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Thrive Memphis: A Special Place Where Those with Special Needs Thrive

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  • A new name and brand with a new tagline – “Thrive Memphis: a special place where those with special needs thrive” – also comes with a new home for an organization that provides educational and social opportunities for those with special needs in the community.

A new name and brand with a new tagline – “Thrive Memphis: a special place where those with special needs thrive” – also comes with a new home for an organization that provides educational and social opportunities for those with special needs in the community. Formerly known as the Exceptional Foundation of West Tennessee, the organization began a name change to Thrive Memphis in 2019. Part of the new branding is because the organization wanted to step out on its own, apart from its former Birmingham, Alabama-based umbrella organization. Along with the new brand came a new home at the beginning of 2020. Thrive Memphis has used various churches to provide its services through the years but found a true home at the Memphis Jewish Community Center. The organization has access to all of the JCC’s amenities, including a basketball court, soccer fields, swimming pool, yoga space and more.

“It’s wonderful for the kids, parents, caregivers and staff,” says Jo Anne Fusco, Thrive Memphis executive director. “The move has been a very positive feeling for everyone. We now have room to grow. We can offer more activities for these kids who if not for us might be home alone. This gives them an opportunity to be with their friends.” The JCC provides a comfortable home for Thrive’s programs to take place in the activity room, everything from art and music to science projects, sign language, Spanish and a cooking club. Field trips include visits to museums, Crosstown Concourse and Gibson’s Donuts.

Thrive Memphis promotes social recreation and continued education in a safe environment. It does this by providing a variety of programming opportunities for special needs children and adults, ranging from full day to after school and summer. Participants have intellectual disabilities, including autism and Down’s syndrome. Because special needs students age out of school at age 22, Thrive Memphis provides important opportunities for those individuals. Programs take place Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. In addition to providing an important service to participants, it’s also a welcome respite for caregivers.

Thrive Memphis has a bright future, not only because of what the relocation means for the enhanced quality of services it provides its participants. It is one of three organizations to receive a Carnival Memphis grant this year, meaning important funds that will help Thrive Memphis keep its positive energy moving forward in 2020. And when Thrive Memphis is introduced at every Carnival Memphis event, it provides welcome exposure that should translate to more opportunities for its kids. In addition, Jo Anne is hopeful for additional funds that will provide a new kitchen called Thrive Clubhouse, a space the kids can call their own.

On Thursday, March 26, Thrive Memphis will be hosting a Ribbon Cutting and Open House from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at their new location on the east end of the Memphis Jewish Community Center. Later this spring, they will be holding a farm-to-table fundraiser event at Avon Acres on May 8 that also will include an art sale of the participants’ work. Fundraising is vital to Thrive’s success. The majority of participants come from low-income settings. Thrive Memphis subsidizes everyone by 50 percent and provides extra scholarships to some, as well. Whether it’s through one of its fundraisers during the year or giving donations, Thrive Memphis appreciates any assistance the community can provide. For more information or to donate, visit thrivemem.org.

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