Looking Back at the Flyer’s $50,000 Giveaway 

To celebrate the Flyer’s 25th year, we’ll be using this space each week to look back on stories from past issues.

Over the course of several months in 1999, Flyer staffers were more than simply newspaper reporters, designers, and ad salesmen. They were also philanthropists.

For the paper's 10th anniversary, a donor known only as Mr. Anonymous gave the Flyer $50,000 to dole out to nonprofits in the form of $1,000 grants. The "Making a Difference in Millennial Memphis" contest was announced, and nonprofits were encouraged "send a proposal on the organization's stationery."

"The whole idea was to encourage 'good works' — little things that improved the quality of life here. The program was open only to nonprofit corporations within Shelby County, which were invited to submit applications for projects that needed funding. Once a week, the Flyer would announce which grant had been approved," read Michael Finger's first story on "Making a Difference in Millennial Memphis."

The first $1,000 grant went to Park Friends, Inc. to help produce a self-guided trail brochure for the Overton Park's Old Forest. The brochure "would locate about 20 stations along the dirt trails that run through the interior of the forest. These would point out record-size trees, wildflowers, plants to avoid, signs of forest animals, climate and drainage features as well as historical features within the forest. Also highlighted would be the dark side: intrusive plants that crowd out the native plants and damage done by humans, intentionally or not."

Other grants recipients included:

* Crime Stoppers of Memphis, Inc. to purchase 100 rolls of crime-scene tape.

* Voices of the South theater troupe to create a scenic design for their production of Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans at Theatre Memphis.

* Vollintine-Evergreen Community Association Community Development Corporation to build a bridge across two creeks along the V&E Greenline.

* Memphis Symphony Orchestra to pay for materials for its ART ATTACK! campaign, which provided six free symphony programs at popular locations visited by Memphians during their day-to-day activities. (Wrote Finger: "We don't usually think about the arts in connection with our daily lives — we think it's a pursuit for rich people with too much time on their hands. The Memphis Symphony Orchestra wants to change that perception through a new program called ART ATTACK!").

* The Lamplighter, Cooper-Young's community newspaper, to expand its coverage to include more young adults and minorities and to publish a neighborhood history.

* The Overton Park Shell (now the Levitt Shell) to allow artist Dan Zarnstorff to airbrush portraits of Memphis musicians, such as Furry Lewis, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Sid Selvidge, and Lee Baker, over the shell's five windows.

* Germantown Performing Arts Centre (GPAC) to create a public art project in which the "gardens of colorful flowers on the GPAC property will be cleverly juxtaposed with enormous paintbrushes, paint rollers, and paint cans to create the illusion that some giant hand was responsible for such beauty."

* Elmwood Cemetery to display flags representing every United States war since the Revolutionary War for their Veterans Day observance.

* MIFA to recruit "an army of volunteers to install storm doors and windows, patch roofs, caulk holes, insulate homes, and distribute new blankets and hats to [elderly and low-income] people in qualified homes."

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