Nestled in the heart of Southwest Memphis is Creative Life, Inc., a nonprofit community youth development corporation that’s served disadvantaged children and families by providing educational and recreational opportunities for the past 40 years.
In 1978, Dr. Carolyn Bibbs founded a youth ministry that later grew significantly to become Creative Life in 1988. The nonprofit serves children of all ages—from infants to high school seniors—through a variety of programs, starting with a daycare called Creative Life Early Childhood Training. The center gives families peace of mind by providing a loving, safe and rewarding environment for their precious little ones.
Some children then move on to Creative Life Preparatory, a state-approved school that focuses on students in kindergarten through grade 12 who could benefit from a smaller classroom size and individualized teacher training.
Creative Life hosts an award-winning after-school program designed to provide educational and recreational opportunities for students from kindergarten through grade 12. It includes homework assistance, tutoring, music, dance, drama, recreational sports and more. The program began years ago at Carver High School and today transports students from several area schools with the help of a ministry from the Poplar Foundation.
Bibbs said that over the years, Creative Life has received support from organizations such as MLGW, Comcast and BNSF Railway.
“Once those volunteers get connected with us, somebody from those organizations will continue to come and help us,” she said.
Creative Life Performing Arts School and Theater trains students in music, dance, drama, puppetry and mime. In 2017, the auditorium and small stage—originally a warehouse—was renovated to accommodate 300 seats and a larger performance space. Each season, Creative Life students perform about seven plays.
“We had a lot of help from the community,” said Bibbs, herself a prolific playwright. “We had a little bitty auditorium that would seat about 150 people [and] fit 50 cast members on stage at one time. Now it’s multipurpose. We have classes there and family nights when we show movies on the big screen.”
Creative Life serves our city’s children year-round, and that includes the Summer Enrichment Camp, an eight-week camp created to serve youth who lack educational stimulus during the summer break. It provides fun learning, field trips, tutoring sessions, ACT PREP, college tours, and math, reading and sciences classes. Students also receive two daily nutritious meals and a snack.
A cornerstone program in this food desert area is Creative Life’s Feeding the Children program, which provides children with take-home nutritious meals for the weekend. Families also receive holiday food baskets for Christmas and Easter, as well as emergency food to help them make it to their next payday.
“Poverty is on the rise for families and children in this economically disadvantaged area,” Bibbs said. “We give them food to make sure they have three days’ worth when they leave on a Friday.”
In addition to its many ministries, Creative Life hosts events such as clothing giveaways, as well as the annual Arts Fest, Harvest Fest and Back2School Bash. The next Back2School Bash is planned for August 4 from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Creative Life, 122 Riverside Blvd. It will feature clothing and supply giveaways, face-painting, bounce houses, games and food.
Dr. Bibbs’ motto is to “embrace and educate our young. If they are hungry, provide food. If they are dirty, provide clothes. If they are crying, provide comfort. And in so doing, you serve God.”