Taste of Jubilee to Benefit Underprivileged Students

By Sarah Baker

Founded in 1947, St. John Catholic School at 2717 Lamar Ave. was once the largest Catholic school in Memphis.

Friday’s Taste of Jubilee will help support children who attend the city’s Jubilee Schools, including St. Augustine Catholic School.

(Photo: Catholic Schools Staff)

The surrounding area was a large suburban community made up of small houses that built up after World War II.

But as the demographics of the neighborhood changed, Memphis residents moved to eastern suburbs and new Catholic schools were built like Holy Rosary School, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Catholic Church Of The Incarnation. Enrollment at St. John dwindled until in 1990, when it was no longer financially viable to stay open.

In 1999, a group of anonymous benefactors came forward with the initial investment needed to reopen Catholic schools in the inner city that had been closed due to low enrollment and lack of funding. St. Augustine Catholic School was the first to benefit from this donation and open its doors.

The following year, Bishop J. Terry Steib reopened St. John and De La Salle Catholic School in honor of the Jubilee Year 2000, which in church tradition is a year of mercy for the poor.

Beginning with one kindergarten class of 26 students, there are now eight Jubilee Schools and two initiative schools serving some of Memphis’ poorest ZIP codes with income levels averaging $14,000. Nationally renowned as the “Miracle In Memphis,” members from that first kindergarten class graduated last spring from high school and headed to various universities this past fall.

“The Jubilee Schools are kind of hidden gems throughout Memphis,” said Kristi Baird, president of St. John, which has an enrollment of 200 today. “Because we’re small neighborhood schools that a lot of people don’t know about, and we offer a strong educational foundation.”

Baird said the majority of the families who go to St. John and the other Jubilee Schools are Protestant. Because regardless of religious denomination, they aspire for their child to have a strong educational foundation in order to have opportunities in life.

What: 2013 Taste of Jubilee

When: Friday, April 19, at 7 p.m.

Where: Pink Palace Family of Museums, 3050 Central Ave.

Why: Benefiting the Blue Streak Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships for more than 1,600 students with financial hardships

Info: $75 per person or $85 at the door

Visit: tasteofjubilee.org

“The majority of our kids at St. John are on free and reduced lunch and come from a single-family home where their mom works, but it’s just a low-income job, so they’re still at or below the poverty level,” Baird said. “They want them in a Christian environment where they learn Christian principles and those values that they need in life to be good citizens.”

Blue Streak Scholarship Fund is a nonprofit organization established in 2003 by Christian Brothers High School alumni that raises funds necessary to provide tuition scholarships for students of the Jubilee Schools. In its 10 years of existence, Blue Streak Scholarship Fund has distributed more than $1 million in scholarships.

Taste of Jubilee, the largest fundraiser of the Blue Streak Scholarship Fund, is set for Friday, April 19, at 7 p.m. at Pink Palace Family of Museums, 3050 Central Ave. Last year’s Taste of Jubilee benefit was attended by more than 650 people and raised $117,000 for the Jubilee Schools.

In September 2007, The Hyde Family Foundation announced it would match a total of $5 million over a period of 10 years for the Jubilee Schools. All donations to the Blue Streak Scholarship Fund will apply to the grant Taste of Jubilee 2013 challenge and will essentially double one’s donation to the Jubilee Schools.

“We greatly appreciate all of the members of Blue Streak and the tremendous support they provide to our Jubilee Catholic Schools,” said Janet Donato, superintendent of Catholic Schools. “Their ongoing generous donation of time, talent and treasure to the Taste of Jubilee is a blessing to our Jubilee Catholic Schools.”

As the name would imply, cuisine at the Taste of Jubilee is prepared by dozens of Memphis’ most celebrated restaurants – Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Bari, Erling Jensen, Felicia Suzanne’s, The Grove Grill, Interim and Restaurant Iris, to name a few. Wine, beer and cocktails will also be available.

The Taste of Jubilee will have live music with the band Walrus and will feature a silent auction full of trips, sports memorabilia, artwork and jewelry. Visit tasteofjubilee.org for more information.