Women's Foundation celebrates 20 years -- and unveils ambitious plan for the future

The Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis celebrated its 20 year anniversary at its annual Tribute Luncheon on May 1 and Legends Award Reception on April 23. Noted director, choreographer, and educator Debbie Allen served as keynote speaker for the luncheon. At the Legends Awards Reception the organization honored its founders and founding Board of Directors.

Over 1,600 people converged on the Cook Convention Center for the sold out luncheon. Philanthropist, director, choreographer, and educator Debbie Allen served as the keynote speaker, and attendees were surprised with a performance from singer Jennifer Holiday. Allen also spoke to high school girls from around the city at the Youth Leadership Forum that was a part of the luncheon events.  

The mission of the Women's Foundation is to encourage philanthropy and foster leadership among women, and support programs that enable women and children to reach their full potential. The foundation provides financial support and technical assistance for local nonprofit organizations and supports programs through grant making, advocacy, and research.

The Legends Awards honorees were also recognized at the Tribute Luncheon.

The Legends Award Reception was held April 23 at the The Columns at One Commerce Square. Founding members and board members of the organization were recognized together through a commemorative work of art that will be installed in the Hall of Legends at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women.

During the reception, WFGM also honored the recipients of the first leadership award given in 1997, the Mertie Buckman Mentor Award.

“Because of our founders’ foresight and selfless commitment, 20 years later, the Women’s Foundation continues to serve as an agent for change in creating a community of well-being and prosperity,” said Andrea Beinstock, Board Chairwoman of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis.

At the Tribute Luncheon, Susan Stephenson, President of Independent Bank and Board Member of WFGM's, unveiled the organization's “Vision 20/20”: a plan to reduce poverty one percent per year for the next five years in the city, with a focus on South Memphis zip code of 38126 (the area directly south of the FedExForum). The zip code is the poorest in the city.

Five core strategies for the 20/20 plan were outlined:
  • To support families in securing resources to meet their basic needs
  • To equip residents with marketable job skills to gain living wage employment
  • That all children age 0-5 living in the 38126 zip code will be prepared to enter and learn in kindergarten 
  • To develop positive outcomes in youth that include competence, confidence, connection, and character
  • To help families gain the financial education skills to help them reduce poverty
The plan calls for the foundation to raise $9.5 million to accomplish the task, and with a $500,000 donation from The Hyde Family Foundation and another from FedEx, they are well on their way. In addition to money garnered from ticket sales, the foundation also received donations during the event. The Hyde Family Foundation issued a match for donations given during the luncheon–donations up to $499 were tripled and donations over $500 were doubled.

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Read more articles by Elle Perry.

A native of Memphis, Elle Perry serves as coordinator of the Teen Appeal, the Scripps Howard city-wide high school newspaper program. 

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