Four Community Development Partners Win Equity Awards

Communications Director

Eric Vreeland
evreeland@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-3480

400 Main St., Room 654A
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Four Community Development Partners Win Equity Awards

Posted: 04/23/2019
At today’s 7th annual Equity Awards breakfast, City of Knoxville Community Development staff members recognized four partners and projects that prioritize fair and affordable housing, economic development, community impact, and access and inclusion of people with disabilities. The Equity Awards are the highlight of the City’s Community Development Week events.

Community Development Director Becky Wade and Bob Cook, Director of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Knoxville field office, welcomed guests to the annual breakfast, held at The Press Room. 

Wade noted that the venue itself was a participant in the department’s Commercial Façade Improvement Grant program; in 2018, owners Jim and Lori Klonaris received $100,000 in funding for renovation of the vacant property at 730 N. Broadway, which was formerly Knoxville Printers. 

During the awards breakfast, Wade announced that Mayor Madeline Rogero had renamed the Economic Development Award in honor of the late Gwendolyn R. Winfrey, a longtime Community Development staff member, at a memorial service in November 2018. Longtime colleagues and community development partners of Winfrey’s, including Chris Martin of Knoxville Leadership Foundation, praised Winfrey for her passion and commitment to promoting minority business enterprises and finding assistance for residents seeking second chances. 

These organizations received 2019 Equity Awards in the following categories:

East Tennessee Housing Development Corp.: Fair, Affordable and Accessible Housing 

For many years, East Tennessee Housing Development Corp. built affordable housing and waited for prospective home buyers to appear. However, Executive Director Saundra Swink and her team flipped the script to better serve the community: Now, they prepare residents to buy homes through their Homebuyer Mentoring Program and then help them find affordable homes in the neighborhoods of their choice.

The classes teach prospective home buyers to qualify for mortgage loans, increase their credit scores, save for down payments, reduce debt and improve their overall financial capability.

In 2018, ETHDC developed and sold seven homes to a diverse group of homebuyers who are now financially invested in their neighborhoods and building stability and wealth for their families through property ownership. 

Sertoma Center: Access and Inclusion 

Meeting challenges is nothing new to Sertoma Center Inc., which has served individuals with disabilities in East Tennessee for nearly 60 years. So when a change in federal housing regulations presented a dilemma for clients living in a group home setting, Sertoma staff worked with HUD on a creative solution: renovating a large group home into two duplexes, allowing residents to remain in close-knit home environments. 

Sertoma’s non-traditional solution provided an independent living setting for people with disabilities and inspired HUD to use this solution as a model for the rest of the nation.

The Change Center: Community Impact

The Change Center earned this year’s Community Impact Award by investing in youth and transforming the way we think of youth-focused community centers. This state-of-the-art recreation facility not only provides fun for young people at night and on weekends, but also provides jobs, mentorship opportunities and job skills training. 

Through the Center’s Youth Leadership Training program, students as early as fifth grade have an opportunity to connect with their peers and express their ideas and needs while learning lifelong communication and leadership development skills. It provides a safe space for playing, working and learning. 

Best of all: The Change Center originated in the minds of the young people themselves, who had felt left out of previous projects designed to serve and support them. 

Neighborhood Housing Inc.:  Economic Development 

Neighborhood Housing Inc., a subsidiary of the Knoxville Leadership Foundation, receives recognition this year for its KnoxWorx program, which was established during the most recent recession to support at-risk 18- to 24-year-olds who were neither in school nor working. 

Through job fairs, job clubs and career workshops, KnoxWorx provides practical support, encouragement and networking opportunities to those determined to regain meaningful employment or transition into new vocational opportunities. Already in 2019, KnoxWorx has graduated 20 students from its recent Home Builders Institute Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) class. 

For more information about the City’s Community Development Department and its housing, grant and accessibility programs, visit www.knoxvilletn.gov/development.