Who We Are
The History of the Cooper-Young Community Association
The Cooper-Young Community Association (CYCA) was formed in 1976 around the following mission: to make our neighborhood a safer and more desirable place to live, worship, work,and play. Encompassing an area of Memphis, Tennessee, where homebuilding flourished from 1881 through the early 1930s, the association was born when residents became activists to stem the tide of decay that so many urban areas experienced with the rise of suburban-ism and the phenomenon known as white flight.
At that time, home owner occupancy within the community had dropped to less than 47%; industries which had supplied jobs to this working-class neighborhood had relocated, leaving deserted commercial properties throughout the area along with the abandoned railway tracks that once served them; banks were refusing mortgage loans; tax codes made it more profitable to level historic homes and build multi-family units; establishments serving the community, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and other retailers folded (A History of Cooper-Young, (c) 1977, Metropolitan Interfaith Association). In the absence of these stabilizing factors, crime and poverty moved in.
But the volunteers who established the CYCA saw the need to revitalize this unique, urban landscape and sought out solutions. Working with local law enforcement, they created neighbor support groups for crime prevention, eventually winning a number of citywide awards for their efforts. They surveyed the housing stock and other contributing structures within the neighborhood and gained placement on the National Register of Historic Places. Publication of the LampLighter Community Newspaper and volunteer distribution to every household and business in the neighborhood allowed the CYCA to reach diverse stakeholders. This monthly communication helped strengthen relationships, develop dialogue among many different points of view, and keep the community apprised of the challenges and opportunities available.
By 1989, businesses had begun to move back into the area, and a sister organization, the Cooper-Young Business Association, was born. In partnership, a small neighborhood childrens festival grew to become the annual Cooper-Young Fall Festival, which attracts over 45,000 visitors to the area on the second Saturday of each September for art, music, food, and entertainment. Proceeds from this event, the largest one-day festival in the Southeast, were used to establish the Cooper-Young Development Corporation (CYDC). The CYDC, through rehabilitation and new construction, has returned 34 single-housing units to the neighborhood to date.
By gaining not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status, the CYCA was able to enhance its role as a community facilitator. In 1991, it received a comprehensive, three-year community planning grant to help establish short-term and long-range goals (known as the Eagle Plan). Having gathered community consensus on priorities during the Eagle process, the Gateways 2000 program was initiated in 1997. This multi-year project focused on safety and beautification, culminating with projects completed in time for the turn of another century in this neighborhood. One of the most notable accomplishments is the Trestle Art Gateway over Cooper Street, which turned an abandoned, dilapidated, dangerous, lead paint and rust encrusted railway overpass into a permanent, lighted gateway welcoming residents and visitors alike to the neighborhood. It was the recipient of the 1999 Urban Art Vision Award for all of Memphis and Shelby County.
In lessons learned through the Gateway projects and the Eagle planning process, the Members Count campaign was born. This multi-year program, funded in part by the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, increased membership donations to the CYCA by 98% over the previous five-year average in its first year. Currently in its second year, the campaign is poised to exceed the goals set by the steering committee for 2003, increasing not only fiscal capacity but also grassroots strength of the organization to effect change.
Today, the Cooper-Young community includes over 1,600 households, with an owner occupancy rate of 61% (US Census data, 2000). There are more than two hundred flourishing businesses with thriving retail, restaurant, arts, and antiques districts as well as industries that employ local residents. Two schools and twelve worship communities are located within its boundaries. The CYCA maintains community office space within a redeveloping commercial area in the most challenging quadrant of our neighborhood (highest percentage of remaining abandoned properties and vacant lots, with the lowest average property value). Volunteers, including board members, neighborhood block captains, gardeners, artists, fundraisers, event organizers, and others give over 4,000 hours annually in projects which meet the mission of the association: making our neighborhood a more desirable place to live, worship, work, and play.
is to form an association of residents and interested parties to work together to make our diverse and historic community a more desirable and safer place to live, worship, work, and play.
5 Year Timeline
Download the 5 Year Plan pdf
Meet our Staff
Amanda Yarbro-Dill, Executive Director
Amanda was born and raised in rural West Tennessee and has lived in Memphis since 2007. She lives in her Cooper-Young home with her husband, Brandon, two daughters, and two dogs. She enjoys walking her kids to school daily, hiking, cooking, attending shows at the Levitt Shell, and travel. She hopes to bring more opportunities for her favorite combo of activities to the neighborhood — free family fun, as well as community building experiences, and enabling members to use the association as a resource to develop projects and events.
The CYCA Board of Directors
President, Beerfest Committee ChairMark is a native Memphian who left Memphis for about 10 years before returning for a job opportunity 12 years ago. Upon moving back to Memphis, the historic houses and active commercial district led him to buy a house in Cooper-Young. Mark started volunteering for the CYCA about 10 years ago and has been a board member for the past 6 years. In addition to serving as president for the past two years and the Beerfest committee chair for the past 5 years, he also previously served as the CYCA treasurer for two years. Mark works at Smith & Nephew and enjoys travel, photography, hiking and kayaking in his free time.
Communications ChairA lifelong Memphian, June has lived in the Cooper-Young area on and off since 1993. She now lives in a bungalow on Evelyn purchased in 2000, and has a stepson, Tyler. Since the day she came home and discovered her front porch decorated with potted plants, placed there by a neighbor concerned about her porch’s “lack of fabulousness,” she knew that she was never leaving. The Memphis State graduate worked her way through college in the food and service industry, sang with local bands, and is now the marketing services manager at a regional commercial real estate firm. Her favorite things about Cooper-Young are the diversity of the people here and the strong sense of family shared by her neighbors. June chairs the Communications Committee, represents the CYCA on the Lick Creek Storm Water Coalition, and heads a committee that addresses sinkhole and flooding issues.
Vice PresidentSince moving to Cooper-Young in 2015, Stephanie has volunteered as a LampLighter writer and ad sales manager, as an event volunteer, as a Beerfest committee member, and also worked for a time as the CYCA’s executive director. She’s currently the CYCA vice president.
Stephanie has more than 15 years of experience in marketing, communications and public relations, and is currently a copywriter for design software developer InVision. Stephanie is a Cooper-Young homeowner, and her husband, Carlos, is the owner of local business 901 Home Inspection. The couple are invested in making Cooper-Young a great place to live, work and play. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys craft beer, karaoke, dogs and the outdoors.
Development ChairRobert is an Arkansas native with a big city love for Memphis. His earliest Memphis memories include exploring the traveling exhibits at the pyramid, seeing seasonal shows at the Orpheum and visiting family & friends. He relocated to Memphis in 2006, living in various locations within the 40 loop before deciding to make Cooper Young his home with his girlfriend Emily and Boston Terrier Sammie Jo. He feels lucky to be in Memphis during such an exciting time full of reinvestment and positive energy (Go Grizz).
In his professional life, he combines his background in technology with a love of science while working at a pediatric laboratory. When not at work he enjoys riding bicycles, watching the Grizz at Next Door, and escorting Sammie Jo on her walks around the neighborhood. He’s also been known to enjoy a late night at DKDC. Robert is proud to call Cooper Young his home.
TreasurerSuzanne Abedi’s love for Memphis’ heartbeat, Cooper Young District, began many memorable years ago. As a child growing up in Mississippi, family trips to the big city of Memphis, TN were always marked by exciting experiences in this beloved neighborhood. Many years later when Suzanne and her husband Robbyn relocated to Memphis, Cooper Young was an undeniably fitting home to plant roots in. Suzanne calls the University of Mississippi her alumni and Sycamore Pictures her honored career outlet. Cooper Young has made this small town girl’s transition into city life one of unending charm. Suzanne, her husband Robbyn, her daughter Charlotte, and their feisty dog Hedwig would love for you to stop by their neighborhood halloween party or one of the many neighborhood events the family volunteers at to say hello!
Transportation ChairA born-and-raised Memphian, Patrick has been a Midtowner since 2004, graduating from Christian Brothers University in 2008. Patrick was attracted to Cooper-Young in no small part due to the artistic, walkable, and bikeable nature of the neighborhood and the sense of place, vibrancy, and community such an environment promotes. In addition to the CYCA, he involves himself other boards or committees and supports as many civic initiatives he can find and have the time to do. In warmer months, you are likely to find him cycling around Midtown with Revolutions Co-op, playing pick-up soccer at Overton Park, or under a tent at a random local festival on behalf of somebody. In colder months he is likely huddled under Celtic Crossing. Patrick joined the CYCA Board as an at-large member in November, 2015. He currently chairs the Transportation Committee, a new initiative that came out of the CYCA Five-Year Plan.
Building Committee ChairDebbie, her husband Chris McHaney and son Owen, have had roots in the CY Community for some time. Chris grew up in CY from a young boy and they are now working on their 3rd home in Cooper Young. Debbie has a degree in Interior Design and is a local real estate agent. She first became involved with CYCA at a Mulch to Members Giveaway and has been rolling up her sleeves ever since. “This neighborhood is my home”, Debbie says “and I will always have an active role in making it better”.
Olivia grew up in southern Nevada and moved to Memphis for graduate school in January 2014. Her partner, Patrick, is a Block Captain, and they enjoy delivering the Lamplighter for their street.
Her passion for the preservation of historic integrity in Cooper-Young sparked her involvement in the CYCA. She has been a Landmarks Committee member since 2017 and started the Innovation Committee in 2018.
Her favorite part about CY is porch life. She enjoys spending as much time as she can on her 1910 southern bungalow porch.
She enjoys epic road trips, sewing, the NY Times Sunday crossword, plant-based cooking, and taking photos with her TLR medium format camera.
Professionally, she works in higher education—a side effect of being a life-long learner and perpetual student. She holds degrees from Smith College, Memphis College of Art, and the University of Memphis.