Category Archives: Memphis

AWESOME PROJECT: Soccer pub spearheads local school’s first girls’ team

This is a good year for Sheffield High, in Memphis – the school is building its very first girls’ soccer team. And about time! Memphis has a robust soccer community, with rec leagues up the wazoo for all ages, and the best soccer pub in the state of Tennessee situated right in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of the city. But while Sheffield has had a boy’s team, there never seemed to be the resources for a girls’ team. Sound unfair?

“It’s just a lack of funding,” explains Jamie Naylor, co-owner with her husband of Celtic Crossing Irish Pub and Restaurant, a  haven for Memphis soccer fans. She is spearheading an ioby campaign to cover startup costs for the team – team fees, equipment, coaching and training, and field improvements. “There’s such an imbalance. From what I understand, every sport gets a certain amount of money, and some sports get more money. There’s still such a focus on football and basketball, at least here in Memphis.”


[Celtic Crossing]


Find your natural allies

One of the super cool lessons to learn from this campaign has to do with how the person with the lightbulb idea found the right person to bring it to life. It was a Teach For America Fellow at Sheffield, actually, who initially realized that the school should have a girls’ soccer team; she did her homework, discovered that Celtic Crossing was the epicenter of the soccer community, and – though neither of Naylor’s two young children are students at Sheffield – reached out to Naylor for help.

Naylor jumped on board, bringing the idea to her over-35 women’s league, and immediately brainstorming with the larger community. Soon, her women’s league was hosting equipment drives and dropping in on Sheffield High soccer practice sessions. At the pub, she’s been asking her regulars to contribute, and they’ve been saying yes.


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[The Sheffield girls’ team practicing]


“My father got married when I was young,” Naylor explains of her early start in the sport, “and I went from being an only child – you know, father-daughter – to having three stepbrothers. So it was kind of like ‘you play sports with your brothers or you don’t have anyone to play with.’ But I was probably the most athletic, so it stuck with me.” From an early age, she took the initiative when it came to soccer. “I remember kind of wanting to play and there was a group of girls that were practicing on a soccer field near where we lived,” Naylor explains, “and I ran out to the coach and said ‘hey, can I play?’ And that’s kind of how I went from just your traditional YMCA rec league to playing in the more competitive church league, and then the more competitive club leagues.” It’s exactly the go-get-it approach she’s been taking to the Sheffield campaign.


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[These soccer fans are helping support the Sheffield girls’ love of the game]


The value of having a local business on board

Think you know die-hard sports fans? Try this on for size: it’s not unusual to see 20 soccer fans gathered in Celtic Crossing at 7am, watching a night game being played overseas. “We’re actually kind of known for our love of soccer,” Naylor says of Celtic, which her husband opened eleven years ago. It’s where they met, over fan-banter and beers. “We open up early for the English premiere League games. We consider ourselves not just the soccer bar of our neighborhood, but also the soccer bar of Tennessee. We definitely pride ourselves on being a soccer bar. I was laughing at my husband this weekend, because he’s already thinking about the World Cup. He’s like ‘ok, when are the games? The World Cup is gonna be in Russia, so if it’s a 7pm game in Russia then…’ and I’m like ‘that’s two years from now!’”

Because Naylor and her husband have built such a loyal, trusting, and passionately soccer-oriented client base, they’re in the perfect position to help raise money for Sheffield’s team. “We being husband and wife owning the bar, when you come to Celtic, it’s a very kind of neighborhood family environment. My husband and I have two children – a nine month old and an almost four year old. All of our regular customers are seeing them grow up. So they know that we’re passionate about soccer, we’re passionate about Memphis, about our neighborhood, and that we do a lot for the community, and so we wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important to us. It seems like working hard on our business pays off when we can do stuff like this.”


Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Want more Memphis? Read about how this Memphis high school started from zero and raised over $20,000 to landscape its rundown lot.


Starting something: Making change at a historic Memphis high school

Something happens, we’ve noticed, when people like us and like you – neighbors, teachers, parents, local businesses, religious institutions, local nonprofits – decide to invest time, energy, and money in our own neighborhoods. When we team up to tackle a particular problem in the community, when we roll up our sleeves and just get started, what often happens is that local authorities suddenly want to help. They want to help, even though the project previously hadn’t been on their radar. They want to help, even though they may actually have said “no” to this project last year, believing it to be not a top priority, or not doable.

It’s a little bit like magic, and we see it happen time and time again. Central High School, a predominantly African American school in urban core Midtown Memphis, is a great example. Parent Katy Leopard and her collaborators wanted the front of the school to reflect its hard-won academic excellence, and they set to work. Here’s what happened.


Central High School in 1909

[Central High School in 1909]

What’s in a facade?

“Central High School is kind of a landmark in Memphis,” explains Leopard, “but as the public schools in our urban core have been abandoned, it has stayed a really excellent school. It continues to put out really great students that go to really great colleges and get scholarships and do really well – but by the skin of its teeth.” In other words, all of the school’s money goes straight into education, with little left over for “extras” like landscaping, fresh paint, new windows.

“There was no plan by Shelby County Schools to spruce up the front of Central High School,” Leopard says. “It wasn’t on their radar. And I totally understand. It is not the most important thing by any stretch. But this particular school in the neighborhood of midtown Memphis, there are a lot of people in these historic neighborhoods that choose to send their kids to private schools or to public schools in the county instead, because there’s this perception that the inner city schools are not as good or not acceptable. So it does matter if you park in front of the school and walk up. The front needs to look like a welcoming place. It looked like a penitentiary.”


Seeing with the eyes of a visitor

The moment Leopard really knew she wanted to do something about the appearance of Central High was the moment her son, Brady, got the lead role in the school play. Thrilled and proud, she invited all kinds of family and friends to come see the play. Then she stopped to consider how the school would look to them when they actually walked up to it. It was a rude awakening.

“I don’t know if you’re like me,” says Leopard, “but when I invite people into my house is when I think: oh my god, I’ve gotta paint this, I’ve gotta do this, I’ve gotta do that. You see your home through new eyes. And I felt that way about the school.”

So she approached the school and got the green light to set up a modest $3,000 ioby campaign. The money would establish a couple small little gardens on the historic school’s grounds: a native pollinator garden that would attract butterflies and require little watering, a small arboretum with plaques listing the names of the different trees. It would be a start, at least. But when it took just 24 for that money to stream in, she and her team decided to keep going – reaching out to alums, parents, local business leaders. Before long, they’d raised over $10,000. There was real energy behind this thing.

Next thing they knew, authorities from Shelby County School District were offering to match that sum: an investment of $10,000. It was huge, both financially, and in terms of morale. “This is how this kind of thing works,” explains Leopard, “where when somebody sees ‘oh, there’s this groundswell of support with these active alums and active parents over there at Central High,’ then people want to invest in that success and momentum.”

So far, that investment from the District has already funded the expensive removal of two huge diseased trees whose big shadows had been killing the grass, a game-changing fresh coat of paint for front of the school, and more. Landscaping will begin soon. “It was so great that it all started with this little ioby project,” says Leopard, “and it just shows how things like this can bring communities together around a good cause.”


Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Sick of storing dozens of dusty old tools in your garage or basement? Wish there were a place you could go to borrow ladders, power drills, a lawnmower? Want advice from your neighbors about your latest home improvement project? Tool Libraries are back in vogue – here’s how Saint Paul, MN, is going about starting their own.







Learn from a Leader: Help peds walk safely with crosswalk flags!

Many factors contribute to our health, including genetic predispositions, access to quality medical treatment, and even the amount of sleep we get.

But have you ever thought about how your neighborhood affects your health?

“Social determinants of health” is the term for every external condition in which we are born, grow, work, and age. These include our relationships with family and friends, our employment opportunities, our socioeconomic status, and—of particular interest to ioby—our neighborhood amenities, like public transit, affordable fresh food, exercise options, and nutrition education. People who live in zip codes that have these things are likely to enjoy good health; in areas without them, residents are likely to struggle with with chronic illnesses like obesity and diabetes.

The good news about these neighborhood-based social determinants of health is that we have the power to change them! Every day, citizen leaders (like you!) are taking small steps toward big change by making their neighborhoods healthier, one block at a time. And this summer, ioby is partnering with the New York State Health Foundation to help local leaders in nine regions get their ideas for healthy change off the ground by providing fundraising training and dollar-for-dollar matching funds! Read more about the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge and how to apply.

Want to get involved but need some inspiration? Our Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge Learn from a Leader blog series is profiling past ioby Leaders whose projects exemplify what we’re looking for from applicants: projects that focus on healthy food, active transport, green spaces, fighting disease, or some combination. Read on, and imagine how your neighborhood could benefit!

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About the project:

Crosswalk flags are sweeping the nation! Pick up a brightly-colored, reusable flag before you cross a busy street, look both ways, then deposit it on the other side for the next pedestrian. The flag will increase your visibility in the moment, and raise general awareness that peds are around—and have the right of way.

Sarah Newstok, who installed crosswalk flags in her neighborhood, says, “Memphis has high rates of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Disregard for pedestrian safety leaves our most vulnerable populations at risk: children, the elderly, people with disabilities, transit users, and low-income neighbors without access to cars. The flags are not a perfect solution, but I do think they help. We did get a crosswalk and a crosswalk sign at our intersection after installing the flags, so that’s progress!”


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The steps:

  1. Picture it. Locate the intersections in your neighborhood that could benefit most from crosswalk flags. Busy places where there is a crosswalk already but no traffic light or stop sign are usually good candidates. In our case, we started with the intersection that’s the main entrance for Overton Park and the Memphis Zoo—it was crazy that it was so hard to cross there, as so many pedestrians use it!
  2. Picture it 2. Now locate some cute kids—I used my own cute children, of course—and take pictures of them looking sad because they can’t cross the street, then looking happy while using the flags to cross more safely. You can use these images to help explain and publicize your project.  
  3. Reach out. I was able to raise all the money I needed in a day or two by pinging people on Facebook who I knew were frustrated with the same situation. “Hey fellow PTA mom—how do you like not being able to cross the street to reach the park?” Appeal to people first who you know have had the same problem. Then, as soon as they donate, shout them out on social media and ask, “Who’s next?” Keeping that process up is pretty easy, and it works!
  4. Design. Go out to the sites and figure out what you need. Each intersection is different, but you will always need to set your flags up with: 1) A narrow plastic bucket (to discourage people from throwing trash in it) with a hole in the bottom (to let rainwater drain); a wide PVC pipe with a cap on the end works well (just drill a hole in the cap!). 2) Something to affix the bucket to a nearby pole (clamps work for thin poles like stop signs; zip ties are better for thicker ones like telephone poles). 3) Some kind of signage to explain the deal. (Laminated paper doesn’t last long, but you can get a sturdier sign fabricated, or just write in permanent marker on the bucket. Whatever you do, make the instructions clear: “Grab flag, look, walk, wave, deposit on the other side.”)
  5. Place your order. Search online for “buy safety flags” and a bunch of results will come up. Try to get flags that match your city’s pedestrian signs for consistency: most are orange or bright yellow. Affix your buckets to the nearest pole to the crosswalk on both sides, so people are sure to see them.


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This is a quick project to start up—you could do it in a month—but the maintenance is ongoing. I still monitor the flags and replace them when they get faded (more common) or stolen (less common).


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– Flags (approx $2.50 per)

– Buckets (approx $10 per) (make sure they’re tall enough so the flags don’t fall out!)

– Markers to write on buckets or sturdier signage: $1 – $50 (depending on fanciness)

– Small metal clamps or zip ties (approx $1 per)

– UV protectant spray (approx $10 per bottle) (to keep flag fabric from fading)

Total cost of one bucket with five flags = approx $40 – $50 ($80 – $100 per crosswalk)


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Additional resources:

I did not come up with this idea—lots of cities around the country are doing it! Just search online for “crosswalk flags” and see what they’re up to; systems keep improving. I particularly liked reading about Kirkland, Oregon’s PedFlags.
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About the author:

Sarah Newstok lives in Overton Park with her husband, three kids, and dog named Cleo. She is in charge of Special Projects at Livable Memphis, and enjoys bike riding, spending time in nature, and adventurous travel.

Feeling fired up about crosswalk flags, or another project that could make your neighborhood healthier? Learn more about the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge and apply for fundraising training and matching dollars now!

Learn from a Leader: How to outfit women in need with essential monthly products


At ioby, we are lucky to be surrounded by experts from across the country. Our ioby Leaders can do some amazing things: They can build bat houses, transform vacant lots into gardens, teach kids how to tell stories through dance! And best of all, they’re not stingy with their knowledge. That’s why we like to feature some of our favorite Leaders in our Learn from a Leader series. We hope you enjoy!


About the project:

Sister Supply provides purchased and donated pads, tampons, and underwear to women who are homeless and/or living in poverty through Memphis-area women’s shelters and help centers. Effective menstrual products are costly and therefore out of reach to many women and teenage girls in Memphis. Without access to these essential items, finding and maintaining employment and/or staying enrolled in school can be challenging.



The steps:

1. Get specific. Make your focus as specific as possible and write a short statement about it (you can also think of this as your mission). Sister Supply’s is: “We provide tampons, pads, and underwear to women in need.” Oral hygiene supplies? No. Incontinence supplies? No. Menstrual cups, Thinx, and washable pads? Maybe later, but not now. The more specific your focus, the more people will be able to relate to your message and the easier it will be to talk about your project. It’s the “do one thing and do it well” philosophy.

2. Talk it up! Make business cards and keep them with you at all times. We’ve made some of our best contacts at social events, so always have cards in your pocket. It’s an easy transition from the standard question, “What have you been up to lately?” to explaining your project and giving out a card. Also, talk to other groups who have done something similar before! We’ve gotten some really great advice from other nonprofits serving women in need in our area. They can help you avoid pitfalls even before you begin, and are always happy to talk with you.

3. Find a fiscal sponsor. Seek out a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that will allow you to run your funds through their bank account; this will allow you to take tax-deductible donations. Be sure to sign a fiscal sponsorship agreement with them to protect both parties—and also because you’ll need it to apply for most grants. You can find a standard agreement online and customize it to your situation. In addition, if your sponsor is willing, ask them to add a simple DBA (your project name) to their bank account—this will allow you to accept checks made out to your organization. Churches are usually willing to sponsor projects like these, but you can talk with any nonprofit whose work aligns with yours.

4. Set boundaries—so your project doesn’t eat you alive! For example, we don’t deliver.  We have one pick-up location and are happy to make a box of supplies for you to pick up there. Also, we don’t supply to individuals; only organizations. This helps in two ways. One, we’re creating a few big pick-ups instead of several small ones, which is less time-consuming. Two, it protects us from getting too involved with any one individual. That may sound counter to our mission, but it’s sometimes hard to be asked for help in areas that don’t meet your mission, and that’s more likely to happen when you’re dealing with individuals. Remember that it’s okay to say no. Also in the interest of self-protection: delegate. Anyone can count pads and put them in bags, or pick up cupcakes. It doesn’t always have to be you.

5. Make your fundraisers pop. Going back to “do one thing and do it well,” have one big fundraiser each year and really blow it out. These days, almost every day has some sort of designation; for us, the one that fits is Menstrual Hygiene Day, May 28, so we’re throwing a Red Panty Party then! Be creative with your theme so it will be memorable and intriguing. If you’re starting a garden, maybe you could have a juice party on Earth Day or the first day of spring? But it doesn’t have to be a party, of course—there are tons of fundraising ideas on the glorious Internet.

Sister Supply

[Summer Cycle kits packaged and ready to go to school-age Memphis girls in need.  Photo via Sister Supply’s Facebook page.]



For us, Sister Supply just blew up! It really didn’t take long. We hit Facebook, two days later we had an article in the newspaper, then we got a website… It’s been really amazing. So be prepared: your idea might take off fast.

Our time commitment is cyclical (pun intended?). We give our shelters three-month supplies; when that three-month mark hits, it can get really busy. At our big fundraiser, we give girls ‘summer supply’ bags to take home with them, and those take a while to pack. So just plan ahead and make time at the points in the year that you know you’ll be extra busy.



We work on a goal of $10 per woman, per month. When we first raised money on ioby, we wanted to raise $5,100, and we met that goal, but throughout our first year we raised closer to $12,000 total in monetary donations. We’re now applying for grants so we can hire at least a part-time employee. The bigger Sister Supply gets, the more time—and money—it takes!


Additional resources:

There are several other organizations that are working on various levels to de-stigmatize menstruation; they are all good resources:


Nikki and Eli

About the authors:

Nikii Richey is an artist, studio manager, curator, jewelry-maker, part-time church lady and a co-founder of Sister Supply. She lives and plays in Memphis with her husband and two knuckle-head boys.

Sister Supply co-founder Eli Cloud is the Business Development Manager (and Marketing Coordinator, Special Event Coordinator, and Gallery Curator) for ANF Architects. Eli is personally committed to making a difference within her community and believes volunteerism is key to a life well-lived. She lives in Memphis with her husband, Eric; daughter, Lily; and Sausage, the perpetual puppy.
Inspired? Start your own project!

$500K for Memphis… and rising!

We  are so excited to announce that because of so many Memphians’   hard work,  dedication, and belief in the power of neighbor-led change, we’ve now raised more than $500,000 for Memphis’ neighborhoods!

Behind that big, round number are many, many stories of neighbors,  friends, and colleagues who worked together to dream up an idea, create  a plan, complete  hours of strategizing and fundraising, and make something truly positive happen.

In   Memphis, the average ioby project budget is just under $4,000.  But these seemingly small projects (170 of them!) add up to make a huge impact! Overall, 19 zip codes have been home to at least one  ioby project, and 2,139 individual donations have been made.

There are  too many amazing projects to list here, but these  are a few of our favorites that have transformed  Memphis recently:

We want to thank and congratulate our amazing colleagues at Livable Memphis for making all this positive change possible in Memphis.

ioby Memphis 500K ad_blog2


Green Up Memphis: It’s ON!

If you have ties to Memphis, we hope you caught our post last month about the Green Up Memphis Match, a partnership with our friends at Livable Memphis to provide more than $36,000 in matching funds to projects focused on the cleaning-and-greening of neighborhood open spaces. That’s a lot of green!

I Love Soulsville

Now we’re super-psyched to be supporting 24 awesome new projects across the city, from Frayser to Whitehaven. These leaders will be fundraising and seeking volunteers from now until March 23. And 15 of the leaders spearheading them are brand new to ioby—extra exciting!

Here are a few examples of the greatness that’s soon to germinate:

  • Music in the Park Memphis. This is a new one for us—and for project creator Jessica Thurman, a first-time ioby leader. Jessica and other volunteers want to raise $3,640 to turn an abandoned lot in the New Chicago area of North Memphis into a safe, fun, green space for children of all ages and backgrounds to explore a selection of musical instruments, which will be “installed” in the new park. Jessica’s campaign page calls it “a project to change the mentality of the city and invest in who we have, which are very talented people.”
  • Michalyn Easter’s Friends of Chelsea Greenline Advocacy Group (FCG) is raising $3,640 to give North Memphians an official voice in determining the design, implementation, usage, maintenance, and community engagement facets of the new 2.5-mile greenway coming to their neighborhood. “North Memphis needs some help in revitalization,” FCG’s campaign page reads, “but the true transformation will always be the privilege and responsibility of true North Memphis citizens.”
  • Revitalizing Our Community/XPCTMOR is the brainchild of Tawauna Stafford, who wants to raise $4,135 to make a vacant lot into an attractive garden and seating area for seniors in the Bethel Grove Community. Older residents spend much of their time indoors at home, and some feel unsafe visiting the local park. “We want to provide them with a safe place not far from home where they can still be active and yet relax in a beautiful place,” Tawauna’s page explains. “Our seniors were there to help us achieve our goals as kids and now it’s time for us to help provide them with a safe, comfortable place to do what they enjoy.”

These terrific local leaders have laid the groundwork; now it’s your chance to pitch in. Donated dollars will be matched from March 1 to 23, and volunteers can sign up to help starting now.

To check out all the awardees, make a donation, or sign up to volunteer, visit our Green Up Memphis page!

AWESOME PROJECT: Help send Memphis students on college tours!

Everyone deserves a shot at college, but in Memphis, it’s practically a crime if a graduating high school student who wants to doesn’t go on to higher education. That’s because one of the biggest roadblocks keeping college degrees out of young American’s hands – cost – is not a factor in  Tennessee.

“In the state of Tennessee,” explains Jared Bulluck, Senior Director of Community and Alumni Engagement at Leadership Memphis, “it’s basically free to go to two-year college. Anybody, everybody. It’s free.” That’s thanks to a relatively new program called Tennessee Achieves, which will send any student to a two-year college, so long as that student maintains a C-average, sticks it out in consecutive semesters, performs a bit of community service, and meets regularly with a mentor.

Pretty good deal.


Leadership Memphis


seeing is believing

That’s why Bulluck and his team at Leadership Memphis, a nonprofit whose mission is to prepare and mobilize leaders to work together for the good of the whole community, have teamed up with their “executive class” of alum volunteers to make college a reality for students at eight Shelby County  schools.

First step? College tours. Like so many big transitions and leaps in life, the jump to college can be terrifying – even more so for someone aspiring to become a first-generation college grad, or someone who may never have ventured far beyond his or her neighborhood. To visit campuses, walk around, chat with students, pop in on classes, get a handle on how things work… well, less scary, right?


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“These kids don’t really know what’s out there and what’s available besides your University of Memphis and your Southwest Tennessee Community College,” explains Bulluck. “They don’t know what else is available, because these kids, sometimes they don’t leave their neighborhoods. There’s not a whole lot of money. So they don’t really get out.”

Last year was the first year that Bulluck and his team – with generous funding from the Turley Family Foundation – made college tours a reality for their eight target schools, and the program was such a hit that they’re doubling down this year to a raise $77k (they exceeded their goal and hit $60k last year) and serve twice as many students: about 750 to last year’s 500 plus.


Leadership Memphis

“Honestly,” says Bulluck of last year’s fundraising effort, “it wasn’t a hard sell to these folks, because they saw the value in it, they understand it, they went through Leadership Memphis, they understand what the importance of going to college is and what it does for the area. There’s not a single alum we can’t call upon. And 90% of the time, they’re going to say yes, and they’re going to get behind it, and help out any way they possibly can, whether it’s financially or with their time, which is actually more important and valuable in my mind.”

It’s worth noting that Bulluck himself is evidence of how strong a network Leadership Memphis truly is. He first got involved when he was a student at the University of Memphis, through a mentor of his. “So I signed up as an intern,” he says, laughing, “and five years later: Senior Director of Community and Alumni Engagement. I stuck around.”


Leadership Memphis


opening eyes

So where do the kids go on these tours? Where don’t they go.

“We’ll go to private schools,” says Bulluck, “we’ll go to public schools, we’ll go to community college, we’ll go to military schools, we’ll go to technical trade schools.” He and his team want to put as many new options on the map as they can for their students.

“And we actually ask the kids where they want to go,” he adds. “They love it. Their eyes are just really opened. The really neat thing that I like to see is when kids always assume that there’s just University of Memphis and Southwest, and they don’t realize that going to a technical or trade school you can be making upwards of 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars being a welder, a plumber. The realization that that exists, as opposed to just getting a four-year degree, and then once you have that degree, you still have to figure out what you want to do.”

To learn more, to get involved, or to donate, check out the team’s ioby campaign page here. When you donate, your money goes directly towards covering transportation (by bus), food, and hotel expenses. If you donate $30, the Turley Family Foundation will match you at a 1:2 ratio, giving $15 – that’s $45, which covers one student for a local tour. Want to send a student further afield, on the regional tour? If you cover $300, the Turley Family Foundaion will pitch in the remaining $150.


Leadership Memphis


Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Want more Memphis? Like local activism, pro wrestling, or music? Check out this piece about how Soul City and people like you are bringing the Mid-South Coliseum back to life.

Neighbors Making Neighborhoods: A Memphis “Revival” Flips the Conversation About the Mid-South Coliseum

ioby is more than just a crowdfunding platform: we’re a team  of  individuals who are passionate about  helping neighbors make their neighborhoods safer, greener, more livable and more fun.  We love hearing from ioby Leaders about  their experiences planning, funding and implementing a project with us. We think by sharing  these experiences,  complete with both triumphs  and roadblocks,  we can help spread knowledge and  maybe even inspire others  to  take action towards positive change where they live. [Photos by David Leonard.]


Photo by David Leonard

Many residents of the Cooper Young, Beltline and Orange Mound neighborhoods in Memphis saw more than a money pit when they looked at the shuttered Mid-South Coliseum. They saw history, culture, and an opportunity to influence city officials’ plans to demolish the building and redevelop the surrounding fairgrounds in a way that could anchor the neighborhood and even draw tourists.

Amid rumors that the City was considering demolishing the coliseum, neighbors came together to form the Coliseum Coalition, a group aiming to explore all options for restoring the coliseum. The building, which sits on the 155-acre Mid-South Fairgrounds, has sat mostly vacant since 2006, save for a few pieces of machinery stored there. But many Memphians have fond memories of visiting the coliseum for a concert or a sporting event during the 40 years prior to its closing. The building played host to local graduations, Monday night pro-wrestling matches, NCAA Division 1 college sports and music legends like the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and Cher.


Photo by David Leonard

The efforts to repurpose the coliseum weren’t born out of nostalgia alone. The Coliseum Coalition felt the community’s input on the future of the site was being ignored. At that point, “the official momentum was strongly against keeping the Coliseum” says Roy Barnes, Coliseum Coalition Treasurer.

To bring attention to the community’s role in the planning process, the group planned a “previtalization” event called Roundhouse Revival to celebrate the building’s history and potential. Previtalizating is a strategy often used by tactical urbanists to unite people on a development site in order to demonstrate community support and influence plans for the space.

The Coliseum Coalition turned to ioby to raise money and gain publicity for Roundhouse Revival. At the time, ioby and Livable Memphis were offering matching funds, and campaign organizers took full advantage of the extra $1,500 awarded to Roundhouse Revival. The coalition raised a total of $6,264 from nearly 100 donors, exceeding their original funding goal.


Photo by David Leonard

Even before the event, City official took notice of the community excitement around the campaign. Coliseum Coalition officers got a meeting with City representatives to ask if they would waive event permitting fees to keep the project within budget. But the agency that had previously been pushing to demolish the building made an even better offer – they gave the coalition a $15,000 grant!

In a matter of months, City officials had gone from opposing any kind of plan that repurposed the building to funding the community members’ event celebrating its potential – they even asked to make it official: “As part of the conditions of the grant, we had to put the City of Memphis logo on our ads moving forward and give them credit,” said Barnes.


Photo by David Leonard

More than 4,000 people came to Roundhouse Revival. The colorful daylong celebration in May featured musical performances, including a live wrestling showcase with former pro-wrestlers Jerry Lawler and Bill Dundee. Community members brainstormed new uses for the Coliseum that ranged from an R&B Hall of Fame to a homeless shelter. And all of that energy made a major impact. After Roundhouse, the momentum had swung and all the mayoral candidates expressed either support for reopening or taking a good second look at reopening,” said Barnes.

A few months following the event, the City of Memphis invited Urban Land Institute (ULI), a research and education institute dedicated to responsible land use, to advise the City on the best way to move forward with planning for the site. Responding to the community’s demonstration of support for the Mid-South Coliseum, a ULI report recommended that the “roundhouse” be repurposed rather than demolished.


Photo by David Leonard
The Roundhouse Revival story is one of our favorites because it shows the power of a group of loosely-affiliated organizers to use a small amount of money to coalesce community enthusiasm and ultimately turn enough heads at the City to effect a policy change. Add a pro wrestler or two, and you get a perfect picture of local, citizen-led action that’s making a big impact.

AWESOME PROJECT: Help outfit 16 young bike ambassadors in Memphis neighborhood

Sylvia Crum is pumped about the many bike lanes that Memphis has been building and investing in for the past five or six years. To her, they represent the spirit of innovation and positivity that made her decide to settle, with her young family of four, in the great Bluff City.


Sylvia Crum and family

“When we moved here four years ago,” says Crum, “the bike lanes felt like an indication that this was a city that was willing to try new ideas. We’d lived in other places around the south that were dying, and they were mad that they were dying, but they didn’t want anybody’s outside ideas, they didn’t want any inside ideas. They were just mad about it. I’ve really been struck by Memphis that it’s the kind of place where people have ideas and other people support them. The new ideas don’t all work, but there are farmers’ markets, and bicycle lanes. Food trucks. Things are growing.”

Crum is Director of Revolutions, a community bike coop in her Cooper-Young neighborhood of Memphis, and while she wouldn’t admit it, she’s become quite a force herself in that push towards creative social change. From organizing Bike Rodeos (which train kids and adults to handle intersections safely, lock up against bike theft, and map safe routes around their neighborhood) to being “that crazy lady” who with her two kids rides everywhere, dinging her bell loudly by way of hello, Crum is a real ambassador. She’s an ambassador not just for getting your exercise while running errands, but also for thinking outside the box, doing things your own way.

“The thing I love about it is when we’re on our bicycles I feel much more connected to the community. I feel like we can wave and speak to people,” explains Crum. Often, she and her five-year old linger so long in neighborly conversation that her three year old son starts dinging his own back seat bell at them to say come on, people, let’s move it along here.


Bikes at Peabody


Young ambassadors for fresh air

Right now, Crum is raising money via ioby for a new program she’ll run this winter and spring. She wants to get 16 4th and 5th graders   at Cooper-Young’s Peabody School (her daughter is in Kindergarten there) outfitted with bikes, helmets, good locks, and training, so that they can start riding to school and spreading the word about how easy it is. They’ll meet for street safety training eight to ten times, on Thursday afternoons, as part of a new after school club.

“We’ll try route mapping as a group,” explains Crum. “We’ll pick one and say, ‘ok, today we’re going to Sally’s house, so here’s the map, and here’s the route she’s suggested, and we’re gonna follow this route and see how it goes.’”

Once the ambassadors are ready to take on leadership roles, in May, they’ll begin to organize bike trains – group rides to school along certain routes, will invite other kids to join in.

“It makes sense to me that if kids are gonna ride, it’s gonna be other kids that encourage them to do it,” says Crum. Her daughter rides to school a few times a week, and already gets curious commentary from other kids – even older kids – who are starting to get the itch.


What your money buys

Want to get involved?

$30 buys a helmet for one of the 16 ambassadors.

$50 buys a high-quality lock.

Considering a larger donation of $300-$500? Your money will go a long way towards helping Revolutions put on an extra Bike Rodeo.

To learn more, to get involved, or to check out the group’s ioby campaign page, click here.


Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.

Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Are you into hyper-local museums? Check this one out, in rural Michigan – they’re raising money to refurbish the historic 1938 Forest Service Residence that will house their extensive collection of logging paraphernalia, turn of the century appliances and small business signs, thousands of early 1900s photos, and much more.

Green Up Memphis Match! Apply by February 8

Calling all Memphians!

What would it take to make your local park or open space a true asset to your community? And could you use some extra cash to get there?

Is there a vacant lot, median strip, or other potential green space sitting fallow in your neighborhood that could be more inviting? Do you dream of replacing some of its concrete with more green growing stuff?


[Photo of  the I Love Soulsville Rock/Art Garden by David Leonard]


Do you want to start a park friends group, design a sign for your local playground, or even get a volunteer lawn-mowing crew together?

Well, now is   a great time to get started.

In partnership with Livable Memphis, ioby is launching the Green Up Memphis Match, which will provide more than $33,000 in matching funds to projects focused on green spaces or public parks in  Memphis.  If your project is eligible, you can receive up to $5,000 in dollar-for-dollar matching funds!*

The deadline to submit an idea is February 8.  All you need is an idea, a fundraising team, and a dollar goal. Your team will spend March fundraising, and later this spring, you’ll be able to get shovels in the ground! 

As you may be aware, there’s a new swell of energy for all things urban and green in Memphis these days. Some ioby-supported Memphis projects have already found great success, like Wishes for Williamson, the Evergreen Rain Garden, and Stripe Memphis Basketball Courts. The City’s parks department has been working with more local leaders to improve parks and green space with more input from the public. And some neighbors are in the preliminary stages of forming an advocacy group that will help streamline and formalize the process for any Memphian who wants to work with the City to improve public parks. The list goes on!

Basically, citizen engagement in Memphis’s parks and urban green spaces is on the rise, and it’s easier than ever to help make positive changes in your neighborhood, even when the City owns the land.

So Memphians: it’s time to get excited about what you can do! ioby and Livable Memphis are here to help.

More  details  about  the   Green Up Memphis Match   are at .   If you have questions about Green Up Memphis, please send them to Ellen Roberds at


*The final amount of match  dollars each project receives will depend on  the number and scope of eligible projects.