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Marquel and I

Marquel and I met seven years ago when he was 11 years old and starting the sixth grade. He was living in Western Heights and his father was incarcerated at the time. I remember that he really wanted to go to Chuck E Cheese the first time we met! Middle school years were hard for Marquel, he was suspended on average once a month during his sixth grade year. The suspensions were for inappropriate contact with peers, posturing, threatening and talking back to teachers. These suspensions continued in his seventh grade year as well. Those around him said he was destined for the streets and to follow in the footsteps of his family. His mom regularly sold drugs and was incarcerated multiple times over his middle and high school years. After a year or two in, I had some doubts about whether I was making a difference. Marquel was primarily concerned with what I would buy for him or what activities I could provide for him. It wasn’t entirely developmentally inappropriate, but it was hard to deal with the demands at times. I questioned whether I should stop, but my wife encouraged me to continue.

As Marquel matured (and as I matured), our relationship started to grow and blossom. He opened up to me more and we talked about more and more of his life. Sometimes we would go out and talk for hours. He leaned on me and asked for my advice and input. He was not suspended during his whole high school tenure.

He graduated with distinction from Fulton High School in May 2016 and will be attending MTSU this fall, majoring in business. He received enough through a Project Grad scholarship, Pell grants lottery scholarship and MTSU scholarship, that nearly all of his school will be paid for. I was honored to help him through the process of studying for his college entrance exams, apply for colleges, making campus visits and even being at MTSU for his first day of classes.

He has compassion for his family, but wants to choose a different path. He still can’t beat me in basketball, but he tops in me courage, resilience, and maturity. I cried at his graduation and I cried when I dropped him off at college. He has moved beyond a mentee, and he is now simply my friend.

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400+ Attend KnoxWorx Job Fair

KnoxWorx, Knoxville Leadership Foundation's workforce development program, hosted a community job fair at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, January 20th. We experienced an incredible response as more than 400 people attended the fair to visit HR representatives from fifty of Knoxville's top employers

We are incredibly thankful that the fair has led to job seekers in our community finding employment. Early statistics from the job fair show:

"The job fair has opened doors to develop relationships with companies in our area that are looking for quality candidates," said Tim Waldo, Director of KnoxWorx. "After receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from attendees and employer vendors, we are looking forward to future community events."

The job fair opened with a panel discussion featuring Human Resource Executives from the Knoxville area. The panelists shared key insights about how to get noticed by employers and land a great career. Former NFL Coach Jerry Glanville also gave a motivational speech reminding job seekers that it's important to keep your head in the game and not give up in order to achieve your dreams.

"Our program allows individuals to explore and maximize their talents to help support themselves and their families through meaningful work," said David Ault, KLF's Vice President of Programs. "KnoxWorx connects qualified individuals with potential employers through our job opportunity network."

KnoxWorx serves youth and adults in the Knoxville area by providing mentoring, job search strategies, and networking opportunities to help the unemployed gain meaningful employment. Our vision is to connect people to needed resources by engaging churches, employer partners, metnors and caring individuals to reach into our community and help those struggling with unemployment.

If you would like to learn more about KnoxWorx and KnoxWorx Career Resources contact Tim Waldo at (865) 524-2774 or visit us online at

Amachi Celebrates Outstanding Mentors

It takes a special person to be a mentor, someone who is willing to share their life with a young person and commit to becoming a positive role model for that person. We celebrated our mentors during National Mentoring Month at the 7th Annual Mentor Appreciation Luncheon. The luncheon, held at The Foundry, is always a sweet time for mentees and their caregivers to show their appreciation and spend time together.

Each year, we have several mentors who go above and beyond to make sure their mentee knows they matter to someone. During the awards ceremony, we honored these outstanding mentors:

"Mentoring has impacted my life and placed me in a position where I can use wisdom, skills, and knowledge to help a child make good decisions and choose paths that are pleasing to God" mentioned Donna Hardy, Amachi Mentor.

January continued to be eventful with a record-breaking match month. Amachi matched 9 children with caring mentors who have committed to walk alongside them this year. Currently, we have 121 active matches in the program including 16 matches with husband/wife mentor teams. Of those matches:

Currently, we have 12 boys and 12 girls who are waiting for someone to "live life" with them. If you would like more information about becoming an Amachi mentor contact Danita McCartney at (865) 524-2774 or visit us online at

Heels and Wheels Duathlon and 5K

It's that time of year again! Preparations are already under way for the 5th Annual Heels & Wheels Duathlon (5K Run/18K Bike/3K Run). Competitors can register as a general participant or help raise needed funds for a participating nonprofit.

"Heels & Wheels provides these partner organizations the structure of a large event without overwhelming their staff or their resources," says Chris Martin, President of KLF. "It allows them the opportunity to engage their constituents in fundraising while keeping their focus on their primary mission."

Since it's inception in 2011, the Heels & Wheels Duathlon has raised over $250,000 for area nonprofit organizations. This year, Heels & Wheels has experienced incredible growth with 26 area nonprofit organizations participating.

Register online at

2015 Participating Nonprofit Organizations

  • Amachi Knoxville
  • Friends of the Smokies
  • Bridge Refugee Services, Inc.
  • Girls on the Run of Greater Knoxville
  • Camp Wesley Woods
  • Great Smokey Mountain Institute at Tremont
  • CASA of Tennessee Heartland
  • Hope Resource Center
  • Children of Hope
  • H.O.M.E., Inc.
  • Children's Museum of Oak Ridge
  • Junior League of Knoxville
  • Clinch River Home Health
  • Keystone Adult Day Program
  • Community East Tennessee
  • Conservation Fisheries, Inc.
  • Knox Housing Partnership
  • disABILITY Resource Center
  • Knoxville Center of the Deaf
  • Epilepsy Foundation of East Tennessee
  • Listening Hearts
  • FOCUS Group Ministries
  • Nehemiah Projects
  • Friends of Literacy
  • Operation Backyard
  • Thank you to our sponsors for helping make this year's Heels & Wheels Duathlon and 5K a success! We'd also like to thank Johnson University for generously hosting the event on their campus.

    2015 Event Sponsors

    For more information about the participating nonprofits and race day information visit

    Operation Backyard Helps Local Veteran

    Recently, students from Maryville College worked with Knoxville Leadership Foundation's Operation Backyard program to replace the leaking roof of local veteran, Roy Smith. Smith, a Korean War veteran who served from 1958 to 1960, has lived in Knoxville for over 43 years.

    Smith served in the Army's Tank Division as part of the peace keeping mission that began after the Korean War Peace Treaty was signed. After his service in the Army, Smith returned home to marry his wife Juanita, and father four children with multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    "Operation Backyard was excited to partner with The Home Depot Foundation and volunteers from Maryville College; it's not often that we get to give back to a member of our community who has given so much," said Adam Montgomery, Director of Housing at Knoxville Leadership Foundation. "By working and volunteering in the community you not only change the lives of those being served, but the lives of the volunteers are changed as well."

    Work to replace Smith's roof began Tuesday, January 19 with removal of the old shingles and replacement of rotten lumber. Teams continued to work through Thursday, January 22 to install a new asphalt shingle roof, and complete other needed repairs at Smith's home. Mr. Smith was overjoyed by the compassion and service given by the folks from Maryville College.

    Operation Backyard is funded through individual donations, City of Knoxville Community Development, Knox County Community Development, East Tennessee Foundation, Federal Home Loan Bank of Cinncinnati, The Home Depot Foundation and volunteer fees.

    Currently, over 225 families/individuals have requested help with minor home repair needs. The need in our community for the services of Operation Backyard continues to increase each year. These needs far outweigh the funding and volunteers available. If your company or organization would like to schedule and/or sponsor a service project contact Jay Zartman at 524-2774 or visit us online at

    NHI Completes New Homes

    Neighborhood Housing, Inc.'s (NHI) new home program has recently completed three new construction homes in the Knoxville area.

    NHI believes that homeownership enriches our city and our neighborhoods by building and strengthening relationships in our communities. Families with low to moderate income often feel they will never accomplish the dream of owning their own home. NHI’s Homebuyer Readiness Program works with families to help them realize that their homeownership dreams are within reach.

    "The benefit of purchasing a home through NHI is the homeowner gets included in the process," said Adam Montgomery, Director of Neighborhood Housing, Inc. "The Homebuyer Readiness Program lays the foundation for successful homeownership, but also teaches lifelong financial habits that encourage saving for incidentals and living within your means.”

    Down payment assistance through NHI makes a new home a reality. Through this financial assistance and the homeowner's hard work NHI home ownership can happen.

    Russell Catron, NHI’s Homebuyer Coordinator, partners with qualifying individuals and families to create a personalized, step-by-step financial plan towards purchasing an affordable, high quality home. The step-by-step program helps prepare future homeowners for success by: