Network has more students than ever, more school days than ever and more need than ever. Our students come from some of Memphis’ most economically challenged neighborhoods and, because of donors like you, are able to access a high-quality education rooted in Catholic tradition. Please consider making a donation today so we can continue to provide our students with the need-based scholarships they deserve to ensure they receive an academically rigorous, Christ-centered education. 

Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South
Schools serving economically disadvantaged students are often unable to participate in our JA BizTown Program. These students generally have the greatest need for this program. We are therefore seeking sponsors to help ensure every 5th grade student is able to participate.  Your contribution of only $30 will allow one student to participate (average student class is 80 students). Please help us sponsor a full Shelby County Schools class to attend JA BizTown.

Memphis Child Advocacy Center
Your gift to the Memphis Child Advocacy Center helps kids like Keira. She was 9 years old when her step-father starting sexually abusing her. You can  imagine the shame she felt after her step-father—her abuser—told her that the abuse was her fault. Your support of the Memphis Child Advocacy Center is the solution to the cruelty Keira experienced. The Memphis CAC advocates, therapists and forensic interviewers work side by side with a team of investigators and prosecutors to maximize the best possible outcome for victimized children. At the Memphis CAC, Keira was helped to a place of safety and healing. Thanks to generous people like you, that dark cloud of shame was lifted away, allowing her the freedom to laugh, to play, and to be a kid again.

Methodist Healthcare Foundation
Share the Care for a family whose loved one is in hospice. Every day, families from all walks of life turn to Methodist for care and compassion during a loved one’s final days. Your donation goes directly to help ensure that all families have access to the highest level of skilled and compassionate care and services at the Hospice Residence and Hospice home care. 

Mid-South Food Bank
Your gifts to Mid-South Food Bank provide holiday meals for children, families and seniors struggling with food insecurity and hunger. Kids out of school for the holidays is a happy time, but for many parents, it can also be difficult because the kids are not eating at school. We can make your dollars go so much farther.  A donation of $30 will give a family nearly 100 meals. 

Many of our Shelby County neighbors struggle to make ends meet or face unexpected crises that leave them without a safety net. MIFA programs fill in the gaps for those seniors and families whose independence is threatened by hunger, homelessness, isolation, or loss of transportation. Your gift of $50 covers a week’s worth of Meals on Wheels for a homebound senior. On average, $250 in utility assistance helps a family stay in their home or keep the lights on. No one deserves to worry about providing basic needs to their families during the holidays. A gift to MIFA could make all of the difference to your fellow Memphians this season.

New Memphis Institute
The Memphis of today looks very different from the landscape of ten years ago because of people—like you—standing up and doing their part to build a better city. New Memphis is proud to be at the front of that effort, fostering local talent, amplifying positive news, welcoming city newcomers, and creating passionate and connected Memphians. If you're committed to fueling progress in the city you call home, become a New Memphis donor. Your gift of any size makes a difference. 

Playback Memphis
Playback Memphis bring stories to life to unlock healing, transformation and joy. Through our Performing the Peace program, we bring together Memphis Police officers and formerly incarcerated individuals with the goal of building trust, respect and understanding using the Playback process. One Performing the Peace participant costs $850. With your contribution, more Memphians can experience the healing, transformation and joy of Playback.

Posted by John Gaskill at Tuesday, December 22, 2015 | 0 comments

Overton Square Dances Into Its ‘Heart Of The Arts’ Vision

It is hard to think of a better fulfillment of the “Heart of the Arts” vision for Overton Square than the addition of Ballet Memphis’ new headquarters on the site of the decrepit French Quarter Inn at 2144 Madison Avenue.

No other use at that location promises to increase the vibrancy of the burgeoning neighborhood as much.  Its 30,000 square foot headquarters including five studios filled with dancers facing Madison Avenue and with an architectural presence at a key corner speaks unmistakably to the area’s performing arts persona.

But as important as the new building is to Overton Square, it’s equally important to Ballet Memphis.  When we talk here about our most special assets, the list always includes FedEx, AutoZone, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Memphis Grizzlies, but only rarely, Ballet Memphis is on the list.  But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deserve to be.

Simply put, the ballet company is a Memphis gem, and its founder and unrelenting creative force, Dorothy Gunther Pugh, is the kind of talent that much larger cities would kill for.  Beginning a company with only two dancers in a region known for its soft support for the cultural arts, she set an unmatched level of artistic excellence with a company that today employs 28 dancers.

Read more at Smart City Memphis

Posted by Linden Wilson at Monday, July 6, 2015 | 0 comments

Girls Inc. farm in Memphis offers mix of jobs, skills

A week ago, Mattie Reese, 17, was afraid of ladybugs, and frankly, not all that crazy about the outdoors.

Tuesday, as morning temperatures edged up to 90, she was building her first Florida Weave, a simple lattice to hold up a summer’s worth of production already in flower or fruit at the Girls Inc. Youth Farm off Dellwood in Frayser.

“The ladybugs we put out last week are still over there on the plants,” Reese said, as the faintest of June breezes floated over the humidity. “Everything ties in with everything. I am here helping the plants; they are helping me. We are helping the bugs; the bugs are helping the plants.”

Saturday, Reese and the five other teenage girls working the 9.5-acre farm will be at the Memphis Farmers Market — next to the coffee booth at the front — selling their organic salad greens and possibly the broccoli and peppers coming in with the summer heat.

But those decisions will be up to them.

“Instead of getting a checklist of what we need to take to the market, they are using this walk to see what everything looks like and figure out when you know if it’s ready,” said Girls Inc. staffer Karen Strachan, as girls in straw hats and T-shirts that say “I am strong. I am smart. I am bold and I run this business” walked the rows with farm manager Miles Tamboli.

“We’re giving them guidance and support and providing the mentoring opportunity, but they, in many ways, are deciding the direction we go each week,” she said.

The idea is teach organic farming, entrepreneurship and small business skills to the hand-picked six, and over five years, scale the program to 20 girls. By that time, Tamboli, 26, expects the farm will be 80 percent self-sustaining through its market and restaurant sales.

“The girls will be building up our market. It is a lot of responsibility, but really we are putting the tools in their hands and letting them figure it out. They are definitely smart enough,” he said.

Girls Inc. is hoping to buck some historical trends in Memphis, where female business owners account for 32 percent of the businesses but generate just over 2 percent of sales.

“We’re behind in Memphis,” said Tamboli, who as a public health major at Tulane University, interned at a then-New Orleans startup called Grow Dat Youth Farm.

“I totally stole their idea,” he says, smiling.

Girls Inc. pays $7.25 an hour for 34 hours of work a week, including afternoon classes in entrepreneurship. The work day starts at 8 a.m. with yoga stretches on a plastic mat. When school starts, the work will shift to Saturdays.

“I am so proud and excited about it,” said president and CEO Lisa Moore. “Frayser has embraced it. Not a day goes by where somebody doesn’t pull over and ask, ‘What is going on here?’ They are happy that something positive is happening on that corner.”

In 2003, the Assisi Foundation donated the land to Girls Inc. for a future headquarters.

“It’s so funny,” Moore said, “because in the drawings of the site, the garden is just a tiny postage stamp.”

Girls Inc. raised $3,000 to $5,000 through IOBY (In Our Back Yard), a crowdsourcing venture with offices on South Main. It also has grant applications out that could produce another $60,000. An anonymous donor is matching gifts up to $115,000. But the nonprofit is focused on produce sales. Last week’s market — the girls’ first — brought in $160.

“Everybody was fully engaged for the whole time. We started at 7 a.m.,” Tamboli said. “I know some of the girls have got to be shy, but none of them act like they are shy. They are on a mission. They very much understand that they are responsible for bringing in the money that funds their paycheck.”

Still, the work is difficult. The grass around the farm is thick with ticks. The bathroom is a one-stall portable. Water for drinking and everything else comes from a spigot near an empty shipping container that is storage shed and rain shelter.

“What do we plant to cover the ground (and protect against erosion),” Tamboli asked the girls.

It was quiet except for the birds until one girl remembered the clover she had seen on the morning walk and the bees it attracted.

“We aren’t going to eat the clover, so why plant it,” Tamboli asked.

“Because it attracts the good bugs that eat the bad bugs, and it also attracts bees,” came a quiet voice from the back.

Originally published in the June 11, 2015 Commercial Appeal.

Posted by Linden Wilson at Monday, June 15, 2015 | 0 comments