Jimmy Chambers has been around Christ United Methodist Church since he was a young teenager in the 1970s. He would play basketball games there on Friday nights, when the gym was practically brand-new.
“Coming out here, I couldn’t wait,” Chambers says. “It was usually during the wintertime, and there were so many Christmas lights. It was like a Christmas wonderland driving to Christ Methodist, and a vacation away from the neighborhood for just a few hours.”
These days, Chambers refers to the church, where he coaches football and basketball for 1st-6th graders, as his second home. When he’s not running his nonprofit Camp Chambers or working as a gang investigator with the Shelby County District Attorney’s office. Or visiting schools and community centers to tell Memphis’ young people “how not to be part of a gang.”
“I had the opportunity to be a gang member when I was kid, but I had Christ Methodist in my life back then,” he said. “I knew if I got in trouble I wouldn’t be coming back out here.”
He also had Mr. Perry, who helped tutor and mentor him. Through Camp Chambers, he hopes to fill that role in the lives of other young Memphians.
Camp Chambers officially opened last year in a formerly dilapidated 1940s-era house on New Raleigh Road. Thomas Chapel Missionary Baptist Church donated the property, and Chambers renovated it with help of a few donors and a lot of manual labor.
Shelby County Juvenile Court sends young offenders who need a second chance to Camp Chambers for mentorship and instruction. The young people are typically ages 14 to 17 and are at risk for detention or incarceration. They attend weekly sessions for several months to fulfill court-mandated community service requirements.
“It’s not a babysitting service where you can just hang out,” Chambers says.
They talk about weaknesses and what’s caused the individuals to get in trouble with the court system. Various necessities, from paper and pencils to clothes, and work opportunities to earn money legitimately are part of the curriculum. So are basic academics; computer skills; behavior modification; gang awareness and intervention; landscaping; and tutoring and mentoring.
“That’s the effect Christ Methodist had on me.”
Chambers’ time spent at Christ Church is a major motivator for his nonprofit work.
“When you see potential, I want those kids to have some of what these kids have here at Christ Methodist,” he says. “That makes me work that much harder.”
He also credits people at Christ Church, notably Athletics Ministry Director Jan Averwater, with developing the “Camp Chambers” moniker.
The two entities are partnering on the 24th annual In His Steps 5K run/walk. Proceeds from the Saturday, March 25 event, which begins at 8 a.m. at Christ Church, will benefit Camp Chambers.
The race is also being dedicated to the memory of Cy Robinson, a church member and CMDS graduate who passed away in 1990 at the age of 12. Cy loved soccer and life, living each day to its fullest. While he lived a short time on this earth, he left memories that live in the hearts of all who knew him.
Registration for In His Steps
Register for In His Steps online here: racesonline.com/events/in-his-steps-5k-run. As a special In His Steps registration incentive for Christ Methodist Day School parents, the church’s Athletics office is offering a free Parents’ Night Out to the grade level that has the highest student participation.