Strengthening Communities in Action

As a member of the administration team for the Strengthening Communities Initiative, I talk about the funded programs a lot. I tell people thinking about applying for a grant how successful they have been. I tell people in the community about how the University of Memphis is involved with the community. I tell faculty members about the projects to get them excited about applying. I talk with grant recipients, learning about their accomplishments. Recently I experienced one program on a different level – as a member of the Memphis community.

Saturday morning, October 22, I started out with the Right Road Run, a 4-miler jointly sponsored by Juvenile Court and Victorian Village. Soon after, I visited a few homes on the Victorian Village Tour. The weather was perfect. The course was unique. The homes were beautiful. And I even won something in the silent auction.

But the most fun part of the day was meeting the resident tour guides. In 2009, Scott Blake of Victorian Village CDC and Randle Witherington with the Department of Architecture spearheaded the Heritage Tourism Resident Training Program. The goal was to engage the residents in the redevelopment of the Victorian Village area. They recruited residents to become tour guides for the neighborhood, all while creating awareness of the historical significance of Victorian Village, encouraging tourism, and generating a sense of community.

And it worked. For the first time I met the tour guides. They played an important role in helping the day’s events succeed. They served as course monitors, making sure runners didn’t make a wrong turn. They strolled the streets during the house tour, pointing out the next home on the tour – and making sure you didn’t miss the local barbecue joint. And most importantly, they were friendly, helpful, and happy. I had the chance to talk to one of the ladies about participating in the program. She told me how much she loved it – that the experience had changed her life. Her smile and enthusiasm was invigorating.

Thank you, Scott and Randle, for your commitment to this program. Thank you, residents, for taking such pride in your neighborhood.

Leigh N. Hersey, PhD
Assistant Professor, Division of Public and Nonprofit Administration
Director of Research, Institute for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership
University of Memphis



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