ROBERT M. FOCKLER
Editor’s Note: This column will appear Tuesdays through April in honor of Sustainability Month for Memphis and Shelby County.
As the Mid-South’s philanthropic partner since 1969, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis is clearly here to stay. That’s why we are interested in initiatives that make our area more livable and connected right now and for future generations.
The hallmarks of well-crafted sustainability efforts – innovation, collaboration, risk-taking, creativity and long-term impact – make them among the more exciting and meaningful projects in which funders like the Community Foundation invest. These initiatives help us fulfill a commitment we’ve made to strengthen your community in the smartest, most responsible way possible.
If you’ve enjoyed any of Shelby Farms Park’s 4,500 acres of green space and 6.5 miles of urban trails, you have glimpsed what sustainability means in our community. We see need to invest in projects that protect our natural resources, connect our neighborhoods and promote healthy activities.
Since 2011, the Community Foundation has awarded grants to Shelby Farms Park Conservancy for visitor tracking technology; to the Wolf River Conservancy to prepare for its prestigious Land Trust Alliance certification; and to the Greater Memphis Greenline to develop a strong network of safe walking and biking paths. In 2013, we sponsored the national conference of the Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, held in Memphis.
Neighborhood development and expanding access to fresh food are other areas in which we are responsive to community opportunity and momentum. This year we awarded a grant to the startup Bring it! Food Hub to support efforts to increase access to healthy, affordable local foods and strengthen farmer livelihoods. The Community Foundation funded the development of the Green Machine Mobile Food Market, delivering produce and health education in underserved neighborhoods, in partnership with Healthy Memphis Common Table and St. Patrick’s Church. We partnered with the Binghampton Development Corporation and Shelby County Schools on the demonstration garden site at Grahamwood Elementary School.
The Community Foundation is collaborating with the Memphis & Shelby County Office of Sustainability, University of Memphis, Hyde Family Foundations and the Assisi Foundation of Memphis to develop a livability dashboard. This interactive tool for Shelby County citizens will be used to map neighborhood assets and analyze sustainability indicators and metrics like lakes, trails and plug-in stations for electric cars.
Memphis is a city of great need but also great potential, and we play a role by connecting funding with the right stakeholders and effective, sustainable solutions. The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis is a place where generous people from diverse backgrounds come together to make our community a better place, now and in the future.
Collectively, our donors have created the largest grant maker – public or private – in the Memphis area. More than 800 individuals and families helped us make grants totaling approximately $80 million in 2013 – with more than 75 percent of that staying local.
Our donors want the greater Memphis area to be an attractive and vibrant place to live, work and visit. Through their own grants to organizations like Livable Memphis and Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, they share our vision for a community that will continue to improve through increased green spaces and trails; better access to nutritious, local foods and health information; and more connected neighborhoods.
Robert M. Fockler is president of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.