Friday, July 10, 2020

CirQuest Labs Acquired by German Medical Company

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2020 at 3:42 PM

Memphis-based CirQuest Labs has been acquired by a German company, MLM Medical Labs GmbH.

  • Photo by Larry Kuzniewski
  • Lisa K. Jennings

CirQuest was founded in 2008 by Lisa K. Jennings, a former tenured Professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, who has since been the owner and CEO. She will remain as global Chief Scientific Officer spearheading research services for the U.S. and Europe and as the Managing Executive Officer for the Memphis location.

CirQuest is a multi-service specialty laboratory and direct marketer of clinical trial logistics to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. MLM Medical Labs, based near Duesseldorf, Germany, is a central laboratory dedicated exclusively to clinical trials.

CirQuest will remain at its Memphis facility and plans to expand staffing, laboratory research, and clinical trial services. It currently has about 30 employees and on-site consultants at the Memphis location. Annual revenues are estimated to be between $5 million and $10 million.

Jennings was the recipient of one of the 2015 Innovation Awards presented by Inside Memphis Business magazine.

Stephan Wnendt, CEO of MLM, said in a statement, “From the very first moment there was a great connection between Lisa and the MLM team. It’s not only the similarities in the way our labs are set up, but even more the shared passion for our clients and their projects.”

Jennings says, “There are people who research well and people who run clinical trials well — these skill sets do not always overlap. By combining two excellent enterprises like MLM and CirQuest we have the opportunity to bridge the gap between the two. MLM’s core values — scientific excellence, personal accountability, customized solutions — perfectly align with our philosophy and I am very much looking forward to joining the MLM family for the benefit of both of our companies.”

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More Than 1,000 New Virus Cases Added This Week

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2020 at 10:45 AM

Shelby County added 1,116 new cases of COVID-19 from Monday morning to Friday morning, for an average of about 280 cases each day, in a week that saw health officials close bars completely and restaurants at 10 p.m.

Test results reported Friday morning showed 362 new cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County, rising from the 306 cases reported Thursday morning.

The latest weekly data available shows 14.2 percent of all tests were positive for the week of June 28th, an increase over the 12.4 percent of positive test reported the week before. The weekly average positivity rate has grown steadily since the 4 percent rate recorded for the week of May 4th, just as the county's economy began to reopen.

The county's overall average positive rate for COVID-19 remained steady Thursday at 8.6 percent on all test results reported since the virus arrived here in March. The total number of COVID-19 cases here stands at 13,135. The death toll rose by six on Friday in Shelby County and now stands at 214.


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Thursday, July 9, 2020

RiverArtsFest Cancels This Year's Event

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2020 at 3:30 PM

The 2020 RiverArtsFest, which was scheduled for October 24-25 in downtown Memphis, has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.  



Bonnie Thornton, festival director, says the event relies on regional and national travel of more than 180 artists and the attendance of more than 20,000 people. "We are confident this is the best decision to ensure the safety of our artists, our volunteers, our sponsors and our community during this uncertain time,” she says.

“As a year-round, non-profit, volunteer-run organization with a mission to provide access to art experiences and support arts education in Memphis, RiverArtsFest is initiating and exploring a number of options to support local artists and the community throughout the rest of 2020,” Thornton added.


The board already is planning the 15th Anniversary RiverArtsFest, scheduled for October 23-24, 2021.

Head of Memphis Restaurant Association Urges, Businesses, Patrons to ‘Do Their Part’

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2020 at 3:00 PM

The head of the Memphis Restaurant Association (MRA) said Thursday that the decisions made by the health department have a “huge impact” on the restaurant industry.

At an update of the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing Thursday, Ernie Mellor, president of MRA, said “these are truly challenging days and times for everybody, in particular in our industry. As most of you know, we have been hit as hard as anybody.”

Mellor said as the number if COVID-19 cases increase, the health department is having to make “tough decisions.”

“These decisions that they are making are for the safety of everyone, not just your next door neighbor, but us as restaurant owners and everybody in the county,” Mellor said. These decisions have a real impact on the livelihood of our industry, our employers, our employees, and their families. So I’ve asked Dr. Haushalter and her staff to please consider the economic impacts of their decisions before they take action.”

The latest directive from the health department asks that restaurants collect tracing data on its customers, recording the names and phone numbers of patrons. Mellor said this request “will be challenging for our members.”

Dr. Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department said the purpose of this is to ensure the health department has the ability to contact people if they’ve been exposed in a restaurant setting.

Mellor encouraged all restaurants and patrons to follow the protocols of the health directive.

Haushalter added that the health department is prepared to go out and enforce protocols at restaurants and bars.

“We do rely on others bringing information to us and as we are able with the staffing that we have or with police and sheriff we will then respond or do more proactive checks,” Haushalter said. “We all want to move forward, being back to work and back to school. If one or two businesses don’t comply, it makes it much more difficult for every other business.”

Bars aren’t being “targeted,” Haushalter said. Instead, she said the department is relying on data and science to make decisions. The data shows that there is an increase in cases among individuals between the ages of 25 and 45 and that transmissions is occurring in social settings.

Haushalter also gave an update on the criteria for moving forward, which includes:

• The number and trend of cases, which is trending upward

• The positivity rate of tests, which should be below 10 percent. It’s currently at 8.6 percent overall

• The reproduction rate, which should be at 1 or below. That number is currently 1.2

• Testing capacity, which Haushalter said is “becoming more strained”

• Hospital capacity; Haushalter said hospitals are reporting they are currently able to manage number of cases coming in

• Public health capacity, which includes the ability to get people isolated quickly. Haushalter said this is “becoming more of a challenge”

“These are all red flags. When you look at all four gating criteria, we have red flags. We’re really straining the public health system. We ‘re beginning to strain the hospital system. We know our testing system is strained as well and our numbers are going up. So those are things that allow us to move us forward.”

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Google Operations Center Going Up in Southaven

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2020 at 1:38 PM

The mayor of Southaven is touting the just-announced U.S. Google Operations Center as one of the most significant developments to happen to the city.

  • Google/Facebook

Mayor Darren Musselwhite said the new 60,000 square-foot facility will provide human customer and operations support for Google customers and users around the world. The customer service will include answering calls, troubleshooting, and helping set up ad campaigns.

It will be at 5665 Airways Boulevard north of the Tanger Outlet Mall and adjacent to I-55. 

Construction is expected to begin in August with occupancy and operations beginning the second quarter of 2021. Musselwhite says 100 new professional jobs will come initially with plans to expand to 350 from the local workforce.

Google has two other facilities like this, one in the Philippines, the other in India.

“We are excited to continue growing our workforce across the southeast and are confident that Mississippi will be a great home for Google,” said Troy Dickerson, VP of Google Operations Center, in a press release.

Capitol Commission Votes to Remove Forrest Bust

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2020 at 12:53 PM

  • Nathan Bedford Forrest Boyhood Home/Facebook

The decision to remove the bust of slave trader, Ku Klux Klan member, and disgraced Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee State Capitol building is now in the hands of the Tennessee Historical Commission.

The move comes after  the State Capitol Commission voted 9-2 to move the bust and two others from alcoves in the halls between the House and Senate chambers. The original vote was only to include Forrest’s bust but was changed to include the busts of Admiral David Farragut and U.S. Navy Admiral Albert Gleaves in order to move them to a new military exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum. The move would leave no busts in the Capital hallway alcoves.

The amendment to change the vote to include the other two busts came from Tennessee State Comptroller Justin Wilson. The move seemed to take many commissioners by surprise, especially those not from Governor Bill Lee’s administration. The new vote would allow the alcoves to be filled with elected officials from Tennessee, apparently picked by members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Wilson said the original intent of the busts in the alcoves was to establish a hall of naval heroes. Farragut was a Union leader. So, in 1978 Sen. Doug Henry (D-Nashville) pushed a resolution to include Forrest in the hall to balance the scale between Union and Confederate soldiers.

“Let me say, the [1978] resolution was not to establish white supremacy or any nonsense like that,” Wilson said. “People who say that are misinformed.”

He said the resolution passed unanimously in both houses of the legislature and had full support of the Black Caucus at the time.

Howard Gentry, Criminal Court Clerk of Davidson County and one of only three Black members of the commission, said he attended Thursday’s meeting to vote to get the Forrest bust removed, not the others. He worried that adding the others would delay the process or muddy the issue before the historical commission.

Wilson said he had not asked whether or not the Tennessee State Museum would take all three and wasn’t sure they were prepared to take Forrest’s. Gentry said they were ready for the Forrest bust three years ago when the issue was taken up before a different Capitol Commission.

Ashley Howell, executive director of the museum, said if the Historical Commission approved the move, all three busts could be quickly moved to the museum. Preparing an exhibit, though, would take some time, she said. The busts are all the property of the museum, she said. And of creating exhibits and displaying artifacts, she said, “That’s what we do.”

Gentry asked whether or not the Historical Commission would have to consider all three busts as a package deal or if they could take up the Forrest bust issue as a separate matter. Butch Eley, Capitol Commission chairman and Finance and Administration Commissioner, he didn’t think it mattered to the Historical Commission if it were one or three busts and that they would “take whatever action based on their own volition.”

Gentry continued, though, to push for clarification. Would the waiver sought by the Capitol Commission have to include all three busts, or could they consider Forrest’s separately? Christie Allen, the Historical Commission’s legal counsel, said she’s never been through this process with the commission before, so she couldn’t say for certain.

She gave the steps in the process to get a waiver for the group. In doing so, she landed at the assumption that the “commission can do whatever action deemed for approval. They could approve one or three or none.”

The amendment passed with only Dr. Logan Hampton, president of Jackson’s Lane College and the West Tennessee delegate to the Capitol Commission, voting against it.

A vote was taken on the move that included all three statues. It passed with only Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) voting against it. Both lawmakers said their votes reflected the collective will of their respective bodies.

“I voted for an amendment I’m not comfortable with,” Gentry said before the final vote. “I want to see Nathan Bedford Forrest moved off the second floor. Sometimes you have to do something you’re not comfortable with, as long as it’s not wrong.

“I hope and pray that voting for the amendment is not going to in any way impede or deter what my intent was today.”

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Virus Cases Rise by 306

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2020 at 12:50 PM

Test results reported Wednesday morning showed 306 new cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County, up slightly from the 302 cases reported Wednesday morning.

The latest weekly data available shows 12.5 percent of all tests were positive for the week of June 21st, an increase over the 10.3 percent of positive test reported the week before. The weekly average positivity rate has grown steadily since the 4 percent rate recorded for the week of May 4th, just as the county's economy began to reopen.

The county's overall average positive rate for COVID-19 remained steady Thursday at 8.6 percent on all test results reported since the virus arrived here in March. The total number of COVID-19 cases here stands at 12,773. The death toll rose by six on Thursday in Shelby County and now stands at 208.


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Kickstarter for My Fake Band Ends in Two Weeks

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2020 at 12:00 PM

Two brothers — James and Jesse Hermann of the Never Played Out games company — launched their Kickstarter campaign for My Fake Band, the company’s first satirical game, on June 23rd. The campaign has two weeks left before it closes on Thursday, July 23rd.


Jesse says the idea for My Fake Band had a long gestation period. He and his brother would amuse themselves “over the years, coming up with ridiculous band names.”

The Hermann brothers
  • The Hermann brothers

Ridiculous band names became a central feature of My Fake Band, in which there are two decks — the fake band deck and the genre deck. A card from each deck is paired together, and then players get to add their input. “So everybody who’s playing would write down what they think the hit single would be,” Jesse explains. The reader — or founding member — then tries to match the single to the person who wrote it.

The Hermann brothers have a long relationship with music as well. “I have been in and out of bands from high school on,” Jesse says. “In college I was in a band called Baked Potatoes.”

Besides My Fake Band, NPO has two other games in the works. For now, though, the focus is on My Fake Band. Incentives for the Kickstarter backers include a NSFW (not safe for work) booster pack, and of course, backers will receive a copy of My Fake Band.

As of press, the Kickstarter campaign is at $3,486 of the $10,000 goal.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Mayor Harris to Serve on National COVID Recovery Task Force

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2020 at 1:28 PM

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris is one of five elected officials across the country who will head a national group focused on rebuilding the economy in the wake of COVID-19.

The group, Renewing America Task Force, will work to promote state and local policy solutions related to economic recovery during and post pandemic.

Others serving on the task force include Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, Lieutenant Governor of Michigan Garlin Gilchrist II, Baltimore delegate Brooke Lierman, and Oregon treasurer Tobias Read.

"We are in the midst of one of the most transformative periods in history," Harris said. "Fortunately, the NewDEAL and NewDEAL Forum have always provided opportunities for leadership, collaboration, and innovation. As we all fight the spread of COVID-19 and safely and responsibly navigate this new normal, we can recover and we can even emerge stronger.

"This group will help convene some of the most serious problem-solvers, examine what’s happening around the country and, most critically, point out best practices that will help shape the path forward. I am pleased to co-chair this vital initiative."

Discussions of the task force will touch on topics such as increasing affordable housing, supporting entrepreneurs and local economic development, improving access to high-speed internet, and modernizing and strengthening the social safety net.

Additionally, the task force will address opportunities to remedy “long-standing inequities that have discriminated against people of color,” according to a statement from the NewDEAL Forum, the nonprofit that formed the task force.

The NewDEAL Forum works to identify and promote “innovative, future-oriented state and local pro-growth progressive policies.” Specifically, the organization seeks to foster economic growth, reduce barriers to opportunities, and promote “good government” across the country.

“In this moment of crisis, state, and local leaders are stepping up to offer bold and creative ways to protect their communities from the immediate fall-out of the pandemic, while recognizing that our goal should not be to restore America to its pre-pandemic condition,” said NewDEAL Forum CEO Debbie Cox Bultan. “Our country is desperate for leadership that addresses long-time injustices and inequalities that have been exacerbated by this virus, including by embracing the opportunity to tackle systemic racism.

"The Renewing America Task Force will provide a platform for developing and sharing the best ideas for our recovery among officials who can lead their implementation across the country.”

Beginning this week, the task force will meet monthly for in-depth discussions, in which members will identify short and long term concerns and hear from other elected officials and experts. Findings will be released after each meeting, which will be meant to help guide state and local policymakers in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first topic up for discussion will be the pending housing crisis, as millions face eviction amid high unemployment levels.

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New Virus Cases Swell Above 300 Again

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2020 at 10:20 AM

Test results reported Wednesday morning showed 302 new cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County, a return to elevated numbers from last week.

The latest weekly data available shows 12.5 percent of all tests were positive for the week of June 21st, an increase over the 10.3 percent of positive test reported the week before. The weekly average positivity rate has grown steadily since the 4 percent rate recorded for the week of May 4th, just as the county's economy began to reopen.

The county's overall average positive rate for COVID-19 has rose again to 8.6 percent on all test results reported since the virus arrived here in March. The total number of COVID-19 cases here stands at 12,467. The death toll rose by two on Wednesday in Shelby County and now stands at 202.


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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Health Department Closes Bars, Restaurants to Close by 10 p.m.

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2020 at 12:37 PM


Bars will close at midnight Wednesday and restaurants will now close at 10 p.m. on new restrictions from public health officials to curb the rising cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County.

The new restrictions were announced during the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force news briefing Tuesday. A new health directive with more detailed information on the new restrictions will be published later today.

Shelby County Health Department director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said the decision to make the new restrictions came as bars and restaurants across the U.S. are known to have higher levels of virus transmission. Haushalter said wearing a mask is difficult when drinking at a bar.

She said masking mandates here have not been enough to get enough people to actually wearing them. So, the second step to curb the virus is to begin restrictions in places where transmissions are likely to occur.

Here's the directive: 

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Black Leaders Express Concern on Police Referendum Ahead of Council Vote

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2020 at 11:07 AM


The Memphis City Council will reconsider a referendum on police and fire residency requirements set to be on the November ballot at its meeting Tuesday.

The council voted in February not to rescind an ordinance passed by the previous council to allow voters to decide if public safety officials should live within 50 miles of the city. Now, the council will return to that ordinance, deciding whether or not to keep it on the November ballot.

Ahead of the council’s vote, a coalition of Black clergy members gathered virtually to express concerns about the referendum and relaxing the residency requirements for police officers.

Rev. Earle Fisher of Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church said the city’s premise behind relaxing residency requirements is that “violent crime is best managed by an increase in police officers, thus we must relax requirements because we can’t recruit enough personnel.”

But, Fisher says the group disagrees with that premise: “We do not need more officers to solve the problem. It’s a matter of quality, not quantity.”

“We decrease crime by decreasing poverty, by investing more in public education than we invest in incarceration, by making it easier to get a job paying a livable wage than it is to get access to guns and drugs,” Fisher says. “To this end, we implore every city council member to do the right things and vote to remove this referendum.”

The vote signifies “our broader long-term commitment to change,” Fisher said.

Rev. Roz Nichols of Freedom Chapel Christian Church said the group “expects and demands for us to have safety officers that will serve and live as residents in our community. We do believe that residency matters.”

“Substantial transformation,” Nichols said, will come in the form of funding for agencies to “appropriately” respond to mental health crises, at-risk youth, homelessness, and domestic violence.

“These are not new issues, but we are at a critical moment when we are looking for transformational change,” Nichols said. “How can the $9.8 million from the justice department be appropriated to fund those things that help support community safety?”

Nichols said she and the other clergy members “expect the city council to move in the direction of systemic change and not perpetuate the status quo” by removing the referendum from the November ballot.

“More officers, regardless of their residency, will not be the solution to the real crises we face,” she said.

The city council will take the first of three votes on the ordinance to remove the residency requirement question from the November ballot Tuesday (today) during its 3:30 meeting. Tune in here.

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New Virus Cases Rise By 146

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2020 at 10:33 AM

Test results reported Monday morning showed 146 new cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County, lower than the 190 new cases reported Monday.

The latest weekly data available shows 10.3 percent of all tests were positive for the week of June 14th. The positivity rate has grown steadily since the 4 percent rate recorded for the week of May 4th, just as the county's economy began to reopen.

The county's overall average positive rate for COVID-19 has rose steadily last week to 8.5 percent on all test results. The total number of COVID-19 cases here stands at 12,165. The death toll in Shelby County is 200.


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Monday, July 6, 2020

New WYXR Station to Air From Crosstown

Posted By on Mon, Jul 6, 2020 at 2:28 PM

New radio station WYXR's initial staff includes (from left) Shelby McCall, Robby Grant, and Jared Boyd. - WYXR
  • WYXR
  • New radio station WYXR's initial staff includes (from left) Shelby McCall, Robby Grant, and Jared Boyd.

WYXR, a new, non-commercial radio station will hit the air (and digital devices) here this fall in a partnership between Crosstown Concourse, The Daily Memphian, and the University of Memphis.

The station’s radio home is at 91.7 FM and its call letters stand for “Your Crosstown Radio.” That’s where the station’s staff will produce and air its daily broadcasts. The station partners came together to reimagine the U of M’s WUMR station back in November.

The station will be led by executive director Robby Grant, who spent 15 years at advertising firm Archer Malmo after first starting his own online marketing company. Grant is also a staple on the Memphis music scene, touring widely and also as a member of Mellotron Variations.

“I’ve been wanting to help make a change with Memphis radio, specifically community radio, for a long time,” Grant said in a statement. “The fact that it has organically become real is exciting.
“We are going to amplify voices in Memphis and the Mid-South. By taking a freeform approach, we want to begin finding personalities and DJs who have their own tastes and things they’ve grown up loving and sharing with people.

"A freeform station allows those DJs to turn people onto music, whether it’s the music they’ve loved their whole lives or what they’ve heard this past week.”

Jared “Jay B.” Boyd will serve as WYXR’s program director. Boyd is a DJ, reporter with The Daily Memphian, and host of NPR-syndicated radio program "Beale Street Caravan."

“Aside from the opportunity to be hands-on in cultivating new and emerging broadcast talent in the Mid-South, I’m most gratified by this radio partnership’s potential to truly reach people in the Mid-South area by virtue of being open and welcoming in nature,” Boyd said in a statement. “When you walk into Crosstown Concourse, it won’t be hidden. The nuts and bolts of the operation will be showcased behind glass right in the lobby of the Central Atrium. By design, this community-minded radio station will not just broadcast to its audience but live and breathe alongside it.”

  • WYXR

Former WUMR staffer Shelby McCall, who works now with Entercom Memphis, has signed on as WYXR’s operations coordinator. The University of Memphis is also searching for an instructor for student radio. This position will facilitate student involvement with the station and also program and plan a second university-focused internet stream, on which students will broadcast news, sports, and music.

The station’s programming will be made up of volunteer contributions from regular content producers and special guests to achieve a freeform format, providing room for a rotating cast of local personalities and an educational ground for university students.

From left: Grant, Boyd, and McCall - WYXR
  • WYXR
  • From left: Grant, Boyd, and McCall

The WYXR studio is now being built in the space once held by The OAM network, an independent podcast company. The new space will have a redesigned control room, production room, and live audio connections from Crosstown Theater, the Green Room at Crosstown Arts, and plans to simulcast event’s from the U of M’s new, $40 million Scheidt Family Music Center.

For more information or to volunteer, go to Initial programming will be posted on the site in the coming weeks.

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Gretchen Wollert McLennon to lead Ballet Memphis

Posted By on Mon, Jul 6, 2020 at 1:41 PM

Ballet Memphis has named Gretchen Wollert McLennon as its new president and CEO, replacing Dorothy Gunther Pugh who is retiring.
Gretchen Wollert McLennon - BALLET MEMPHIS
  • Ballet Memphis
  • Gretchen Wollert McLennon

McLennon has long been associated with the company, having served as board chair, chair of the strategic plan, and being an integral part of the recent capital campaign.

She officially begins on August 1st, but has already been working with partners, dancers, and the executive team on the transition.

“I want to leverage Dorothy Gunther Pugh’s legacy to reimagine how Ballet Memphis can become even more valuable well into the 21st century. I’m excited to work with a world class team to explore how a ‘traditional’ art form can further deliver on our commitment to both equity and reflecting our shared community values,”​ she says.

As a child, McLennon was a student in the Ballet Memphis school and was part of the junior company. She was board chair from 2014 to 2017 and worked on the project to construct the company's facility in Overton Square. She has more than 15 years in the philanthropic and nonprofit sector, including 10 years at the Hyde Family Foundation as program director.

She has also been major gifts officer for the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association and a donor relations officer for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. She is on the boards of several local nonprofits. Ballet Memphis has a $4 million operating budget and has performed around the world.

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