Here at PORTICO, we’re facing that age old annual struggle approaching this weekend: do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo or the Kentucky Derby? Margarita or mint julep? Seersucker or sombrero? Thankfully, the Phoenix Club of Jackson has answered our question with another question: why not both? I got the chance to chat with Ross Weems, the current president of the Phoenix Club, about the organization’s history, his experience as president, and of course their upcoming fundraiser, Seersucker & Sombreros.
What exactly is the Phoenix Club of Jackson? Give me a brief history of the organization in your own words.
The Phoenix Club of Jackson is a 501(c)(3) organization made up of young professional men ages 24-35 that raise funds and awareness for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Mississippi. The Phoenix Club’s roots actually trace back to the 1950’s in Memphis, Tennessee, with its original purpose being to support local Boys & Girls Clubs. Since then, Phoenix Clubs have formed in Nashville, Birmingham and, of course, Jackson. The Phoenix Club of Jackson was founded in 2007 by four community-minded men who saw an opportunity to make a lasting impact in the Jackson community by supporting the local Boys & Girls Clubs. Now, over a decade later, the organization is comprised of ninety young professional men from across the Jackson metro area. Among our members and alumni are a dynamic mix of non-profit board members, community leaders, entrepreneurs, small business owners, insurance agents, bankers, engineers, attorneys, real estate developers, financial advisors, medical professionals and government staffers. The club creates not only an avenue to give back but also an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally by being exposed to a wide variety of people.
How is the Phoenix Club involved in our Jackson community?
The Phoenix Club has become the largest private donor to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central donating nearly $500,000 since the club’s inception. Our members plan and implement four main fundraising events over the course of the year: Seersucker & Sombreros coming up this weekend, The Phoenix Classic Golf Tournament in July, Jackson Tacky Christmas Party in December and Speakeasy Soiree next February. Along with these fun events, we also have an annual Christmas Card Campaign in which local business purchase holiday cards designed by local artists with proceeds from each card going to the Boys & Girls Clubs. Not only do these events provide fun social and networking opportunities in the Jackson area, but they also allow us to raise much needed funds for area youth. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Mississippi serves over 2,400 kids from ages 6 to 19. Of which 95% come from poverty-stricken families and over 65% from single-parent homes. The local Boys & Girls Clubs strives to combat the challenges these kids face by providing them with a safe and healthy learning environment as well as encouraging staff and mentors that help kids on the path to a better life. If we can just get the kids to the club, their futures are statistically much, much brighter. Club kids are graduating on time at an incredible 95% rate with over 80% going on to some form of secondary education – all well above state and national averages.
What is your favorite project you have worked on with the group?
My favorite Phoenix Club activity is our Ice Cream Socials. During the summer, our members go to each of the Boys & Girls Club units and serve ice cream on Fridays to the kids before they head home for the weekend. It is oftentimes the first opportunity our new members get to interact with the club kids and see what all goes on at the local Boys & Girls Club units. When guys join the Phoenix Club, they may know that we raise a little money for charity or we put on parties, but until members personally get involved with the clubs, they can’t truly appreciate the positive impact our organization has on the local clubs. Through the socials members have found ways to get involved outside of the Phoenix Club.
What is the best thing about being the president of the Phoenix Club? What made you want to hold the position?
The most rewarding aspect of being president of the Phoenix Club is the opportunity to serve with so many community-minded, servant leaders, whether it be the Boys & Girls Club staff, our amazing sponsors or our members and alumni. I’ve been blessed to meet and develop lasting friendships with so many wonderful people. I’m also very fortunate to work for an organization in BancorpSouth that places a huge emphasis on employees being leaders in our local communities and they back that up by supporting many worthwhile causes. I personally have a passion for serving other particularly kids because they are our future. Phoenix Club has provided me an opportunity to try to make a difference, and for that I am truly thankful.
What do you have to say to men who might want to become members of the Phoenix Club?
I would encourage any young professional men in the Jackson metro area that are looking to get involved and make an impact in their local community to apply for membership next March. Phoenix Club provides members with an opportunity to get out of it what they put in to it. The City of Jackson certainly has some challenges, but it takes leaders, young and old, stepping up, making difficult decisions to make a difference. Phoenix Club and our involvement with the Boys & Girls Clubs have made a huge impact on me, and I would wholeheartedly encourage people to get involved as a member or potentially a sponsor.
Tell me a bit about your upcoming event, Seersucker & Sombreros. What is the goal of the event, and what can attendees expect to be a part of?
We have our 11thannual Seersucker & Sombreros event coming up this Saturday, May 5thfrom 3 to 8 p.m. at the Cathead Distillery in downtown Jackson. This unique event blends the traditions of the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo and has become the Capital City’s largest derby party. We’ll have live music entertainment provided by local favorite Luckenbach, some exciting silent auction prizes and games as well as complimentary food and beverages provided by some of Jackson’s best restaurants and beverage distributors. All-inclusive event tickets are $50 per person and are available online at phoenixclubofjackson.com. The event is a great time for our members, guests and sponsors, but most importantly, the Phoenix Club will present an $80,000 check to the leadership of Boys & Girls Club of Central Mississippi, which is something we are all very proud of and hope to continue to raise the fundraising bar over the next twelve months.