In 1919, two ladies came together to organize The Orange Mound Progressive Club. From there, 30 dedicated Christian ladies started upon a path of service to the community.
The OMPC has operated continuously since its inception as a philanthropic organization of African American women.
Members have supported the community for generations in whatever ways they could, including sending flowers and food to the bereaved and money and clothes to those in need.
“We just helped a lady who needed her light, gas, and water bill paid. She didn’t have a job, so we helped her collect her deposit and pay her [MLGW] bill,” said OMPC's treasurer, Phyllis Glass.
The club receives no outside funding. Members pay monthly dues totaling $120 per year. This allows reliance on the club’s own monies to take care of the charitable donations that they give.
Currently, there are 23 OMPC members. All members share a mutual love for Memphis and the Orange Mound community.
The club’s public motto is, “Help me Lord that I may live my life in such a way, that those who might be following me will not be led astray.”
In September 2019, the club celebrated its centennial year of service at the CandleLight Ballroom in Orange Mound. At the event, tribute was paid to the club’s founders and current members. It was attended by approximately 100 guests.
“It was a real proud moment for us knowing that the club has existed for a hundred years and it's been self-sustaining,” said OMPC's president, Carol Jones.
“It has been important to have a club like ours in our community to help support each other when there is no one else to turn to,” said Glass.
OMPC meets once a month January through June. Meetings pick back up September through November.
“In December we get together for the members. We try to go out to eat or something like that just for us,” said Glass.
All members of the Orange Mound Progressive Club in attendance at the organization's centennial celebration posed together for a group photography. Many are second- and third-generation legacies. (Submitted, Tyrone P. Easley)
100 years of Uplifting Orange Mound
The club was founded on three primary principles.
First, OMPC hopes to stimulate interest in the community by giving assistance to needy families and charitable organizations. Second, it works to generate an atmosphere of cohesiveness among club members. Lastly, members try to create wholesome and economical recreational activities in Orange Mound.
In earlier years, club service included a counseling program for young girls and unwed mothers and sponsorship for the Nat Buring-Orange Mound Learning Center with both monetary donations and volunteering.
Glass is the club's current treasurer but served as president from 2016 to 2019.
She said at Christmases OMPC participates in the Salvation Army Angel Tree program to provide gifts to families in need.
Other organizations the club has supported include: LeMoyne-Owen College, St. Mary’s Cathedral’s SMART program, the Orange Mound Collaborative, the Mid-South Food Bank, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and The Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee.
In 2019, OMPC lent a hand to the graduating seniors of Orange Mound's historic Melrose High School.
“Last year, we gave for their class [celebration] day when they needed money for that, and we helped some of the seniors to cover their senior dues,” said Glass.
More recently, the ladies attended the Tennessee Department of Human Services Volunteer Support Group’s annual Love Breakfast. They also offered financial support. The February 22 event was the club’s fourth annual Love Breakfast. Last year, the members won an award for their years of support.
Membership into the club is invite-only. Restricting membership to legacies and friends of members preserves the club’s mission and cohesiveness. Several members are second- or third-generation legacies, including Glass, VP Shirley Collins, and Secretary Essie Richardson.
“My mother was in it and her mother was in it,” said Glass. “My mother was president for 11 years."
The club holds leadership elections every two years. Jones, was sworn in as president in January and has been a member of the organization for four years.
“The club has a proud heritage. I’m the first one in my family that has been invited to join,” said Jones.
Author Alexandria Moore is a High Ground News Community Correspondent. Correspondents complete a six-week training and mentorship program to become neighborhood-based reporters. Correspondents live in underserved communities and hope to correct negative neighborhood narratives by diving into the nuances underlying big challenges and solutions.