Knoxville Area Urban League


Archive for the ‘Volunteers’ Category

Got Shoes?

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 | Education, Volunteers | 2 Comments

A word from Phyllis Nichols, Knoxville Area Urban League President and CEO

For most of us, we’ve never had to think about having decent shoes or school supplies. No big deal. They were simply there. But for kids who don’t have them, it’s a big deal!

Last week, I talked about my love of reading and how important it is that parents read to their kids. Research shows that reading aloud to children – especially from birth through age five – plays a key role in a child’s emerging literacy and preparation for success in school.

While I’m guessing that no Education Association or Literacy Foundation has researched the importance of a new pair of shoes to success in school, here at the Urban League we do a little “research” of our own every August with our Shoes for School event.

Shoes for School, a mammoth undertaking that gets bigger each year, provides new shoes and school supplies to about 1,000 area kids who are most in need. It’s a carnival-like atmosphere that includes about 35 booth sponsors and hundreds of volunteers who provide games, food and school supplies to the kids. The crowning prize of the day is a new box of shoes ordered especially for each child. I’ll never tire of seeing the look of delight on the kids’ faces when they tear into their box and retrieve their prized pair of shoes.

Why are shoes important? If you have to ask, you’ve never sat at a desk with your feet tucked far beneath your seat so that no one would notice your worn-out, paltry, little shoes.

A few years ago we got a call from a mother whose son had lost his shoes at the event. She said the poor kid hadn’t stopped crying since he realized his shoes were gone. Fortunately, we found the shoes. The surprising thing about this story isn’t that a boy lost his shoes and he was sad about it. It’s that the “boy” was 11 or 12-years old, not six or seven like we expected. Like I said, new shoes are a big deal.

I realize we’re not changing the world by giving kids in need new shoes and school supplies, but I like to think we’re making a small change in our part of the world. By arming these kids with shoes and school supplies, we’re helping them feel more confident and comfortable with their peers, which is a critical piece of the puzzle.

We’re in the process of signing up corporate booth sponsors, and we still have room for a few more. Participation includes setting up a booth or a tent, providing an activity, a game or something to engage the kids, and giving away school supplies as their reward. This is an excellent opportunity to get your employees/associates/members working on a one-day community service project. Let me know if you’d like more details.

We also need your financial support. Through a special corporate partnership, we’re able to purchase shoes for the amazingly low price of $10 each. Every $10 you donate means another happy child will start the school year “on the right foot.”

Take a quick look at last year’s video for more details.

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Non-profits: How do they “profit” our community?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 | Latest News, Membership, Volunteers | 2 Comments

A word from Phyllis Nichols, Knoxville Area Urban League President and CEO

Here in the Volunteer State, we’re known for our willingness to step up and help those in need. The longstanding success of the United Way of Greater Knoxville’s annual fundraising campaign and the solid individual and corporate support of our many area non-profits stand as testament to our area’s philanthropic spirit.

But when we think about non-profits, how do we view them and their significance in our community?

Since Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett presented his FY 2011-12 general budget proposal earlier this month – complete with funding cuts for many area non-profits – there has been much discussion regarding the role of non-profits in our community and how they should be funded.

Opening up dialogue is always a good thing, and I want to take this opportunity to share my thoughts.

In today’s economy, people are struggling like never before. Many of those coming to non-profits for help never dreamed they’d be in a position of needing that help. Businesses have closed, while others have had to downsize and lay off employees. In the aftermath, many loyal, hardworking citizens in our community have found themselves without a job.

A lack of employment quickly leads to problems paying utility bills and the mortgage and an inability to provide basic necessities like food and medical care. It puts things in a whole new perspective.

Recently, we were selling Urban League memberships at the offices of one of our corporate partners. A young lady came to our table and said, “When I saw you all out here, I just had to come buy a membership. You helped my mother keep her house.”

For that young lady, our foreclosure counseling services took on a whole new level of importance. It’s like that. You become a champion for whatever cause has personally touched your life.

My hope is that we’ll all become champions for those things that make our world a better place, not just those things that affect “me and mine.” That we’ll support cancer research not because cancer has affected our life or the life of someone we love but because that research will help others down the road; that we’ll invest in non-profits that help people find jobs, keep their homes or feed their families not because they helped us, but because those services benefit our community as a whole.

I encourage you to take a moment and think about the people in your life. I’d be willing to bet that at least one person in your family, friends or work network has needed help from a non-profit. When you think of the services that non-profits provide, don’t think of those we serve as “them.” Think of your brother or sister or close family friend who is struggling. What resources would you hope to be available for that person you care about?

Now, I ask that you take action to make sure that help is available to those who need it. Give money if you can; volunteer your time and talents to a worthy cause; and speak up in support of the non-profits who serve our community.

All Things Being Equal

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 | Latest News, Volunteers | 1 Comment

Welcome to “All Things Being Equal,” our new blog. Why a blog? It’s simple, really.

As President and Chief Executive Officer of the Knoxville Area Urban League, I meet and engage with many people in this community, in our state, and across the country. I often hear, “I’ve heard of the Urban League, but I’m not sure what you do.”

It’s not possible to sum up what we do in only one word, or even a few. Education and youth? We do that. Job readiness and employment assistance? We do that, too. Foreclosure assistance, new homebuyer education, budget and credit counseling? Check, check and check. We also have a thriving small business development program.

I’ve learned from Cynthia Moxley, my good friend and Board Chair Elect, that communicating who we are and what we do is important. That’s why I’ve decided to use this space to share the many stories of the Urban League. And, like the Urban League, I expect the stories to have many sides. I hope you will enjoy them.

As I close, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge Cynthia and her public relations firm, Moxley Carmichael, for doing much to boost the visibility of the Urban League.

At our recent Annual Membership Meeting I presented our inaugural President’s Award to Cynthia, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving. She has embraced our mission, and we can see, feel and touch the impact that she’s had on our organization in the past few years. And as you learn more about the Urban League, I hope that you too will want to support our work.

To Cynthia, the Moxley Carmichael team, and the hundreds of other Urban League volunteers, I say, “Thank you. We wouldn’t be where we are without you.”

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