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Essence of a Scavenger Hunt

     Maybe you remember scavenger hunts from your youth-traipsing across the neighborhood or traversing the community crammed into someone’s car, racing to find the unique, the obscure, even the downright wacky. The winning team always would be awarded a “fabulous” prize that was never greater than the hard-earned privilege of gloating.

     Some scavenger hunts are more than a means to keep teenagers out of trouble on Saturday night. The collected trinkets represent what is special about a place and its people. A picture by the Elvis statue, a toothpick from Huey’s, a tombstone rubbing from Elmwood cemetery taken together tell a rich story about the evolution of our community.

     If you follow us on social media, you have seen videos of the My Cup of Tea women sharing personal stories, expressing their love for My Cup of Tea and their sisters, and promoting our latest products. They desire for customers and supporters to know them authentically, and they are proud of their work.

     At a recent filming, Bretta and some of her sisters expressed their desire to tell you about Orange Mound. What began as a brainstorm of places and people that My Cup of Tea customers and supporters should know morphed into the Orange Mound Online Scavenger Hunt.

     For the last five weeks, we have posted scavenger hunt clues to notable places in the neighborhood and then revealed the answers the following day. In each of these postings, a My Cup of Tea woman, an Orange Mound woman, tells the story.

     Rosalyn, who grew up across the street from Melrose High School, told us about her experience attending school there and the many notable alumni, like Larry Finch, Rochelle Stevens, Tony Pollard, and Pat Neely, to name just a few. She beamed with pride.

     Cheryl helped us better understand the breadth and depth of the Black church in Orange Mound by highlighting Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, one of the oldest in Memphis -preceding the founding of Orange Mound by seven years. Through the decades, Mt. Moriah and its leaders were instrumental in the Civil Rights movement.

     Cheryl also took us inside Orange Mound Grill, renowned for some of the best soul food in the city. On the day we visited, Ms. Daisy, who previously owned the restaurant was working. She is now “retired,” and her granddaughter owns the business, which has been serving the community for almost 80 years.

     Then Rosalyn leaned on her Melrose High School relationships and connected us to Esther Cook-Jones, a classmate and founder of Guns Down in Orange Mound. Esther told us about Orange Mound Park and how it thrived until neglect and criminal activity caused its decline. Through her organization’s efforts much of the park has been improved.

     Most recently, we met Britney Thorton, a My Cup of Tea board member, but also the founder of JUICE Orange Mound. An OM native and graduate of Baylor and Penn, Britney is helping the homeless, raising money for community projects, organizing neighborhood blocks all in a successful effort to involve residents in the community’s revitalization.

     And Orange Mound landmarks and stories don’t end there. There’s more to come.

     What the My Cup of Tea women want you to know is that their community matters. It’s important to the story of Memphis, to African Americans across the nation, and to the residents who live there.

     They want you to understand that they recognize their neighborhood has struggles right now with poverty and violence, but don’t you dare count Orange Mound out.

     And just like each woman was told the day she arrived at My Cup of Tea, no matter what has happened in your past, you are not irredeemable. Neither is Orange Mound.