Who We Are

The CYCA is the neighborhood association for the Cooper-Young community located in Memphis, Tennessee. In the heart of Memphis- ‘Midtown’, the Cooper-Young community surrounds the intersections of Cooper St., and Young Avenue. Development started here in 1881, making Cooper-Young one of Memphis’s older neighborhoods. The community and the association have a long, vibrant history and are a vital part of the city of Memphis.

Leadership

Meet our Staff

Amanda Yarbro-Dill

Amanda Yarbro-Dill

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

Stephanie Gonzalez

Stephanie Gonzalez

President

Since 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.

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.

Olivia Wall

Olivia Wall

Vice President

Olivia grew up in southern Nevada and moved to Memphis for graduate school in January 2014. Her passion for the preservation of historic integrity in Cooper-Young sparked her involvement in the CYCA. She has been a Development (Landmarks) Committee member since 2017 and the Chair of the committee since 2020. She has also served as the CYCA Secretary since 2019. Her partner, Patrick, is a Block Captain, and they love living in their 1910 southern bungalow with their cat Bling Bling. Her favorite things about CY include porch life, the historic streetscapes, riding her bike in the neighborhood, and volunteering for the CYCA. She enjoys epic road trips, crosswords, audiobooks, plant-based cooking, photography, and yoga. Professionally, she works in marketing and holds degrees from Smith College, Memphis College of Art, and the University of Memphis. She is looking forward to continuing to serve the CYCA.

Vanessa West

Vanessa West

Secretary

Vanessa moved to Memphis in 2020 with her husband and two-year-old son. She has 15+ years experience working with nonprofits and believes in being part of a community. Looking to jump right in and support her neighborhood, she started volunteering and participating in neighborhood events within Cooper-Young. Vanessa enjoys being creative and has been wrapping gifts for neighbors and some pop-ups. She and her husband renovated their Cooper-Young home on Walker Avenue to expose some of the original features so she’s often keeping busy with house projects or taking walks with her son meeting her neighbors.

Mark Morrison

Mark Morrison

Treasurer, Beerfest Committee Chair

Mark 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 Beerfest committee chair for the past 5 years, he also previously served as the CYCA president for four years. Mark works at Smith & Nephew and enjoys travel, photography, hiking and kayaking in his free time.
June Hurt

June Hurt

Communications Chair

A 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.
Debbie Sowell

Debbie Sowell

Building Committee Chair

Debbie, 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”.
Patrick Jones

Patrick Jones

Livability Chair

A 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.
Linley Schmidt

Linley Schmidt

Board Member At Large

Linley Schmidt is a proud, native Memphian and has lived her whole life, except for a couple of years here and there, in different parts of Midtown. She currently works as the Public Programs Coordinator at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens but has also worked at Elmwood Cemetery and the Mallory Neely and Magevney Houses. Linley has been a member of the Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe since 2002 and enjoys walking through forests. She also enjoys taking walks through Midtown neighborhoods looking at the beautiful old houses and waving to the people sitting on their porches. Linley also enjoys game nights with her adult kids, Grayson and Alden and loving on her dogs, Rufus and Capra and cats, Obbie and Siam.
Courtney Ratts

Courtney Ratts

Board Member

Courtney, her husband Andrew, daughter Leilani, and dog Clarence moved back to Cooper-Young in Oct 2020. She is originally from Livermore, CA, a Mississippi State alumni, and works in the transportation/logistics field as a director of operations. You may recognize Courtney and her signature pigtails from her years on the track with the Memphis Roller Derby or from her exceptional t-shirt throwing abilities  as part of the Memphis Grizzlies Claw Crew! As a member of the CY board, she looks forward to creating excitement in the community by combining her love of all things local with her enthusiasm for being back in the best neighborhood in Memphis!

Ben Schulman

Ben Schulman

Board Member

Ben Schulman’s work is centered around space and place. His writings have appeared in ARCHITECT, Belt, CityLab, ICON, Metropolis, New Geography, and Streetsblog, among others. He was the editor of Chicago Architect Magazine, and the design section of Newcity Chicago, while co-hosting that publication’s architecture, urbanism and design podcast, “A Lot You Got to Holler.” He was the communications director of the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and for the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), before helping build and launch Small Change, an equity crowdfunding platform with a focus on impactful real estate projects. At present, he serves as the director of real estate for the Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC). A Next City Vanguard Fellow, Ben has presented and lectured at numerous conferences and universities. In addition to his community development work with MMDC, he hosts the podcast, “Drowned in History,” finding hidden histories embedded in the landscape of Memphis, TN, and helps head Just Place, a platform to broadcast the stories of overlooked and misrepresented communities where American ingenuity and innovation are in revival.

Cameron Cooper

Cameron Cooper

Board Member

Cameron moved to Memphis in 2012 to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Memphis and has been enamored with the City of Memphis ever since. Having spent years in various parts of midtown and downtown, Cameron has always felt a deeper connection with the eclectic charm and unique pride that seemed to be present in Cooper Young. Cameron, his wife Libby and son Van, made Nelson Ave their home in June of 2020. As a landscape architect and urban planner, what drew Cameron to Cooper Young was the active walkable streets, proximity to shops and restaurants, and genuine authenticity of the neighborhood and community that people from all over Memphis identify with. Cameron enjoys local beers, getting outside, patio time of any sort, and all things urban design. Cameron joined the board of directors to contribute to the sense of community and place that make Cooper Young a great place to live, work, and play.

Mission

The mission of the Cooper-Young Community Association 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.

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.

History Timeline

Over the centuries, the boundaries of CY have changed in small ways. This rectangle represents what most folks consider to be the CY neighborhood.
A quite delighted and energetic group of employees at Atkins Beauty Salon (966 Cooper) pose for a welcoming picture in the 50s. Courtesy of Sharon Atkins Andreini
Built in the late 1800s, the home of Captain C. L. Harris (2106 Young) was the largest in the neighborhood. When first built, it faced Cooper Street. The house was turned in 1925, using logs and horses, to face Young Avenue and allow the business district along Cooper to develop. Courtesy of Jean McCarley Stevenson
The Captain Harris House still stands proud on Young Avenue just east of Peabody School in 2010. Although it is now divided into separate rental apartments, fine architectural details remain. Courtesy of Emily Bishop
The Peabody/Fleece School in 1910. The brand new neighborhood school was originally named the Fleece Station School (Fleece Station was an earlier name for the area). It was renamed soon after in honor of a donation from philanthropist George Peabody. Courtesy of Memphis and Shelby County Room, Memphis Public Library and Information Center
In the 1930’s, Peabody School gained a reputation as a versatile school. During the Great Flood of 1937, the Red Cross arrives to coordinate the housing of flood refugees. Courtesy of Memphis and Shelby County Room, Memphis Public Library and and Information Center
One of the city’s Easy Way markets opened in Cooper-Young in the 1950s. Courtesy of the CYBA
The northwest corner of Cooper and Young during the first Festival (the Cooper-Young Street Fair) in 1988. Notice the Affordable Boat Sales business that still owned and operated from the corner, just prior to becoming a neighborhood bank. Courtesy of Lizi Beard Ward
A sampling of flags, logos, and looks of the LampLighter, now over 20 years old. Courtesy of the LampLighter
The first of four Cooper-Young Historic District signs were installed in 1991 with funds raised by the CYCA Horne Tour. Courtesy of the LampLighter
As the Festival has grown with vendors and community partners, it has expanded in all directions. Here’s the scene in front of First Congo in 2009. Courtesy of Andy Ashby
Hundreds of runners start the Festival Friday 4 Miler under the new Trestle Art in 2008. Four miles later they returned for pizza, beer and music. Courtesy of the LampLighter
Bearing witness to peace, women in black shout in silence on the steps of First Congo every Wednesday since the start of the war in Iraq. Area artist Karen Bottle Capps captures their weekly vigil. Courtesy of the LampLighter
Beth Pulliam may be pointing out the obvious, but she has just bid on a piece of local art – the result of lifting your arm at the Art for Arts’ Sake Auction. Held annually here at Young Avenue Deli – the proceeds pay for maintenance of the Trestle Art. Courtesy of the LampLighter
Parked cars for the protection of pedestrians, umbrellas for the sun, fans for a breeze, and beer for sale. It’s a walk around the block in Cooper-Young. Courtesy of Emily Bishop
The Peabody Theatre at the corner of Cooper and Nelson opened in 1925 to rave reviews and the relief of neighborhood kids. Courtesy of the MPLIC
The former Peabody Theatre is now home to the world famous Memphis Drum Shop that continues to attract musicians from around the world to sample its vast collection of instruments. Courtesy of Emily Bishop