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Executive Directors Strive to Help Children

Profiles by Angela Thomas | Photography by Tassi Williams

Once again it is time to recognize those who do good, the idealists, the reformers with hearts for those who are hurting and whose needs go unmet. These are our unsung heroes. This year VIP Knoxville showcases the executive directors of four non profits who seek to help young people in Blount County and beyond.

Jeff Money
Executive Director, Boys and Girls Club of Blount County

As Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Blount County, Jeff Money loves seeing the impact that the Club and the Blount County community have on the youth they serve. “One of the important ways we are able to achieve our goals is through the great volunteers who give their time and effort to help at the Club,” Money said. “We are fortunate that our community supports our Club with an outstanding response to our need for volunteers. The Club has been open throughout Covid-19, especially serving children of essential workers.

This has been a challenge, but it has been necessary to provide childcare for those who need it the most. All of my staff have done an amazing job making sure we follow all safety protocols and at the same time providing all members with top notch programming throughout the day. I love coming to work every single day to help make a positive difference in the lives of every member who walks through the Club’s doors.”

The mission of the Club is one that Money strongly believes in. “Our mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens,” he explained. “We want to provide a world-class Club experience that assures success is within reach of every young person who enters our doors, with all members on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future, demonstrating good character and citizenship and living a healthy lifestyle. Every child should have the opportunity to succeed.”

Kesha Waters
Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates

Prior to becoming Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Tennessee Heartland, Kesha Waters worked in retail management, sold real estate and designed jewelry. “Nine years ago, I joined the CASA Board of Directors and have been the Executive Director for five years,” she said. “I believe that anything is possible with hard work and determination, plus I refuse to fail so even though I had no idea what I was getting into when I accepted this position, we have somehow managed to successfully move forward year after year. And while I have enjoyed all my previous jobs, none of them has had the impact of CASA. I love this job because of the extraordinary volunteers and peers I get to work with who are all doing for others every day.”

The core purpose of CASA of the Tennessee Heartland is to provide a voice for abused and neglected children in the community. The mission of the non-profit volunteerbased agency is to empower CASA volunteers to advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children in juvenile court. “Our vision is to provide a court-appointed volunteer advocate for every child who needs one,” Waters explained. “CASA of the Tennessee Heartland was founded in 1988 and since that time has served countless numbers of innocent children who, through no fault of their own, have been brought into the court system. CASA has given these children a voice. My hope is that, with our support, every future generation will be brighter and more united than the one before it, so that our community continues to grow as a vibrant and diverse place to live, work and play.” 

Missy Johnson
Founder and Executive Director, Kingdom Design Ministries 

Missy Johnson knows what it means to be busy, not just a little busy, but really busy. “I work a full-time job at Contract Furniture Alliance where I am a Workplace Consultant and Account Manager. I also run Kingdom Design Ministries (KDM), a non-profit that has been in existence since 2008, where I average 18-25 hours per week, and additionally I have two highly active teenagers,” she said. “Life is never boring, and I love every minute. I am the founder and current board president of KDM. Our mission is to create room makeovers and home renovations for children who have experienced devastation, which can come in many forms such as terminal illness, disability, disease, abuse, death of a loved one or life-altering accident. The projects are provided, at no cost to the family, to share God’s love. Our goal is to improve the daily quality of life for children and their caregivers.”

Knowing they have a lasting impact on the lives of the children they help is something that Johnson never takes for granted. “KDM is not a job for me; it’s a calling that God has placed on my life,” she explained. “I do not take a paycheck, and our board is a working board with very generous hearts. The best thing is seeing the immediate life change when we complete a project. The impact is lasting, and it is a gift of love that no other agency is giving. We have a unique niche and are grateful for the opportunity to help.”

Tabitha Damron
Executive Director, New Hope Blount County Children's Advocacy Center

Executive Director Tabitha Damron believes in the mission of the New Hope Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center. “Our mission is why I am here,” she said. “We are here to restore hope to abused or traumatized children and their non-offending caregivers. New Hope works to provide a child-friendly place for the investigation of child abuse and all the resources that the child and family will need in one location. I came to New Hope in 2004, and our mission is what inspires me.”

With 12 employees, the staff has become a tight-knit group. “The best thing about working at New Hope is that I get to do such important work with a truly amazing group of women,” she explained. “They continually amaze me with how they go above and beyond day after day to ensure that children are safe and cared for. Even during the pandemic, they were determined to continue to do their jobs, even when we did not know what that meant for their health and safety. They are the unsung heroes.”

Blount County is a place that Damron is happy to call home. “Blount County is an amazing place to live,” she explained. “I am proud to say that we are one of the few counties in our state that has trained five percent of the adult population on how to recognize and respond to child sexual abuse. It says a lot that so many adults have taken the time to learn this. My wish would be that we could end child sexual abuse in Blount County once and for all.” 

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