For seven years, the Athens Federal Foundation has been making investments in the community. The return on that investment has already been too valuable to put into terms of dollars and cents.
Forty-two local charitable and nonprofit organizations in Athens Federal Community Bank's service area received just over $116,000 in funds from the Athens Federal Foundation during an awards and recognition luncheon on October 19. Those organizations carry out work ranging from helping the uninsured receive proper medical care to providing warm meals for those who might not otherwise receive one.
“As we consider the work being accomplished in our communities, we recognize this is a powerful group willing to face trouble and hardships head-on,” said Athens Federal Foundation President and CEO Jeff Cunningham. “We not only thank you, but we are proud to support you. As volunteers, directors and board members, each of you takes up the cross for a mission – you are the heart and soul of your organization. Your deeds do not go unnoticed and, on behalf of the Athens Federal Foundation, we are truly honored to be your partner.”
"The need does not radically change from year to year as our area continues to experience a crucial shortage of basic life essentials, including food, shelter, and adequate healthcare," Cunningham said.
"The foundation is committed to helping overcome those adversities and inspiring others to continue endowing our communities. As the Athens Federal Foundation grows and we refine our efforts, we hope to touch even more people in need."
One organization touched by the generosity of the foundation is Nourish One Child – an outreach program of Keith Memorial United Methodist Church. Dave Graybeal, senior pastor of Keith UMC, likened the after-school feeding program to the biblical story of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. Just as Christ told his disciples, “you give them something to eat,” [Matthew 14:16], Keith UMC member Dixie Liner heard Jesus speak to her heart when a child she was tutoring disclosed that she only received food during school. Dixie spearheaded the weekend backpack food program for Athens City School students, and along with a team of volunteers and funding from organizations like the Athens Federal Foundation, has expanded it to currently serve more than 250 local children.
Likewise, Kati Coats shared her personal testimony of how the foundation’s $18,500 in grants to Women at the Well over the last five years supported her transformation from a life of addiction, homelessness and numerous jail sentences to a sober and prospering university student aspiring to become an attorney. According to Kati, “loving me wasn’t easy because I’d lost all hope for a future, but they [Women at the Well] didn’t give up on me and that faith and persistence changed my life.”
Such agents of change were described by keynote speaker the Rev. Hendree Harrison, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, as “God granted and God planted.”
“We are called to this work – work that is often overwhelming where for every win there are ten losses, but we know all life is precious so even the tiniest wins are worth all the heartache and hardship,” Harrison said. “The real trick to keeping our faith is remembering we are partnering with God in everything we do. He gives us gifts - not to treasure or salivate over - but to give away,” he continued. “The Athens Federal Foundation is right to fund the good work in our communities and we are grateful for their support, heart for service and leadership as a model institution. But at the end of the day, we need something even more than dollars; we need people. We need people like you to set aside every ounce of anger and dismay, and put your love to work by encouraging your neighbors to show up and partner with God. Everyone on the planet has a gift to give ... our calling as faithful servants is to make ourselves available and vulnerable to heed the hurts of the world, then be patient and full of trust as God works through us to draw out those gifts.”
This was the seventh round of grants presented since the foundation's 2011 inauguration, with total fund distribution in excess of $627,000.
2017 recipients included:
- Coordinated Charities, Inc.
- Helping Hands Ministry
- The Grace House in Athens
- Grace & Mercy Ministries
- Wesley Memorial UMC Helping Hands
- Love Thy Neighbor Project (Tennessee Wesleyan University)
- Niota United Methodist Church (Christian Co-Workers Children’s Aid)
- Englewood Goodwill Workers – Daily Bread Food Ministry
- Miracle Lake
- Nourish One Child – Outreach of Keith Memorial UMC
- Good Faith Clinic, Inc.
- Full Circle Medical Center for Women
- Etowah Rescue Squad
- Englewood Rural Fire Department
- McMinn County Emergency Rescue Squad
- Morning Star Ministries, Inc.
- Women at the Well
- McMinn County Educational and Community Foundation
- Let’s Read 20 – Initiative under the umbrella of the McMinn County Education Foundation
- Athens-McMinn Family YMCA
- The HOPE Center, Inc.
- CASA Corridor of East Tennessee
- Women United in Community Service
- McMinn County Senior Citizens, Inc.
- Homeless Management of Monroe County
- Straightway Ministry, Inc.
- Lift & Redemption Ministries (DBA The Caring Place)
- Better Living Center
- New Bethany Missionary Baptist Church
- Love Nancy, Inc.
- Monroe Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department
- Monroe County Rescue Squad
- Family Promise of Bradley County
- Family Cornerstones
- Boys & Girls Club of the Monroe Area
- Lee University (English Language Center)
- Monroe County Imagination Library
- The House that Mercy Built
- Child Advocacy Center of the 9th Judicial District (Loudon)
- CASA Monroe
- CASA of Bradley County
- Benton United Methodist Church
All nonprofit organizations in Athens Federal's service area (Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Polk, and Loudon counties) were eligible to apply.
The Athens Federal Foundation was established by Athens Bancshares Corporation, the holding company for Athens Federal Community Bank, and its shareholders as part of the Bank's 2009 stock conversion. The foundation was created to provide funding and support for charitable causes within the bank's market. In conjunction with the initial stock offering, Athens Bancshares Corporation contributed $1 million of Athens Bancshares Corporation stock and $100,000 in cash to the foundation.
The foundation's mission is to support and fund community development through affordable housing, job training, and programs that assist the economically disadvantaged. The foundation also considers requests for educational initiatives, healthcare programs, and supportive human services programs, as well as local cultural institutions for the purpose of broadening access to cultural and arts activities.
For more information about the Athens Federal Foundation or its grant program, contact Amy Yarber at 423-745-1111.