By Ryan Velez
The Philanthropic Black Women of Memphis (PBWM), came together with a simple goal to be Black women who helped others. Now, Black Enterprise profiles how this group of eight women managed to award 18 grants over 13 years totaling $55,000.
Perhaps the most notable thing about the PBWM is what they don’t do as much as what they do. There’s no board of directors here or fundraising process like most non-profits do. Every cent that gets donated comes right from the pockets of the women. The eight women are a cross-section of professional successes.
Nelda Burroughs currently sits on the National Civil Rights Museum. Belinda Watkins is a former FedEx executive who now owns a Menchies franchise in southeast Memphis. Mary McDaniel, another former FedEx executive, now chairs the group’s foundation. Carolyn Chism Hardy sold her bottling company for more than $30 million and chaired the Chamber of Commerce; she now runs Henderson Transloading, which stores and ships products internationally by rail and boat. Deidre Malone runs an ad agency, has been a county commissioner, ran for county mayor, and now heads NAACP’s Memphis chapter. Monice Moore Hagler heads her own real-estate law firm, The Hagler Law Group. Edith Kelly-Green is a former FedEx VP and a partner of KGR Group, and Debra Evans is a partner of ViaSys Technology.
“We are not political. It’s black women coming together looking at what are the needs in our community and what are those things we can touch financially,” Malone said. “I think it’s important for them to see us working together and writing checks that can have an impact on our community.”
One example of the great work the PBWM did is with the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Services (ADS) of Tennessee. Ruthann Shelton, the organization’s executive director, said when her organization needed funds while she was planning its annual Caregivers Conference, a staff member recommended they apply for PBWM’s grant. They ended up getting a grant for $5,000.
“Our assistant development director, Judy Davis, told me about a group of women that might be able to help,” Shelton told Black Enterprise. “We submitted the proposal and they liked the project and we were able to get the grant that we needed.” While most of the donations target Tennessee organizations, the PBWM want their impact to spread across the country.
“We want to be a role model, a model not just for Memphis but around the United States that there are black women who are connected with the community and who are actually responding to the community in the right way,” said Hardy.
“I think it can be greater when other African American women, young women, come together and look at us and see they can have this same kind of impact that we are having if they come together,” Malone said.