Mid-South Hero: Woman serves the needs of her community despite pandemic hurdles

Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 8:50 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A philanthropist with a generous heart and a determination like no other to serve those in her community are traits of this month’s Mid-South Hero.

For more than a century, the Woman’s Exchange of Memphis has provided opportunities for seamstresses, crafters, and artisans to sell their handy work to provide for their families.

After volunteering at the Women’s Exchange for a decade, retired-school teacher Anne Holzemer found herself serving as the president of the organization in the middle of a pandemic. And with sudden COVID-19 restrictions, maintaining a budget for a non-profit became a monumental task.

“I found out real fast that if you are closed for a month, you don’t have any income coming in,” said Holzemer. “We couldn’t run our retail business. That was closed. And we couldn’t do our W.E. consign, which was up and running at the time. And we couldn’t do a sit-down restaurant.”

With eight full-time employees on the staff at the Women’s Exchange, Holzemer had to get creative, quickly.

“The only way we could earn money was to do curbside service and so that’s what we did,” said Holzemer.

In addition to their curbside service, she was able to rally the organization’s members, and enough donations were gathered to continue their payroll. With Holzemer’s guidance, the Women’s Exchange was awarded a PPP loan, which required a meticulous tracking of dollars and a lot of learning for a long-time educator.

Despite the many hurdles, Holzemer’s determination to keep the Women’s Exchange open was enough, which not only means a place for customers to shop and dine, but a place for local artists, crafters, and seamstresses to sell their goods and make an honest living. With the non-profit’s doors still open, the Women’s Exchange can also continue its many outreach programs, like food and clothing drives.

“It’s just really a good thing,” Holzemer said. “It really does your heart good to be able to help people within the community,” Holzemer.

Perseverance and an unshakeable resolution. Congratulations Anne Holzemer, you are this month’s Mid-South Hero.

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