"I'm not a politician holding an elected office, and I'm not a candidate in any of the upcoming elections this year. I'm just an average citizen of Memphis advocating for the city I love," said Kemba Ford, daughter of former Tennessee State Senator John Ford. But there was nothing "average" about the gift that Ford attained for the city's children.
The Herbal Life Family Foundation in Los Angeles trucked nearly 40,000 personal hygiene and skin care products into Memphis in late March, an in-kind donation worth more than $300,000 to benefit families in need. The generous donation was divided between two local charities: The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis and The Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis.
"Herbalife operates a huge distribution center here in Memphis, and I felt it just makes sense for us to build a partnership of philanthropy," said Ford. "Robyn Browning, executive director of the Herbalife Family Foundation, has been a friend and mentor of mine for a number of years. She has heard me talk about our children and the great need here. Herbalife wanted to help. So you can imagine that I was thrilled when Robin called about making the donation."
Ford took several weeks to carefully assess non-profit organizations and other charitable efforts to determine where the products could best be used.
"I believe that advocacy and philanthropy are facilitated by divine favor. God gives a person the power of influence. That influence should always be used in the interest of assisting others," said Ford. "To whom much is given, much is truly required."
Charles Griffin, vice president of operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis, said the products would be "well used" by the Clubs' teens.
"Our goal is to help boost our members' confidence in their abilities, and taking pride in their personal appearance is a big part of that," Griffin said. "We are so grateful for companies like Herbalife that step up and make a difference in communities with kids who need access to living a healthy and active lifestyle. This gift, facilitated by Kemba, will go a long way in achieving that end."
Ford came bearing a truckload of gifts the last week of March for the nearly 4,000 members. The Boys & Girls Clubs will use them – lotions and cleansers – as part of the healthy lifestyles program. Youngsters learn how to take care of their bodies and make healthy life choices, said Griffin.
The Women's Foundation received the other half of the donation, an organization Ford felt was equally worthy.
"The Women's Foundation has made millions of dollars in grant money to programs that assist women in becoming economically stable as they work to provide for their children," said Ford. "Although there are many exceptional organizations doing incredible work, I felt that the Women's Foundation would also be an excellent avenue for distributing the products."
Robyn Browning said Herbalife is interested in building a greater partnership with the city of Memphis.
"We already have a major distribution center there in Memphis, and we want to grow our relationship even more, beyond the business aspect," said Browning. "We think it is important to help create a sense of community and friendship with the people of Memphis, and we were delighted that our products would be put to such great use."
Both Ford and Browning said the in-kind donations would be ongoing.
Herbalife is a global nutrition company that manufactures and distributes healthy living products for weight management and personal care through independent distributors in more than 90 countries.
Profile: Who is Kemba Ford?
Kemba Ford was born in 1974, the year her father, John Ford, became a Tennessee senator, and her uncle, Harold Ford Sr., became the first African-American congressman from the state of Tennessee. The stunning beauty is a commercial actress best remembered for her role as a pediatric nurse in the 2005 comedy, "County General." But her big-screen success never dampened her desire to return home to Memphis to "be a public servant, whether that means within a political framework or not."
Ford ran for Memphis City Council in District 7 in 2011, a seat formerly held by Barbara Swearengen-Ware. She also vied for the Tennessee House District 91 seat in a 2013 special election to fill the post left vacant after the passing of Speaker Pro Tempore Lois DeBerry.