Restaurants were Jay Uiberall’s passion. He worked at Shoney’s in high school, and later co-owned and managed four restaurants and a catering company in Memphis. Months after his tragic death from an accidental fall in 2010, a group of Jay’s friends approached Andie and Michael Uiberall, Jay’s parents, about hosting an event in Jay’s memory. What started as a casino night on Beale Street eventually became the Jay Uiberall Foundation.
The Uiberalls didn’t set out to start a foundation in memory of their son, but they know he would be thrilled for the work it does for young people in Memphis. Others agreed, and at its annual Crystal Awards banquet, the local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) selected the Jay Uiberall Foundation as its Outstanding Foundation for 2016.
“It gives our family a lot of joy that Jay is being recognized for what he cared about and for what the foundation is doing now,” Michael Uiberall told the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. “If he could see what these kids are accomplishing…well, it’s just amazing.”
The Foundation supports several programs related to the food service industry including the Jay Uiberall Foundation Scholarship at the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management at the University of Memphis; Serving Memphis, an organization that provides services such as free flu shots and financial literacy education to those in the food service industry; and the Jay Uiberall Culinary Academy, a program at Knowledge Quest, a nonprofit founded in 1998 that serves inner-city children in South Memphis.
In his interview with the Community Foundation, Uiberall said that he and the rest of the Board of Directors (which includes Andie Uiberall, Jill Uiberall Shanker and Scott Shanker, along with several of Jay’s friends) look for “holes in society where a program could help deserving kids and people better themselves. We look for programs that don’t have easy access to funds but could have a real impact.”
The Jay Uiberall Culinary Academy meets those criteria. The Jay Uiberall Foundation teams with Knowledge Quest to teach basic cooking and business skills to participating youth. Local chefs, including Erling Jensen, Aryen Moore-Alston and Mike Miller, work directly with the kids. In addition to skills vital to careers in the culinary industry, the program also builds self-confidence. The 2015-16 Culinary Academy class recently won more than $40,000 in scholarships at a statewide culinary contest.
“What the kids learn is not only cooking but also math, teamwork and strategic planning,” Uiberall said. “The kids have mentors who give them direction. They get to go places and meet people they wouldn’t have. And their food is to die for.”
In his nomination to AFP, Knowledge Quest Executive Director Marlon Foster wrote: “…I am very much hard-pressed to name a more generous and professional organization than that which Michael and Andie Uiberall began in memory of their son and his good works.”
Another beneficiary is the Jay Uiberall Scholars program, which works with REACH Memphis students to help prepare them for success in college and in life by teaching valuable life skills such as preparing college essays and resumes, participating in mock interviews, learning proper table and social etiquette, and working with mentors.
“When the Jay Uiberall Foundation decided to support the Jay Uiberall Scholars program to give REACH Memphis students an opportunity to improve their communication skills, they did so with outcomes in mind,” Margaret Ryan, executive director at REACH Memphis, wrote in her nomination. “They wanted to make sure their philanthropy was making a difference in the lives of young Memphians.”
Although initial funding came primarily through people who knew Jay and his family, funding is now coming in from those who are impressed with what the foundation is accomplishing in the community. The Board of Directors is planning a wider reaching campaign in the near future.
For more information, visit jayuiberallfoundation.org.
Excerpts and quotes from the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis and used with permission.