Unsung Heroines

Meet five women who are making a difference in Memphis.

(page 5 of 6)


Lori Spicer

The Regional Medical Center at Memphis

After college, this native Memphian returned home and planned to stay here only a year. That was five years ago, and since then she's immersed herself in projects that have helped empower women and girls throughout our community.

From a rather young age, Lori Spicer knew what she wanted — “I couldn’t be fulfilled unless I was working to improve somebody else’s life,” she says — but she wasn’t sure she wanted to do that in Memphis. Like so many other talented young people here, “I was convinced I could find better opportunities and a better quality of life somewhere else.”

So the White Station High School graduate studied for a year at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, before transferring to UT-Knoxville and earning a bachelor’s degree in management. After that came a master’s degree in mass communication from the University of Florida. From there she moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a communications assistant for the American Association of Colleges and Nursing. “D.C. was my haven,” she says, “and I got involved in a lot of programs there,” but then things happened that brought her back home.

“I come from a long line of strong women,” she says, “and my grandparents got sick, so I decided to return to Memphis to help them out.” She only planned to stay a year, but landed a job as a communications specialist with the Greater Memphis Chamber. It was an eye-opening experience. “That completely reacclimated me to the city,” she says. “I saw parts of Memphis I had never seen before, and I really began to appreciate the unique culture that we have here.”

It also showed her some of our city’s shortcomings, and it wasn’t long before Spicer “tried to fill a void in her life” by joining organizations designed to help the less fortunate citizens of our community — especially young girls. After getting involved in Northside High School’s Girl Talk mentoring program, and later expanding that to a nonprofit called Brown Girl Dreams, she learned firsthand that “girls here often have so many social barriers facing them that it’s even a challenge for the volunteers.” She would take girls to other neighborhoods because “often they had no exposure to anything at all outside their own environment,” remembering how they regarded a lunch at Panera Bread Company as a special treat. She even got many of them involved in their own social projects, from feeding the homeless to growing community gardens.

For the past two years, Spicer has been manager of community affairs and engagement for The Regional Medical Center at Memphis, a job that she considers a perfect fit. “I have a problem-solving nature,” she says, “and I like to work with people who need a resource to help them.” Her job involves reaching out to community organizations, grassroots organizations, and religious leaders and make them more aware of The Med — not just as a hospital, but as a resource for a healthier lifestyle. “I want to create initiatives that combat the issues this community is facing, whether it’s teen pregnancy or childhood obesity.”

Even all that work doesn’t begin to fill her day. In her spare time, Spicer has served on the board of directors of MPact Memphis, on the Leadership Council for Young Women Philanthropists (part of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis), and on the board of directors for Dance Works, which introduces inner-city children to the art of dance. She was past chairman and public relations chair for the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, and this year was named president of that organization. Last year, she organized a citywide Memphis Prom Closet, to provide financially challenged teens a chance to wear something nice to their high-school prom.

“Every three years, it seems I have this need to re-invent myself, both personally and professionally,” she says. In October, she takes on a new project; she’s getting married to Eric Robertson, the CEO for Community Lift, a neighborhood-level community development agency.

Spicer has more than a few other projects on her plate for the future, both for The Med and the city as a whole, but isn’t ready to discuss them just yet. “I know I’m a ‘connector’ and I want to use that skill,” she says. “We have lots of nonprofits in this city, and I’d like to make sure they are actually reaching the groups they need. A city disconnected is a city divided.” — Michael Finger

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