Hickory Hill

Hickory Hill Community Center is high-energy heartbeat of the neighborhood

We’re kicking off On the Ground: Hickory Hill, and we’d love your story ideas and feedback. You can email [email protected] or stop by our Community Newsroom. From September through November, the newsroom will be located in the lobby of the Hickory Hill Community Center on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (excluding November 29).

Since 2003, the Hickory Hill Community Center has been a hub of activity for its surrounding neighborhoods.

“We are a community center so we focus on all age levels. We can provide for the entire family, from the little kids to grandma,” said Community Center Director Adrianna Moore. "Customer service is one of our passions. We're a family here."

"If someone calls or asks a question, we never say we don't know," she continued. "We find out for you, and if we don't offer it, we'll find someone else nearby who does.”

Luckily, there's a lot they do offer in-house. 

The center has teen programming, dancing and cooking classes, space for community meetings, numerous exercise and recreation options and much more under one roof. The programs are free of charge to anyone who wishes to participate.

Amenities include an indoor walking track, art room, dance studio, gymnasium, workout room, tennis court, playground and a game room used regularly by teens. It also boasts one of the city's only free and public indoor swimming facilities.

Not only is the game room used for games such as pool, but the room is also the location for “Teen Talk,” a popular program on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“They come into the game room, and I have partnerships with outside organizations that mentor them. They learn cooking, how to DJ and do other activities,” said Moore.

Youth also participate in sports such as basketball and flag football.

Senior citizens are just as active in the facility as children.

“The line dancing is one of our most popular programs with the senior citizens. They really enjoy it and the attendance picked up," said Moore. "Our yoga program is very popular too."

"What makes us unique is that we have senior programs but we are not a senior facility," she continued.

The Hickory Hill Community Center is located at 3910 Ridgeway Road and is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. 
Neighborhood residents play basketball at the Hickory Hill Community Center. The center opened in 2003. (A.J. Dugger III)

The Birth and Life of a Center of Community

On December 31, 1998, the City of Memphis annexed Hickory Hill.

As part of annexation, the City of Memphis planned to build three community centers in Hickory Hill, but residents and city officials decided one large facility would have more impact.

The 55,244-square-foot building cost $10 million to construct and planning took several years. 

“The community got to put in their input of what they wanted, and we made sure to deliver. This community center was built in 2002 but didn't open until March 2003,” said Lewis Burton, recreation program manager with the City of Memphis Division of Parks and Neighborhoods.

Minnie Peller is a senior citizen who works out at the center throughout the week as part of the senior fitness program.

“At one point, I couldn't walk for a year. I've had 13 orthopedic surgeries," she said. "If you sit, you're going to make things worse and get stiff. So I keep active and work out in the gym. I used to go to the YMCA, but I'd rather come here because I like the people here.”

Peller almost never misses a chance to line dance or do yoga, and there are other benefits for seniors too.

“We have a partnership with Mid-South Food Bank where we can provide food to our seniors a couple of times a month,” said Moore.

The food bank is one of center's offerings where youth and seniors connect. Mya Brady is nine-years-old and assists with stocking and distribution for the food bank program.

“I help push the food to their cars and take it to them,” said Brady of her volunteer work.

Brady is a dancer who participates in the center's dance team and enjoys swimming in its pool. She's also the daughter of Danae Lawrence, Hickory Hill Community Center's assistant director.

Moore and Lawrence are the center's only full-time staff members, but it also employs 14 part-time staff. The staff say they feel privileged to be a part of and witness the restoration of neighborhoods, neighborly relationships and individuals like Peller.

“They motivate you, and that's another reason why I like coming here," said Peller.

"Healing from surgery takes time and you might not think you're doing any good but the exercise works. I didn't think I'd walk again and wanted to quit, but I had good support here.”

Moore couldn't help but smile broadly as she listening to Peller speak. She said Peller's endorsement means the center is accomplishing its goals.

““We try to offer positive resources, smiling faces and a place for people to de-stress from life," she said. 
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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)