VOL. 126 | NO. 157 | Friday, August 12, 2011
30 by 30: Southern CHARMS Celebrate With Service
A lot of people facing a milestone birthday start thinking about themselves – their own lives, their own accomplishments, what they have and haven’t done by the time they hit 30 or 40 or 50.
When Erika Conley started thinking about what it meant to turn 30, she looked outward instead of in.
“In your 20s, you’re trying to finish school, get a career going, figure out what you want to do,” said Conley, communications coordinator for Memphis Theological Seminary. “Then there’s this natural evolution of, ‘OK, I may be successful, but what does that mean?’”
For Conley and a group of 14 friends, it means taking what they’ve learned and giving back to the community in a way that will make a real impact. Known collectively as Southern CHARMS, the group has launched a campaign to complete 30 service projects for nonprofit organizations by their own 30th birthdays.
“We decided to make our ‘bucket list’ a pay-it-forward type of thing,” said Lori Spicer, community affairs manager for The Regional Medical Center at Memphis and a leader of the project. “It’s a huge undertaking. To pull it off will be a great accomplishment.”
Called the Cry Me a River Project, the multi-phase, yearlong initiative will benefit groups ranging from the Memphis Food Bank to Dress for Success to Southern CHARMS’ primary benefactor, charity: water, which distributes clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
“We decided to make our ‘bucket list’ a pay-it-forward type of thing. It’s a huge undertaking. To pull it off will be a great accomplishment.”
For its first community service project, Southern CHARMS volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis.
“We did a game night with the kids and their families,” Spicer said. “We played Twister and Uno and Mad Gab. The kids loved it and their families loved it.”
The project’s phases include service, community buy-in and celebration.
During the service phase, the CHARMS will complete a wide range of projects in Memphis and beyond. Among the planned events are a midnight bike tour for Meritan, flood relief cleanup for Habitat for Humanity Birmingham, a home-repair project with Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association, the LuvMud 5K benefiting Habitat for Hope, collection of supplies for military troops and of gifts for Families of Incarcerated Individuals, a blood drive for Lifeblood and a group volunteer project at the Grizzlies House.
In the second phase, the CHARMS will host an informational mixer to mark their progress and educate the community about the charity: water organization and its mission.
And in the last phase of the project, the group will celebrate its success with a riverboat party that will double as a 30th birthday celebration and fundraiser for charity: water. Members of the group, campaign supporters, donors and the community are invited to the June 23 event, set to take place on a Memphis riverboat.
If others want to become involved in the group’s effort, said Rachel Benford, a business analyst for CACI in Millington, they’re “more than welcome.”
“We’re not turning anybody away if they want to jump on the bandwagon,” she said, adding that the group hopes to raise more than $10,000 for charity.
A Facebook page devoted to the initiative is at www.facebook.com under the name Southern C.H.A.R.M.S. The group can also be reached at email@example.com.
“We’re moving into 30, and you always hear about your lives changing and losing friends,” Spicer said. “For us to be able to celebrate this together is a good experience. I’m excited about it.”