Doing Good: The Philanthropic Black Women of Memphis

For the eight members of the Philanthropic Black Women of Memphis, every April and May for the past decade has been the season of giving. The organization, which focuses on supporting programs or projects geared towards economic self-sufficiency, provides as much as $20,000 each year in grants to local causes.
“We try to do good in the community. Our purpose centers around education, children and families, and their preparation in becoming self-sufficient,” says Philanthropic Black Women of Memphis (PBWM) President Mary McDaniel. “Our grants support scholarships, arts and literacy. We just believe that education is the way out of poverty, and we understand that it needs to start at an early age.”
 
The women of the group, all mothers, include Mary McDaniel, Debra Evans, Nelda Burroughs, Edith Kelly-Green, Carolyn Chism Hardy, Monice Moore Hagler, Deidre Malone, and Belinda Watkins. They work in a wide variety of professions, including accounting, engineering, IT technology, public relations, and other entrepreneurial pursuits.
 
They're an accomplished bunch. Evans is a partner in both Biasys Technology and Quad Tek; Burroughs is one of the owners of First Choice Sales and Merchandising; Hagler is an attorney with Hagler Bruce Turner PLLC; Chism Hardy is the owner of Chism Hardy Enterprises and the former owner of the old Coors brewery; Kelly-Green is the owners of KGR Group and several local Lenny’s Subs franchises; Malone is the owner of the The Carter Malone Group marketing and PR firm; and Watkins is a VP with FedEx Services, the IT arm of FedEx.
 
The group formed in 2005 after Evans, Kelly-Green and McDaniel spent six hours traveling together to Jackson, Miss. They discussed philanthropy on the ride.
 
“We were all already giving philanthropically to various favorite charities, and we thought that if we could pool our resources then we might make a bigger impact than we could do individually,” says McDaniel, a retired FedEx executive and the current Tennessee alcoholic beverage commissioner for West Tennessee. She also owns her own consulting firm, MHM Investments LLC.
 
Last year PBWM gave $4,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis to support teenage girls in the “Money Matters: Make It Count” financial literacy program, $4,000 to the Girl Scouts Heart of the South for elementary school students to participate in a life-skills education program, $4,000 to The Soulsville Charter School to provide high school students assistance with college applications and admissions costs, and $2,000 to First Baptist Church to educate the three children of slain Memphis police officer Martoiya Lang.
 
“We feel that we are a safety net organization,” McDaniel says. “We believe in supporting safety net programs, programs that might have been overlooked by others, and programs that we feel strongly make a difference in our community.”
 
Past grant recipients include the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, DeNeuville Learning Center, Blackhawks, Booker T. Washington High School Girls Basketball team, New Ballet Ensemble, College Bound of Memphis, Memphis Black Arts Alliance, Memphis Cultural Arts Enrichment Center, Amateur Athletic Union and the Watoto De Afrika.
 
"The individuals in PBWM feel that we impact the future by supporting causes that are critical to our city," says Kelly-Green. "I believe that this community, or any community for that matter, can never be the best it can be as long as there are poor and undereducated citizens in that community."

Each of the eight members of PBWM contribute an equal amount each year. This year McDaniel expects to give out approximately $20,000 total, roughly 25 percent more than last year.

"Our grants aren't necessarily that large, but they are large enough to be impactful to our community," says Kelly-Green. "We hope that others will see the value of giving, regardless of how much or how little."
 
PBWM took requests for funding during March, and they will review grant applications this month. An awards luncheon will take place in early May.  
 
“We hope to continue this work, and even do more of it in the future,” McDaniel says.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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