As the Director of Development for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis, Jessica Corley works hard to raise dollars and awareness for the Ronald McDonald House (RMHC Memphis). The nonprofit organization provides support services and a “home away from home” for children and their families battling cancer and other catastrophic childhood illnesses. Because of the funds Jessica and her team are able to raise, the RMHC services are offered free of cost so that families can focus on their child’s health and spending quality time together. In her five years with the Ronald McDonald House, Jessica has worked to exceed each year’s revenue goal. The result of this fundraising success has led to multiple new programs, including Family Field Trips, Parents’ Night Out, the Wings of Love Bereavement Program and The Perseverance Scholarship Program. We at StyleBlueprint are so proud to introduce you to the dynamic Jessica Corley, our latest FACE of Memphis.
What do you love most about your work?
I love the mission and knowing that the harder I work and the more money we raise, the more we can provide for the hurting families and sick kids at RMHC Memphis. Knowing that we reduced a Dad’s financial stress while he can’t work in order to be near his sick child, or that we gave Mom a night off from cooking so that they could enjoy priceless family time eating and laughing around the table together, or watching the kids’ faces light up as the limos drive up to the house to take them on a Family Field Trip to Frozen on Ice — those moments make it all worth it. I’m always asked by people if asking for money is uncomfortable, and the answer is yes, absolutely! But it has to be done, so I learned to get over that quickly, because if there’s no money, there’s no mission. I learned to put my advertising and PR education to use. I geek out over finding creative ways to tailor proposals, grants and sponsorships that will help benefit not just our mission, but the donor as well. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that the competitive side of me kicks in with each event and dollar goal exceeded.
Tell us where you’re from. Native Memphian?
I moved from Little Rock, Arkansas to Memphis five years ago to be with my fiancé, now husband, Brandon Corley. When he asked if I was willing to leave my hometown and come to Memphis with him, I said, “Sure, as long as I can find a job that I’m passionate about,” and luckily God placed me at RMHC Memphis. The biggest thing I noticed right off the bat was how excited people are to have us here and just how giving people are of their time and treasures. There is a true culture of selflessness and an expectation of giving in this town that I absolutely adore. Memphis is such a welcoming and generous town.
Describe your professional journey.
My very first job out of college was at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation. I was once a patient there and couldn’t think of a better place to be. In college, I focused on advertising and PR, so I started as a fundraising assistant for the Children’s Miracle Network team there. I was awful — hands down, the worst assistant ever! So, when there was an opening in the fundraising department, I had to try it out. I’m a natural at fundraising. Administrative work, not so much, but I think I would get the “Most Improved” award in that category now.
What are your hobbies, and how do you unwind?
I’m a total HGTV nerd. I love walking through the historic neighborhoods of Memphis with my husband, Brandon, and our dog, Baloo. On those walks I’m constantly plotting what I would do to restore and renovate the old homes that we see. The benefit to my HGTV obsession is that we’ve almost finished renovating our 1940s colonial home. Brandon is the “master of demo,” and I can tile a mean backsplash. I absolutely love the character and history of an older home.
What’s the first place you take an out-of-towner when they visit you in Memphis?
What’s your favorite Memphis attraction and why?
I can’t wait to take my nephews back to the Memphis Zoo and My Big Backyard at Memphis Botanic Garden. My husband and I also love a Grizz game or some good live music at Minglewood Hall, The Levitt Shell, Live at the Garden — you name it.
What would someone be surprised to learn about you?
I was in a wheelchair for a little while in seventh grade, and I don’t have anything to back this up, but I’m pretty sure I hold the world record for holding a wheelie. In high school, I had a scare with a small brain tumor. Luckily it was benign, but it was pretty nerve-wracking. Looking back, I’m so grateful for all of the little health issues that I’ve had. It was those experiences that led me to want to work at the children’s hospital that treated me and at the Ronald McDonald House. I’m so grateful to be able to empathize on some very small level the anxieties and frustrations that the brave kids at RMHC Memphis are struggling with as they battle cancer and endure surgeries, tests and physical limitations.
Finish this sentence: If I had a superpower, it would be …
It’s a toss-up between reading people’s minds or being able to just blink and heal someone of whatever ailment they had. Wouldn’t that be amazing?! I would be out of a fundraising job, but that’s OK by me.
What are your guilty pleasures?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I wouldn’t so much call it advice, but it’s a quote from Dr. Suess that has stuck with me. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” My mom also always told me that “Can’t never could.” If ever I said “I can’t” about anything, she would carry on with this long drawn-out story about two brothers, one named Can’t and the other named Could. I was always annoyed by this story as a kid and would complete whatever task at that time just to stop her from telling it anymore, but now I think of old Can’t and Could any time I want to quit a project or throw in the towel.
What are three lighthearted things you can’t live without?
My big, grey dog, Baloo; ice cream and living near water.
Thank you to Jessica! To learn more about her work at the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis, visit rmhc-memphis.org or call (901) 529-4055.
Thanks to Micki Martin for her fabulous photos of Jessica!
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