Sunday, July 13, 2008

Two Men Realize "The Dream" In South Memphis...

Dr. Ivory Taylor (right) joined Nyrone Hawkins' effort after Taylor visited Juvenile Court.
Photo by Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal

South Memphis Development To Be Home For Troubled Boys

By Wendi C. Thomas Of The Memphis Commercial Appeal

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

-- Jeremiah 29:11

The newest houses on Lucy Avenue in South Memphis are empty now.

But in the bedrooms, twin beds wait, neatly made with brightly colored sheets, a set of bath towels sitting at the foot of each bed.

In the kitchens are handmade wooden dinner tables that can seat eight.

At the end of the cove, the outdoor amphitheater is just an outline, and an empty lot next to 119 Lucy will be replaced with basketball, volleyball and tennis courts.

Over there, Nyrone Hawkins points, will be a reading park. Next to it, a private clubhouse and par 3 golf course.

And back there, that's where the outdoor chess park will be. That's where the boys will learn to think three steps ahead and anticipate their opponents' moves, Hawkins explains. These are cognitive skills that, used today, could help them dodge the neighborhood bully and, employed years later, will help them be successful professionals.

All I see are trees in an overgrown lot. The few occupied homes on Lucy have cages around the A/C units and bars in the windows.

To get even a glimpse at Hawkins' vision, you must look with your heart.

Because here, in this neglected pocket of South Memphis, is where hope lives, says Hawkins, vice president of operations for the newly formed Taylor Brown Gardens, which will start with three family homes for troubled boys and grow into so much more.

"Hope lives here," says a flier on a bulletin board in one of the homes where five boys, ages 11-18, will live as a family -- doing the chores, eating dinner together, learning the art of intelligent discourse, growing into men.

The boys could come any day now, says Hawkins. He's just waiting on an agency that places children for the state Department of Children Services to say that his kids are on their way.

Hawkins, 38, has worked with children for much of his career, but this particular bodacious dream has been at least four years in the making.

During that same time, Ivory Taylor, owner of Taylor-Brown Apothecary, was buying up more than 50 empty lots in South Memphis with the thought of turning Lucy Avenue and neighboring Farrow into a middle-class neighborhood lined with new single-family homes.

When Hawkins took his idea of residential homes for troubled boys (and after-school centers and, eventually, homes for the elderly and pregnant teens) to his fellow deacon at First Baptist Broad, Taylor was not receptive.

There were two things, Hawkins recalls, that Taylor wanted no part of: investing in the 'hood and working with kids.

And then, Hawkins says, Taylor's pharmacy got a contract with Juvenile Court. On Taylor's tour of the court, he saw the faces of boys who clog the hallways and courtrooms and something in his heart shifted.

The night after Taylor's visit to court, Hawkins got a call from Taylor. The veteran was crying -- and was on board with Hawkins' vision.

The financial angel in Hawkins' dream is Taylor, although he would bristle at being called an angel. The 55-year-old retired Army man has invested more than $1 million of his own money in Taylor Brown Gardens.

"You see what God can do," says Hawkins, smiling.

Don't get it twisted: Taylor still has no interest in working with children. That's Hawkins' expertise.

On this particular afternoon, Taylor sits, sweaty and dirty, on a stool, installing doorknobs on closets in what will be Taylor Brown Gardens' headquarters.

Kids aren't his thing, even though he has two of his own, one of whom is on the site, just as sweaty and working just as hard.

"There just comes a time in life when you give back," Taylor says.

Now was the time.

For more information about Taylor Brown Gardens, call Hawkins at 948-8216, e-mail or write him at 97 Lucy Ave., Memphis, TN 38106. Taylor Brown Gardens will have jobs and volunteer opportunities available soon.

Contact Wendi C. Thomas at 529-5896 or e-mail

And Lest We Forget...

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special~Eyewitness To The Crucifixion: The Last Days Of MLK:



*W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special~The State Of Black America 2008*


April 13, 2008~The State Of Black America Part One

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