WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT
for a woman who solved a glaring problem despite
widespread inertia, apathy or ignorance around her:
Rachel Coats Greer
In 1958, Rachel’s father started Rachel’s Flowers, a small florist near the University of Memphis. In 1997, the business moved to 2486 Poplar near Hollywood, on the edge of Binghamton, the geographic heart of the city. The neighborhood behind the shop suffered from a lack of jobs and businesses. This resulted in crime, poverty and hopelessness.
After the move, Rachel Coats, working in the shop that bears her name, answered a knock at the back door. A young boy asked for a part time job to buy clothes and school supplies. She initially said no but he kept coming. She finally agreed to hire him. The next day he brought a friend. Then three. Then more. She said yes to them all.
As she got to know them, she realized they needed more than money. She started tutoring them, buying cakes for birthdays and helping with school clothes. Her parents and late husband Harry Greer worked with her.
She began mobilizing friends, family and employees to volunteer their time to mentor and tutor neighborhood kids. Her church, Central Christian Church, provided support.
In 2002, Rachel’s Kids, Inc. became a non-profit. The mission: Provide opportunities and improved quality of life for the children of Binghamton. The method: Call Rachel.
In 2003, Rachel and Harry moved their home to Binghamton and opened their door. Mondays and Tuesdays would find 25 kids there, most with tutors recruited from their church, their friends, or nearby Rhodes College. They took the kids to Tigers’ games, to medical appointments, sent them to camp. Rachel shopped at thrift stores to help with school clothes.
Rachel’s Kids, Inc. is not a calendar of grant-funded programs. It is a relationship with families. The nonprofit depends on donations from individuals and support from Rachel’s Flowers.
Rachel does what is needed as it is needed.
She never knows when the phone rings what the problem will be, but if possible, she’ll find a solution. If it requires money, she’ll spend it. She says that just as the bank account is getting low, funds arrives. Her mother, who lived with Rachel, slept in her tennis shoes because she never knew where they’d go when they got a call.
Help with school? Tutors are hired. Need food? It is delivered. Transportation? It is arranged. If there is domestic violence or another need for safe haven, it is found. If it’s advice or an opinion, Rachel doesn’t hesitate. Her kids know they can tell her anything.
And once a Rachel’s Kid, always a Rachel’s Kid.
More than 300 kids have been helped by Rachel and her volunteers. Rachel believes that it is not her place to judge actions taken by others, that she is there to help those who ask in whatever way she can. For older kids that may mean, cell phones, cars, childcare for their kids, or help with a college application.
Now kids are growing up and giving back.
Rachel constantly reminds her kids to believe in themselves and not to allow their circumstances to define their future.
A long-time customer says, “Rachel is a shining light of hope in a neighborhood where there are growing opportunities but still devastating challenges. She is a mentor, a counselor, a business partner, a problem solver, a go-to person and a humble servant leader for this neighborhood.”
Sometimes Rachel wonders if she’s made a difference. The many little Rachels and Haleys living in Binghamton named for Rachel and her daughter say yes! Women of Achievement says yes. Rachel’s determination continues to make a difference in the lives of kids in Binghamton.