The nonprofit group Advance Memphis, the work of which focuses on helping the poor in South Memphis move up the economic ladder, has made its mark on the inner city.
Since its founding in 1999, the organization has graduated some 600 people from its programs. About 100 people graduate from its job readiness training each year.
The group’s cause is helping residents in the 38126 ZIP code move from generational poverty to financial independence, and this year alone the group has helped about 20 people get their GEDs. Now, the group is preparing for its annual fundraiser Art for Jobs, for which Advance Memphis has collected the handiwork of dozens of artists for an art show and sale.
The mission of that fundraiser, which happens Thursday, Sept. 19, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 769 Vance Ave., is bringing awareness and funding to its work, said Advance Memphis director of communications Kate Lareau.
“We’re helping people realize what’s going on in their own city and how, with this, they can help be part of the solution,” she said. “We have art from lots of local artists – some from outside the city. We’re going to have 70 to 80 pieces. We’ll have coffee from Reverb Coffee, and one of our graduates who’s worked for K97 will be a deejay.”
The event has more than a dozen sponsors from the business community, which underscores community buy-in to the group’s work.
“We're excited to be able to support Advance Memphis through their Art for Jobs fundraiser because of the positive impact they're having on the city by empowering Memphians through financial freedom,” said Caitlin Horton, co-founder of Front Porch Art. “Not only that, but this event is a great opportunity for everyone to enjoy some of the amazing art coming out of Memphis.”
“We’re helping people realize what’s going on in their own city and how ... they can be part of the solution.”
Director of Communications, Advance Memphis
When Advance Memphis got started, 38126 was the third-poorest ZIP code in the nation, according to the group. Most of the area’s residents are jobless, and many don’t have a car. Just fewer than half don’t have a high school degree.
Advance Memphis focuses its work on providing things like soft skills job training, economic literacy, personal finance training and job placement. An example of Advance Memphis’ work is Jobs for Life, a six-week soft skills job training program.
It’s designed for people who are unemployed or underemployed and provides basic computer literacy, helps students set up email accounts, learn to upload resumes and conduct an online job search, among other things.
Lareau said all of Advance Memphis’ programs are intended to serve as stepping stones to financial independence.
“One thing that is unique about us is we have our own not-for-profit staffing agency,” Lareau said. “So that allows us to employ people literally the minute they graduate from our job readiness program. The most exciting thing because of the staffing service we have is just the kind of undeniable impact we’re having. We’ve had about 80 people go to work this year so far. And then more exciting than that, we’ve had 35 people move from temporary employment into full-time permanent employment with benefits – which is really a pretty big number when you consider we’re coming from one of the poorest urban ZIP codes in the country.”
That’s what excites Lareau most about the group’s work – that there’s measurable impact to which it can point.
“Helping people go to work is one thing we’ve got to do better at as a city,” she said.