Hickory Hill

Neighborhood Christian Centers' Compassion Christmas comes to Hickory Hill

In September, Neighborhood Christian Centers opened its newest location at Power Center Academy in Hickory Hill.

The location gives PCA's middle and high school students, their families, and other Hickory Hill residents closer access to NCC's food pantry, clothing closet, and other hands-on supports. 

Now, the PCA location is participating in its first Compassionate Christmas.

Throughout the month of December, community members can donate clothes and toys to underserved families across Memphis.

It’s NCC’s 30th year hosting Compassionate Christmas across its networks. Donations from the city-wide drive have to be sorted in a warehouse before distribution to NCC's locations, including Hickory Hill. Anna Wilcox is NCC's community director.

“We do different Christmas parties and [events] then we do our big basket pack-and-give away," she said. "We give away 10,000 food boxes to families across our communities that need food assistance during the holidays."

“People can go to our website. They can donate or sponsor [a gift for] a child," she continued.

Wilcox said even a $10 donation can ensure a high quality gift. 

Bonds Beyond the holidays

Compassionate Christmas also includes a toy store on December 23 at the NCC's North Center location. Parents can “shop” the store and select gifts for their children at no cost. The shop will be the closing event of their year’s Compassionate Christmas.

Michelle Green is the site director for the NCC’s PCA location. Though the center is new, Green has been working with the PCA students for two years. In April, she was part of recruiting students for 2019 summer programming facilitated by the two partners.

“Prior to [NCC] being there, we had relationships with the students,” said Wilcox.

“We meet once a week and we have Bible study and we also do tutoring and mentoring as well,” said Green. “We have an office at the high school, so I do have time when the students come to my office and we have small sessions when they need to talk.”

“We are only working with middle school and high school students. Next year plan to add our elementary students,” said Green. “At PCA we have that Bible study on Thursday. Eventually those students will be qualified for our summer programs so they will become a part of our NCC College and Arts program.”

Antonio Ryan is the principal of PCA High School.

“What the NCC brings to us is really critical to our core value, which is community. We believe that collaboration is key to personal growth in the neighborhood revitalization,” he said.

Bobbie Turner works alongside Ryan as the chief academic officer of Gestalt Community Schools, the nonprofit management company that oversees PCA.

“To be able to partner with NCC is an additional resource for our families. It's someone to stand beside us and help us to pick up the load in order for us to serve more families,” she said.

NCC's plans next to add parent and adult programs to PCA including "A Better Me," a support systems for adults in need of help stabilizing their housing or employment.

“We'll be able to start our additional programs at our other sites [then] incorporate them into PCA,” said Green.

NCC’s programs were recently pulled together into a cohesive, whole-family strategy they call Holistic Home and Neighborhood Engagement. Support specialists work with youth, adults, and families for a lengthy period of time, generally between 12 to 18 months, across economic, mental, and family stability. 

“That is really a project in which NCC has formalized over the past two years, but we've been doing that style of work ever since our inception in the 1970s,” said Wilcox.

Once enrolled, the NCC team visits families, set goals with them, and provides case management and referrals. 

“We're working ahead to ensure that both the parents and children are in a better situation,” said Green. “We work with the parents to make sure that we're bringing them into a more sustainable environment or situation. We also work with the student to make sure they're already prepared to be in a better situation.”
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Read more articles by A. J. Dugger III.

A.J. Dugger III is an award-winning journalist and native Memphian who joined High Ground as lead writer for its signature series, On the Ground, in August 2019. Previously, he wrote for numerous publications in West Tennessee and authored two books, “Southern Terror” and “The Dealers: Then and Now.” He has also appeared as a guest expert on the true-crime series, “For My Man.” For more information, visit ajdugger.net. (Photo by April Stilwell)