Elevating Neighborhoods. Advancing Memphis.

Meet the Team


Meet the Team

Luther Mercer

Luther Mercer


Luther Mercer joined Community LIFT as its President & CEO in January of 2022, bringing with him more than 15 years of background and experience working in education, government relations, and policy and more than 20 years’ involvement in state politics. 

His career includes tenure as the Memphis Advocacy Director for the Tennessee Charter School Center, where he worked with school operators, the Shelby County School Board, the Shelby County Commission, and other community partners to advance policy efforts in alignment with the needs of Tennessee charter schools. 

In addition to receiving degrees from Tennessee Technological University and the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Mr. Mercer studied International Trade Law, International Criminal Law, and the Islamic Legal System at American University in Cairo, and he has certifications in TEFL Methodology and Mandarin Chinese and Culture from Beijing University, as well as an Instructor’s License in Entrepreneurship Training from the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri.

Contact Luther at [email protected]


Babacar Thiaw

Lending Executive in Residence, River City Capital

Babacar Thiaw serves as the Lending Executive in Residence for River City Capital.  He has over 20 years of experience in financial advising and loan and credit management.  His strong financial knowledge, sound judgment, communication skills, and ability to work as a team player have translated into success in his career.  He earned his Associates and Bachelors degrees in Accounting from Monroe College and Lehman College, respectively.  He went on to earn his MBA in Finance and Management from Iona College.  Prior to joining Community LIFT and River City Capital in 2019, Babacar worked at GMAC Commercial Finance and Regions Bank.

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Contact Babacar at [email protected]


Nefertiti Orrin

Grants Director

Nefertiti Orrin brings 15 years of experience working in the non-profit sector, including grant-making and capacity-building.  Prior to joining LIFT, Ms. Orrin led the Teach for America Alumni team where she was responsible for stewarding and developing alumni leadership to maximize the reach and impact of those working in schools, districts, corporate and non-profit sectors.  In 2010, Ms. Orrin managed United Way of the Mid-South’s education impact priorities where she led the Volunteer Education Committee responsible for allocating funding to community-based organizations.  She also worked as a leadership coach in the Bay area, building school leaders’ capacity to plan and implement strategies to turn around low-performing schools.

Contact Nefertiti at [email protected]


Steve Phillips


Steve Phillips is LIFT’s Controller.  Steve joined LIFT in November 2018.  Steve is a life-long Memphian.  His background consists of 25 years in the cable industry working for Time Warner Cable in Memphis, TN.  After Time Warner, he used his talents to develop a rental portfolio that focused on transforming blighted properties in the 38127 area of Memphis.  He received his Bachelors and Masters of Business Administration from the University of Memphis in 1982 and 1985, respectively.  He is a CPA in the State of Tennessee.

Contact Steve at [email protected]

Michael Cowan

Michael Cowan

Operations Manager

As the Operations Manager, Michael manages the day-to-day operations of Community LIFT.  Prior to joining LIFT in January 2022, Mr. Cowan served in various roles in the education sector including Instructional Technology Coordinator, Social Media Manager & Web Master, Campus Operations Manager, and the Shelby County Board of Education as Board Clerk.  Michael is an active member of the Memphis community, in part organizing COVID education and vaccination events across the city.

Contact Michael at [email protected]

Linda Jones

Linda Jones


Linda Jones is LIFT’s Accountant.  Prior to joining the team in June 2015, Ms. Jones worked at the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority where she worked for 25 years, last serving as Director of Accounting.  Ms. Jones received her Bachelor of Science with an area in Business Administration and major emphasis in Accounting from Murray State University in 1979.

Contact Linda at [email protected]

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Carla Peacher-Ryan

Pro Bono Counsel

Carla Peacher-Ryan, a Shareholder at the law firm Baker Donelson, has extensive experience representing lenders and borrowers in commercial loans, multi-state lending transactions, loans secured by real estate and all personal property categories, transactions involving the purchase and sale of real estate, loan workouts, leasing transactions, and securitization transactions involving various asset categories.  Listed in The Best Lawyers in America® in Real Estate Law, Securitization and Structured Finance Law and Banking and Commercial Finance Law since 2007.  Named the Best Lawyers’ 2019 Memphis Commercial Finance Law “Lawyer of the Year;” 2018 Memphis Banking and Finance Law “Lawyer of the Year.” Lynching Sites Project of Memphis, Board of Directors (2016 – present)

Community L.I.F.T. Corp.
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1863 Madison Ave. Memphis, TN 38104
(901) 521-4232

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