David and his wife have devoted years of service to Memphis Oral School for the Deaf (MOSD), an organization dedicated to helping profoundly deaf children listen, learn, and talk. From organizing events to raising millions of dollars for the school’s permanent home, the Picklers have made MOSD a life-long passion project. The school’s mission to help deaf children hear makes this organization a jewel in Germantown’s Crown.
MEMPHIS ORAL SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF
In 1995, David and his wife, Beth, attended an event called Subsidium Carousel Shops at the Mid-South Coliseum. Subsidium was a 501(c)3 whose purpose was to support Memphis Oral School for the Deaf (MOSD.) Because of Beth’s love for event decorations, most notably Christmas décor, her and David would frequent this enormous exhibition of merchants and vendors.
MOSD, which Subsidium raised money for, is a local organization that helps young children with profound hearing loss function in a “hearing world.” Founded in 1959 by mothers of deaf children, MOSD is one of 50 “optional schools” in the world for teaching oral deaf education. Their unique teaching method of Oral Education steers away from sign language and, instead, utilizes powerful hearing aids or cochlear implants to help them speak, sing, and even play violin.
In 1996, Beth began talking with the women who ran Subsidium, the fundraising arm of MOSD. After a few discussions on the mission of MOSD and its passion for children in need, Beth was recruited to help run Subsidium. She would eventually become Carousel Chair, running the organization with grace and dedication for many years.
In 1999, MOSD was housed in an old building on Jefferson Street downtown. The location was dangerous, and there were multiple, alarming incidents including homeless people sleeping in the play area. A less-than-ideal scenario for a learning center focused on assisting profoundly deaf children on their journey to join non-special-ed schools.
Looking for a safe, permanent home for its staff and children, MOSD was looking for a solution to its problem.
Through Beth, MOSD’s board heard about David’s expertise and passion for education. Joining forces with Beth and the Board, David and MOSD spent four years looking at every church, school, and abandoned office space, hoping to put an end to MOSD’s nomadic conundrum.
In 2005, MOSD had a teacher, Teresa Schwartz, who would eventually become the school’s principal. At the time, Teresa’s late husband served as a pastor of Kingsway Christian Church in Germantown, Tennessee. The church’s vision was to create a community building adjacent to the chapel. This structure would eventually play a big role in the future of MOSD.
Over the next year and a half, David negotiated with Kingsway, sharing MOSD’s mission to serve the region’s deaf children. With the community center in mind, the church embraced the shared mission and a capital campaign was officially underway. David chaired the capital campaign and immediately began raising funds for the community center which would house MOSD. David was responsible for raising approximately $2.5 million for the new facility. David would go on to raise $3.5 million.
In 2006, ground officially broke on MOSD’s new headquarters and in 2008, eager students and teachers moved into their new home.
While David was serving on the board as chairman, from 2008 to 2012, he negotiated a 50-year lease with Kingsway for a whopping $1 per year. This deal ensured that MOSD could always use the building with zero interference.
Unfortunately, things took a turn when Kingsway ran out of money before running out of dreams. As MOSD thrived and the student population grew, Kingsway’s membership withered. In 2013, David began a process that would lead to a negotiation for MOSD to buy the land and building from the church. After a protracted negotiation, the school and the church reached an agreement for $500,000. This final agreement would ensure that MOSD future would be separate from Kingsway for all of time.
Beth’s Passion for MOSD
While Subsidium, MOSD’s fundraising arm, eventually dissolved, David and Beth’s passion for the school only grew stronger.
Along with organizing the school’s largest annual fundraising event, Speakeasy, Beth, to this day, plans the Christmas party for the kids, creating Christmas tree ornaments customized with each child’s picture. She engages the Pickler Companies team to donate their time and talents and to help Santa write letters to the children and hand out presents dressed as Santa’s elves. Our team also dresses in costume to help at the Halloween carnival, and they assist at the graduation ceremony.
For the school’s 50th anniversary, Beth designed, edited, and published a commemorative book preserving its history. Even more impressive, she spends hundreds of hours each year taking pictures of the children and creating a personalized memory book for each of them. Then, at graduation, she presents each graduate with an invaluable book recounting their years at the school.
A Lasting Legacy
Because of David and Beth’s commitment to finding a permanent home for MOSD, as well as serving the children of the school, the Pickler family was honored by being named to the school’s Hall of Fame.
Further, in a public ceremony upon completion of the new school, David and Beth were deeply moved by the naming of Pickler Hall. This room on MOSD’s campus hosts a myriad of events and social gatherings for teachers, students, and families.
From a casual visit to an exhibition in 1995 to raising millions of dollars for a special school, the Pickler’s contributions to MOSD will last for generations to come.
On April 29th, 2023, at the school's Speakeasy Fundraising Gala, Beth was awarded the MOSD Lifetime Volunteer Award.