Tag Archives: janet boscarino

Awesome Project: Carnes Garden

On November 15th, 2013 urban planner Mary Baker took the students of Carnes Elementary School out the front door, right across J.W. Williams Avenue, to an empty, rubble-filled vacant lot. It was a warm, sunny fall day, and the students’ eyes were brimming with excitement. They could not wait to get their hands on a shovel and begin moving dirt. This lot would soon become a new classroom for them, the school’s first teaching garden.


They began between the sidewalk and a tree, one of the only pieces of vegetation existing amid the rubble and overgrown grass. The students’ hands shot up to ask about the tree, which turned out to be a “Tree of Heaven”. Made famous by “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” Tree of Heaven is an invasive species in North America. Ecology aside, the name of the of the tree evokes reaching up, an aspiration for greatness not unlike the project’s mission to transform the lot into a beautiful garden that inspires learning and preserves the quality of public space in North Memphis, Tennessee.

The garden will serve as a place where the 289 students of Carnes Elementary, a magnet school focused on environmental science, can explore their education beyond the confines of the classroom. Through Sci-Fi Fridays, a program at Carnes that allows students to dedicate two hours every Friday to science projects, the fifth grade class has taken the lead on the garden’s initial phases, like cleaning up the lot and beginning to create planting beds. “It could change everything about how they view learning and how they incorporate it,” Mary said. “Instead of just memorizing facts, it starts to make some sense to them.”

Mary is one of the five Carnes Partners working with Carnes’s Principal, Reneta Sanders, to transform the lot into a teaching garden. For Sanders, the most inspirational aspect of working with the Carnes community has been “everybody’s desire to achieve.” Whether its parents helping their children reach a goal of reading 25 books, volunteers assisting students with their educational pursuits, or the Carnes Partners working to make the school district a beautiful place, the strength and support of the Carnes community has enabled the project to surmount many of the larger challenges facing the neighborhood and greater Memphis.

The vacant lot outside of Carnes Elementary School is representative of more than 53,000 vacant lots in Memphis that suffer from neglect. Baker explained that during the 1960s and early 1970s, two expressways were constructed, which terminated most of the local streets that formerly connected North Tennessee with adjacent communities. I-240 forms the neighborhood’s solid east boundary and I-40 runs east and west through the neighborhood. Carnes Elementary School is located just north of I-40, in a portion of the neighborhood that is only accessible by three streets.

“The vacant lots get out of control on the boundaries of the neighborhoods, and people drive down these streets and that’s all they see,” said Baker. Partners Steve Barlow and Beth Flanagan, who have been working to improve the neighborhood around Carnes Elementary School for several years, can remember the vacant home that was removed from the property outside the school. Together, Mary, Steve, and Beth, as well as partners Ray Brown and Janet Boscarino, see the school garden as a model for what can be done for the many vacant lots around Memphis. “There are a lot of different gardens that are appropriate depending on the location,” Baker explained. But one thing they will surely have in common is “showing that there are people who care about the neighborhood.”

Even on just one lot, the possibilities are endless. The Carnes Partners and the students have been thinking creatively about how they can make use of the existing conditions to construct the garden and make it beautiful. Using rubble from the site, they created a stone border to frame the property. Ray Brown, partner and architect, also came up with an idea to transform the remaining building foundation into an outdoor class space, where students can display artwork and teachers can present lessons. Incorporating these elements connects the site to the city’s history, and demonstrates how individual actors can be powerful agents of change when fueled by a strong sense of community and a deep investment in the city’s future.

And they certainly are on their way! But they need your support. By clicking here you can join the Carnes Partners and Carnes Elementary School in their important work to beautify Memphis one garden at a time.

ioby Leaders on Live at 9

This morning ioby leaders Kirk Williamson from Memphis Civic Solar and Principal Reneta Sanders from the Carnes Elementary School Learning Garden shared their visions for Memphis on Live at 9 with Alex Coleman and Marybeth Conley.

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Watch the video clip from Live at 9 here. One you hear their inspiring projects, we know you’ll want to support their work now. To give to their projects and any other projects in Memphis, visit ioby.org/Memphis.

City of Memphis Supports Community-Led Creative Placemaking as a Neighborhood Revitalization Tool

January 22, 2014
For Immediate Release

Media Contact
Erin Barnes
ioby Executive Director
917-464-4515 x2

ioby launches digital tool to support citizen actions
“in their own backyards”

MEMPHIS, TN – ioby.org/Memphis officially launches today to support citizen-led neighbor-funded projects to make Memphis neighborhoods stronger and more sustainable. Run by the nonprofit organization ioby (pronounced eye-OH-be), the digital platform allows anyone to share their idea for their own community and raise tax-deductible donations and recruit local volunteers. So far, the ioby platform has been used by community groups in 96 cities across the U.S., fully funding more nearly 300 projects with citizen philanthropy.
Since ioby was founded, the organization has supported the activation of more than 65 vacant lots. More than 70 ioby leaders have created a new system of food production and distribution. In the last three years, ioby projects have cleaned, cleared, protected, opened, activated and stewarded more than 14,000 acres. People of color lead most projects on ioby, and women and girls make up more than 70% of all ioby leaders.

ioby.org/Memphis launches today with new ideas to eliminate blight, to increase access to healthy foods and to prototype new tech tools for education and enjoying Memphis’s extraordinary greenways. One project – Memphis Civic Solar – aims to install solar panels on thirty municipal buildings, one of the largest municipal solar projects in the nation.

“Like so many U.S. cities, many neighborhoods in the Memphis urban core suffer from a lack of economic vitality. Addressing blight and crime, attracting small businesses and incentivizing revitalization doesn’t have to wait for intervention by government or by a large company,” says Mayor A C Wharton. “Individuals and neighborhoods have always and must continue to play a critical role in revitalizing Memphis, and I want local government to work with them to make this happen.”

ioby’s name is derived from the opposite of NIMBY, or in our backyards. ioby supports citizen-led, neighbor-funded projects that make stronger, more sustainable neighborhoods. ioby is for people who say, “Yes! I want to make some positive change in my neighborhood!”

“One of ioby’s founding principles is that residents of a community know what’s best for the neighborhood. They have that bundle of information about the built environment and the social fabric that make them best equipped to create, implement and steward local solutions,” says Erin Barnes, ioby co-founder and Executive Director. “The success of our partnership with Memphis will rely on ingenuity and sweat equity of Memphis’s neighborhood leaders.”

Most ioby projects focus on food, transit, public health, public art, the environment, schools, citizen science, tactical urbanism, placemaking, local sharing economies and work wherever neighbors are working together for change. ioby.org/Memphis launches today with 11 new projects for South Memphis, Klondike / Smokey City, Vollintine Evergreen, the Carnes School Neighborhood, Frayser, The Heights, Whitehaven and Downtown.

“Being the on-the-ground partner with ioby on this project supports our mission of developing and redeveloping healthy, vibrant, and economically sustainable communities,” says Emily Trenholm, executive director of Community Development Council of Greater Memphis. “Through our Livable Memphis program we interact with neighborhood leaders from throughout the city, and we look forward to helping bring some of their great ideas to fruition.”

Before ioby’s official launch in Memphis, the platform supported the fundraising campaign of the Hampline, the innovative two-way, signalized protected bike lane along Broad Avenue that raised $78,000 from more than 600 Memphians that live near or in the Binghamton neighborhood.

“For us the greatest value from the ioby campaign was the public awareness building and support,” says Pat Brown, Broad Avenue business owner and one of the leaders of the Hampline ioby campaign. “It will pay longer term dividends beyond the $75k+ that we raised.”

Memphians interested in starting a project in their neighborhood can do so by following links on ioby.org/Memphis, and are encouraged to attend the ioby Recipes for Change Conference: Crowd-Resourcing For / By Memphis the week of February 24 in Memphis. Details about the conference can be found on ioby.org/Memphis.

A list of all new projects on ioby.org/Memphis and short descriptions follow.


ioby.org/Memphis Project Descriptions

Project #1: The Hampline
Location: Binghamton, Memphis

In October 2013, Livable Memphis came to ioby, turning to their neighbors to raise the remaining five percent of their $4.5 million budget for the Hampline. Raising over $75,000 using ioby’s crowd-resourcing platform, the team at Livable Memphis—led by Sara Newstok—oversaw the first successful crowd-funding campaign for civic infrastructure in history.

Designed to be a safe active transit route, the Hampline is a two-mile, on-road/multi-use trail designed for all levels of experience in walking and biking. It will showcase best practices with regards to protected cycle tracks: green lanes. By linking the western terminus of the Shelby Farms Greenline with the existing trail network within Overton Park, the Hampline is the essential link for the growing on-road and multi-use system in east Memphis and beyond with the on-road bicycle network west of Overton Park toward the River. NYC has a few similar cycle tracks, as does Montreal and Vancouver, B.C. But nothing surpasses the build that is schedule to take place linking Overton Park with Broad Avenue and the Greenline.


Memphis has positioned itself as an example of best practices and innovation for bike lanes in the United States. The City of Memphis is one of six cities to participate in Bikes Belong’s Green Lane Project specifically due to this innovative project. The Hampline features two miles of public art murals and sculptures, an amphitheater and numerous art galleries, this bicycle and walking track is located in the Binghampton Community (“The Hamp”) and links Overton Park and the Shelby Farms Greenline via a state of the art, two-way protected cycle track.

In addition to adding vital connectivity to the growing bicycle network across the Memphis region, the Hampline will provide residents and visitors with safe access to facilities and amenities in the Binghampton neighborhood including the five neighborhood schools, Tillman MPD Precinct Station, Howze Park, Lester Community Center, Benjamin Hooks Public Library, spiritual and medical facilities, the Arts District, and the amenities located within Overton Park.

CONTACT: Sara Studdard, studdardsara@gmail.com, 901-356-2090

Project #2: Roots Memphis Farm Academy
Location: 1471 E Brooks Rd, Memphis 38116 (Whitehaven)


Mary Phillipps and her team at the Roots Memphis Farm Academy are growing the local food economy in Memphis from the ground up. Recognizing a strong and growing demand for locally grown food in their city, Roots Memphis Farm Academy is incubating local producers of sustainably grown food and connecting them to markets.
In July 2013, the Roots Memphis Farm Academy launched a post-secondary alternative education tract, consisting of 15 weeks of business management classes, and 15 weeks of sustainable farming classes. After students have successfully completed their academic course work, they lease land from Roots Memphis, during which time they receive ongoing assistance, including tool share, labor share, and other technical assistance and consultation. This incubation period is designed to allow students to develop necessary hands-on skills in a low-risk environment. The first incubation period will begin in March 2014.
The Roots Memphis team is also working with local lenders and investors to develop a partnership through which the Farm Academy will produce qualified applicants for financing. They are also partnering with local government to provide graduates with parcels of land for low-cost purchase upon graduation.


Roots Memphis looks to make small farming ventures successful profitable in order to increase farmers’ access to capital.
Developing a robust economy for small farms is particularly important in Memphis, where unemployment is at a staggering 10%. The unemployment rate is even higher for minorities and those without a college degree. Small farm ownership has an important legacy in the region tied to economic self-determination, boasting original champions such as famed civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. Given the city’s harsh economic climate, the Roots Memphis Farm Academy looks to transition local food producers in Memphis from non-profit or community-based models to models that can provide sustainable incomes for farmers and economic resilience for regions.

CONTACT: Mary Phillipps, mary@rootsmemphis.org, 901-326-5878

Project #3: Memphis Civic Solar
Location: Citywide, Memphis


Memphis Bioworks is launching Memphis Civic Solar, a project for the City of Memphis that will install 1.5 Megawatts of solar energy spread across 30 different municipal buildings (50 kilowatts each) in neighborhoods throughout Memphis. When completed, Civic Solar will be one of the largest municipal solar projects in the nation, positioning Memphis as a national leader in sustainability and creating positive and measurable environmental, economic and social benefits for the citizens of Memphis.
Kirk Williamson and his fundraising team at Memphis Bioworks are using ioby’s crowd-resourcing platform to raise $49,900, or a little more than 1% of the overall budget, as seed capital to launch the project. The seed money will ensure that the project meets engineering, design and utility deadlines and brings solar energy to Memphis in way that is impactful and inspiring. While the launch is set for the spring of 2014, utility agreements must be allocated prior to launching Civic Solar, which could mean that the project launches at a later date. After the initial seed capital is raised, the overall project will become self-funding and sustainable and will not utilize any taxpayer money.


Memphis Bioworks, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing Memphis’s bioscience sector, has determined that Memphis’s abundant solar resource is on par with parts of Florida and Texas. With the most sunny days in Tennessee (approximately 214), Memphis is a perfect place to produce solar energy.

A large-scale municipal solar project in Memphis will create positive and measurable environmental, economic and social benefits. These benefits include employing 45-50 Memphians, generating enough clean energy to power approximately 200 homes each year, and providing educational opportunities in the community centers and libraries on which solar panels are installed.

CONTACT: Kirk Williamson, 901-866-1461, kwilliamson@memphisbioworks.org

Project #4: Neighborhood History Project – South Memphis
Location: 590 Jennette Place, Memphis 38126 (South Memphis)

Many kids in South Memphis are unaware of their neighborhood’s rich history as a music capital and an important site in the struggle for civil rights. Amy Moritz and her team at the Center for Transforming Communities aim to help the neighborhood’s younger generation to reclaim and carry on South Memphis’ positive legacy on the national landscape. By allowing them to build on the memories, experience and wisdom of their elders, the Neighborhood History Project will ensure that the kids leave their own, very important legacy on their neighborhood and beyond.


The South Memphis Shalom Zone, an offshoot of the Center for Transforming Communities, is teaming up with Crossroads to Freedom at Rhodes College to train youth archivists from South Memphis to interview the elders in their neighborhood. Over an eight-week summer program, college interns with the Crossroads project will mentor high school students. While on the Rhodes campus, youth will learn interviewing techniques that will allow them to discover positive memories and valuable wisdom from their neighborhood elders.

The youth will get hands on experience with video, audio, lighting, editing and other technology skills needed to capture oral histories in South Memphis and store the interviews in the crossroadstofreedom.org archive. At the end of the summer, the youth will present the highlights of the oral histories and what they have learned back to the community.
This project was piloted successfully during the summer of 2013, with about 100 community members in attendance for the kids’ end-of-summer presentation. For 2014, the Neighborhood History Project of the South Memphis Shalom Zone will be inviting the youth to come back from summer 2013 and serve as additional mentors and role models to the 2014 youth. In addition, the returning youth will have a second day each week at Rhodes to get even more hands on experience with editing and archiving the video interviews.

CONTACT: Amy Moritz, 901-324-3005, amy@ctcmidsouth.org

Project #5: Neighborhood History Project – ‘The Heights’
Location: 3476 Summer Ave., Memphis 38112 (Highland Heights and Mitchell Heights)


The Corners of Highland Heights Community of Shalom, an offshoot of the Center for Transforming Communities, is teaming up with Crossroads to Freedom at Rhodes College to train youth archivists the ‘Heights’ and Treadwell Middle School to interview the elders in their neighborhood. Over an eight-week summer program, high school students will be mentored by college interns with the Crossroads project. While on the Rhodes campus, youth will learn interviewing techniques that will allow them to discover positive memories and valuable wisdom from their neighborhood elders.
The youth will get hands on experience with video, audio, lighting, editing and other technology skills needed to capture oral histories in the Heights and store the interviews in the crossroadstofreedom.org archive. At the end of the summer, the youth will present the highlights of the oral histories and what they have learned back to the community.

This project was piloted successfully during the summer of 2013, with every participating child asking to come back again for the summer of 2014. For 2014, the Neighborhood History Project of the Heights and Treadwell will be inviting these youth to come back from summer 2013 and serve as mentors and role models to the 2014 youth. In addition, these returning youth will have a second day each week at Rhodes to get even more hands on experience with editing and archiving the video interviews.


The neighborhoods surrounding Treadwell schools are today affectionately referred to as ‘the Heights’. (Most end with this word in their name: Highland Heights, Mitchell Heights, Brinkley Heights, etc.). The conflation of these diverse neighborhoods into one symbolic reference, the Heights, springs from a growing collective passion and neighbors’ active work to be a unified community.
Treadwell is at the center of most great stories that are told about this community. Assembling and collecting these great memories from the past are vital to the new and vibrant future emerging for this special collection of united neighborhoods.

CONTACT: Amy Moritz, 901-324-3005, amy@ctcmidsouth.org

Project #6: Mid-South Greenways: My Greenway App
Location: Memphis, Citywide


Way-finding signage is sparse in the region and can be very expensive to erect. A smart phone application that is free for download and allows users out on the trails to make connections between local assets is a more cost-effective option.

Current statistics indicate that there is a significant market for smart phone applications in the Mid-South. Regional studies have determined that local smart phone ownership is higher than the national average and is on the rise. Based on a 2012 Obsidian PR and Research Dynamics poll, 66% of Shelby County residents own a smart phone, up 6% from the previous year, and surpassing the Pew research Center’s national ownership rate of 56%.

Tara Wohlgemuth and the Mid-South Greenways team are helping pedestrians and cyclists navigate Memphis’ many parks and trails more easily. In 2011, Mid-South Greenways digitally mapped the region’s growing number of greenways in a format optimized for desktop viewing.

Mid-South Greenways and their partners at Hieroglyph Creative Co. are now developing a smartphone for seamless navigation of the region’s parks and trails. With this app, cyclists and pedestrians can pull out their smart phone and access information regarding the parks, trails, and destinations that are closest to them. This will include routes and distances to travel safely compelling to user to continue his experience. Users will become more familiar with existing green infrastructure and will also be able to determine where the missing connections should be made.

With the knowledge in their pockets of where these existing facilities are, they will be more likely to frequent them. The app has the potential to significantly improve access and use of existing parks and greenways, thereby influencing general public health, rates of active transportation, and the environmental impact of the build environment.

CONTACT: Tara Wohlgemuth, midsouthgreenways@gmail.com, (901) 590-9590

Project #7: The Whitney Elementary School Sustainability Project
Location: 1219 Whitney Road, Memphis 38127 (Frayser)


Located in Frayser, a low-income neighborhood, the Whitney Elementary School community faces a multitude of challenges. Being classified as a “failed school,” Whitney was taken over by the state of Tennessee in an effort to raise student achievement and overall performance. The staff has an overwhelming desire to make their school and community cleaner and greener. The purpose of this project is to provide the school with someone on site to coordinate a move towards sustainability in a concrete manner. Clean Memphis has worked closely with Whitney Elementary in the past and the interest is present, but the manpower is not. This project seeks to change that.


Janet Boscarino and the team at Clean Memphis are raising money on ioby’s crowd-resourcing platform to hire an environmental coordinator at Whitney Elementary School in Frayser.

Working closely with the Clean Memphis education team and the school community, this intern will employ a bottom-up approach to sustainability that is designed to meet the unique challenges faced by the students, families, faculty, and staff at Whitney Elementary. The bulk of the work for this project can be broken down into two categories: implementing sustainability practices for the school community and providing environmental education across grades and content areas.

In being present at the school on a bi-weekly basis, this environmental coordinator will be able to establish and monitor student “green teams” that will gather the contents of recycling bins from classrooms and weigh and document it.
In addition, these students will work to promote conservation of energy and water through poster contests and various inter-class competitions

CONTACT: Janet Boscarino, 901-412-7524, janet@cleanmemphis.org

Project #8: 2014 New Garden Campaign
Location: Citywide, Memphis


Led by Chris Peterson, GrowMemphis is using ioby’s crowd-resourcing platform to fund tools and training for neighborhood residents who want to create and sustain community gardens or urban farms in their neighborhoods.

As part of its annual process, GrowMemphis is soliciting applications from neighborhood residents and institutions, prioritizing them based on need and community leadership, and offering selected groups all of the tools, supplies, and infrastructure they need to get started. After receiving this initial support, each new partner garden goes through GrowMemphis’s “Community Gardening 101” training, which helps new gardeners feel comfortable with organic horticulture. More importantly, this training prepares gardeners to do the community work that makes a community garden successful.


Community gardening projects address a variety of community issues in creative ways, and the impact of each garden is unique to the neighborhood in which it is found. These projects not only eliminate vacant, blighted property and provide healthy, fresh food to neighborhood residents, but they also build community pride and create a safe space for community building. As neighborhoods engage in these projects, it is the hope of Clean Memphis that the gardens become a tool for broader community engagement around issues of environmental injustice, food insecurity, crime, and poverty. Clean Memphis knows that community gardens cannot fully solve these problems, but they can serve as the catalyst for residents to take back ownership of their communities.

CONTACT: Chris Peterson, 901-552-4298, chris@growmemphis.org

Project #9: Carnes School Learning Garden
Location: Vacant lot at 916 J.W. Williams Avenue


Carnes Elementary School, a magnet school whose curriculum is focused on Environmental Science, sits in a neighborhood that is devoid of greenery. Without access to safe, vibrant open spaces, children in the neighborhood have trouble understanding what they hear and read about in their environmental science classes.


Memphians Mary Baker, Steve Barlow, Beth Flanagan, Janet Boscarino, and Ray Brown are leading a campaign to transform a vacant lot across the street from Carnes Elementary School into a beautiful garden and outdoor classroom. The team believes that this garden will provide the neighborhood with much-needed vibrant, open space and supplement the school’s environmental science instruction.

The lot, located at 916 J.W. Williams, is only 40 feet wide and 92 feet deep and the soil is hard packed and dry from many years of neglect. The demolition and disposal of a dilapidated home left a large depression in the center of the lot, and damaged the surrounding terrain. Its uneven surface is studded with half-buried pieces of brick and concrete.

The team, which includes an architect, a planner, and an attorney, plan to convert this lot into a tiny, balanced ecosystem where the students can observe the relationships between plants, insects, birds, and other animals in a natural environment. We believe that the children of Carnes Elementary will love learning about the environment in this garden.

The team would like to begin by February 15, 2014 and complete the garden by June 15th. This schedule will permit them to repair and restore the damaged terrain, build the walks and fence, plant native trees, build raised and other planting beds.

CONTACT: Mary Baker, marybaker476@yahoo.com, 901-725-7277

Project #10: A Better You
Location: 943 Vollintine, Memphis 38107 (Klondike-Smokey City)


The mission of the Klondike Smokey City CDC is to improve the economic health of the North Memphis Community through community, workforce and family development programs.

The median household income in the neighborhood is $18,357, which is less than half of the Memphis media and about one third of the Shelby County median. About 43% of Klondike Smokey City households are living in poverty.


The Klondike Smokey City CDC is using ioby’s crowd-resourcing platform to raise funds to provide Klondike and Smokey City with extended learning opportunities and to maintain their current level of services. Specifically, the CDC will offer classes in community gardening, computer literacy, financial literacy, and healthy lifestyles.

The CDC’s goals are to catalyze revitalization and economic growth to North Memphis, to help neighbors establish and maintain a high quality of life, and to help restore the historical status of the Klondike and Smokey City communities.

CONTACT: Quincey Morris, ms.qgm@att.net, (901) 527-1966

Project #11: iPads for Afterschool Learning in Vollintine Evergreen
Location: 1548 Jackson Ave., Memphis 38107 (Vollintine Evergreen)


The Vollintine Evergreen Community Association (VECA) has an after school program to serve the youth in the neighborhood. The program focuses on mathematics, reading and social skills.

The community challenges that the after school program addresses are two-fold. First, the program is designed for young people in the neighborhood so that they can have a place to go after school. The second problem is that the mathematics and reading achievement of the young people is below the state and national average.


The Vollintine Evergreen Community Association (VECA) is raising funds on ioby’s crowd-resourcing platform to fund iPads for the neighborhood’s afterschool program. The purpose of this project is to provide a positive environment for children to go after school where they can enhance their education in a fun way. On an average day at the Vollintine Evergreen after school, the youth group has 15 attendees. VECA is asking for one iPad for each student at their current level of attendance.

CONTACT: Sam Powers, sampow@gmail.com, (205) 383-6519