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A group of young boys and girls gathered at a playground in Shelby Farms Park Saturday morning to spend the day riding new bikes for the first time.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Bike Recycle is a program offered in partnership with the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, Oasis of Hope, Renasant Bank, YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South and Girls Inc.

The program provides children across Shelby County with new bikes and teaches them how to ride and maintain them safely.

YMCA and Girls Inc. referred the children, looking for those without bikes or the opportunity to purchase one on their own, said Natalie Wilson, senior manager of events and programs for the conservancy.

"Here we are in a park space that sits in the middle of our city but the citizens, the kids and families, we have a responsibility of serving them too," Wilson said. "Part of what we look at is how can we transform the city through children and their families by providing education."

This year the program gave bikes and helmets to 28 5- to 12-year-olds. Before they could take anything home, each child took three bike safety courses that taught them the rules of the road, as well as maintenance tips like how to remove a chain or tire, Wilson said.

After the final safety course, the riders took off on a "graduation ride" in the park with an adult "bike buddy" before returning to the parking lot where they could pedal around a buffalo in a park ranger hat.

Bike buddy Calvin Anderson is a member of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy Board and a senior officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield. He spent the morning biking alongside the girls and boys who were applying what they learned in the workshops to the real world.

"This is an opportunity to not only put bikes in the hands of kids, but to promote and encourage physical fitness and outdoor activity," he said. "This sort of teaches the kids not only safe riding but also how to care for the bikes that they have."

Parent Anastasia Davis said the program gave her the opportunity for one-on-one time with her 6-year-old daughter Jada Alexander, who spent the morning with her mother atop a tiny purple Schwinn.

She said the courses were very helpful and educational.

"It's more than just a bike," Davis said. "It teaches them to actually be safe, how to check the bike and tires."

Blue Cross Blue Shield donated money to the program, and Oasis of Hope collected donated bikes to be fixed up and matched to the children based on their size and height, Wilson said.

Source: http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/suburbs/germantown/memphis-youth-learn-bike-safety-26679d03-8b17-4e2e-e053-0100007f05cc-363037691.html

IMG 5811When local beekeeper Louis Padgett paid a visit to the Girls Inc. Youth Farm, the girls he worked with were, understandably, a little hesitant.

"We're not going to mess with them today, right?" one farmer asked.

All that passed one the bee-master got down to business. He spoke to the girls about everything from entrepreneurship to the importance of bees to the ecosystem - like the fact that honeybees are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of the food that is eaten worldwide.

Next the girls were guided in the process of building their own beehive, which will see its first bee resisdents next spring. With guidance from Louis and encouragement from each other, they went from girls who had barely used a hammer to power tool pros who can't wait for their next project.

Then it was time to get to know some bees.

The session was scheduled to end with a photo of the girls in protective beekeeping suits, but they weren't about to stop there! Armed with new knowledge and appreciation for bees, the girls accompanied Louis on an inspection of the farm's existing hives. Thanks to the Memphis Area Beekeeper's Association, there were plenty of suits and hive smokers to allow the girls to safely explore the bee's world.

It was a high-water mark for the girls - they challenged themselves to safely face a once-terrifying thing and walked right into the thick of their fears. They took initiative and ownership and we couldn't be prouder. They truly embodied the spirit of bold.

Raejean Davis was excited to share her story with the 45 guests at Girls Inc.'s October dinner at Cafe Society in Midtown.

"It was an amazing feeling that I can have value," Raejean said, "and that people wanted to take their time out for me."

DSCN0245 smallThe four-course meal, hosted by Chef Cullen Kent, included produce from our very own Youth Farm. it was a yummy way to share the Girls Inc. story with new and old friends alike.

Raejean was among six Girls Inc. girl who served dinner to guest and shared personal stories about waht Girls Inc. has meant to them. They each gained behind-the-scenes knowledge of the restaurant industry, were able to network with leaders in the community and strengthened their public speaking skills. 

Diners also heard from president and CEO Lisa Moore and former Girls Inc. girl and incoming board president Adriane Williams, who shared personal stories as well as her reasons for staying involved with Girls Inc. over the years.

Many guests expressed how impressed they were with the young women and how inspired they are by what Girls Inc. of Memphis is doing in the community. Each guest left full of Chef Kent's delicious food AND full of knowledge of the many ways to support Girls Inc. through financial contributions, job placements and volunteering.

If you would like to learn about these opportunities, visit our volunteer page or click here to donate.

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Photo by Kyle Kurlick

An organization that supports the empowerment of girls celebrated a harvest at its 9.5-acre farm Saturday in Frayser where youth learn to grow and sell produce.

The Girls Inc. of Memphis youth farm, located on Dellwood near Baskin, is distinct in teaching the girls economic freedom and how to run a business, said Adriane Williams, a Girls Inc. board member.

"I really want for girls to recognize they have the ability to control their own lives," Williams said.

The girls grew a variety of vegetables this year, including carrots, black cherry tomatoes, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, sugar snap peas, kale, spinach and arugula.

Girls Inc. of Memphis has worked with girls since 1947, inspiring them to be "strong, smart and bold," said Lisa Moore, the organization's president and chief executive officer.

"Today we're celebrating a gorgeous day," Moore said. "It's fall harvest. And we're also experiencing and enjoying our latest program, the Girls Inc. youth farm. It's a leadership and entrepreneurship program for high school girls where they're hired to run the business of an organic farm."

The youth farm aims to provide a welcoming and educational space as well as a source of healthy food. They farm on about 1.5 acres and also keep honey bees.

Girls Inc. tries to create an environment that is "pro-girl," building on their strengths and promoting their talents, Moore said. The girls also learn about their bodies and health.

Mattie Reese, 18, and Nikeishia Davis, 17, in red t-shirts with GROW printed on the back, walked through the wide, sunny fields Saturday pointing out where the lettuce, peppers, eggplant and sunflowers had grown.

Reese said she has learned entrepreneurship through Girls Inc., which she has been involved in since she was 6 years old. She explained how the girls would plan their days under a tent at the youth farm, discussing their weekly sales goals and what to plant in the spring and fall.

Davis, who joined in June, said the organization has taught her to step outside her comfort zone.

"I know that I can do anything I put my mind to," Davis said. "And I know I can do anything a man can do."

For more information, visit girlsincmemphis.org.

Source: http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/youth-farm-celebrates-harvest-empowerment-of-girls-2470495d-314f-0244-e053-0100007fd4b7-349108081.html


I was very shy and didn’t speak to anyone or interact with others much. I love to read, have natural hair, have been called weird. I came to Girls Inc. and because I was accepted the way I am, I came out of my shell. I tried new things, I have found my voice. - Rahni

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