When MAM was founded in 1998, most youth in the inner city had no place to go and no programs to play organized sports in a safe, controlled environment with adult mentors. Community centers were overtaken by adults and, in some instances, controlled by gangs. Many empty recreation facilities and church gyms in inner city neighborhoods were begging to be used.
“As we began to visualize MAM, we believed that sports, especially basketball, would be the means to draw youth into our gyms so that we could share and model Jesus Christ. It wasn’t lost on us that basketball is the major lifeblood of this city and would be a great vehicle for attracting kids.” Gib Vestal, 2001-2009: MAM president; 2009-2016: MAM board chairman
John Calipari (former U of M Tigers basketball coach), Jerry West (former president of the Memphis Grizzlies), Gib Vestal (former President & CEO of MAM), & Shane Battier (former Memphis Grizzlies player) pose with youth at the MAM Grizzlies Center Grand Opening 2003.
Starting in 2003, the growth of more partnerships let MAM open youth centers in urban churches with gyms and four under-utilized community centers leased from the City of Memphis. With the addition of more centers, academic enrichment and social-emotional programming was added to complement MAM’s recreation/sports program and bible study.
To help meet the needs of our youth, MAM implemented academic enrichment and homework help in 2010.
From 2010 to 2020, MAM has served an average of over 100 students per day at each of its sites and around 800 students total per year. MAM had eight sites open when COVID-19 hit in the spring of 2020. For the year 2020-21, MAM operated six sites as virtual learning centers, providing high-speed internet and academic support in an environment conducive to learning to over 500 students that year.
Today, MAM continues to be a platform of change for our city’s youth. MAM has approximately 60 full and part-time employees, countless volunteers, more than 20 partner organizations, and four neighborhood centers, supporting youth and families from 17 zip codes across Shelby County. The average daily attendance at our neighborhood centers is approximately 450 youth, ages 8 to 18. MAM also serves over 2,500 urban and suburban youth in its community-wide sports leagues and annual MAM Classic basketball tournament.