Article Courtesy of Greg Moses, Daily Post-Athenian (Published October 30, 2015)
For five 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.
Seventeen McMinn County charitable and nonprofit organizations were among the 26 groups in Athens Federal Community Bank's service area to receive $100,000 in funds from the Athens Federal Foundation. 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.
McMinn County's 2015 recipients included Coordinated Charities, Habitat for Humanity of McMinn County, The Grace House in Athens, Nourish One Child (outreach program of Keith Memorial United Methodist Church), Tennessee Wesleyan College Love Thy Neighbor Project, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church Helping Hand, Englewood Goodwill Workers - Daily Bread Food Ministry, Helping Hands Ministry, Grace & Mercy Ministries, McMinn County Rescue Squad, Miracle Lake, McMinn County Education Foundation, Tri-County Center, Women at the Well, Full Circle Medical Center for Women - OnTRAC, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Corridor of East Tennessee, and McMinn County Senior Citizens, Inc.
Other recipients included CASA of Bradley County, CASA Monroe, Boys and Girls Club of the Monroe Area, Lee University English Language Center, Lift and Redemption Ministries (The Caring Place), Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, Foundation House Ministries, Family Cornerstones, Inc., and Love Nancy, Inc.
"We do appreciate being involved in your causes and ministries. The amount of effort in our communities to help those in need is amazing," said Athens Federal Foundation President and CEO Jeff Cunningham. "It's truly a fine group of organizations represented here, and you certainly give us a lot to celebrate. This is all about you. You help us with our mission at the foundation, which is to endow the communities we serve with the wherewithal to meet needs - and, as you know, the wherewithal is not always there. That's where the Athens Federal Foundation comes in," said the foundation's President and CEO Jeff Cunningham. "This area is experiencing a crucial need for basic life essentials, including food, shelter, and adequate healthcare. The foundation is committed to helping overcome those hardships and inspiring others to continue the effort of endowing our communities. As the Athens Federal Foundation grows, we get to touch more people in the community in different ways."
One of those people touched by AFF funding is Byron Goodman, a staff member of Etowah's Miracle Lake Christian training program for men attempting to overcome addiction.
"If you ask if Miracle Lake does work, it does. I'm a living example. I have nine years of being sober now and no desire to ever go back," Goodman said. "Miracle Lake has helped men like me put their lives back together. For $20 a day, you can't get a hotel room, you can't get food, you can't get counseling and mentoring, but that's what our program costs - much lower than many others out there. Still, some men cannot afford it, and so through the scholarships provided by Athens Federal Foundation, we're able to reach men who couldn't otherwise afford the program. We're grateful to the Foundation for the grant this year and will definitely use it wisely."
Another grateful organization is The Grace House in Athens, which owes its very existence to the Athens Federal Foundation.
"The grants we've received from the Athens Federal Foundation literally made our beginning possible," said Fr. Hendree Harrison, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church and a Grace House founder and board member. "When we started the Grace House, we realized it wasn't big enough, but we were able to more than double our capacity to 10 by installing a sprinkler system, which was paid for by the Foundation. We then realized we need to not only provide shelter, but also structure, services to help our residents pick up the broken pieces of their lives so they could then return to the community as confident, healthy, sober citizens. The Athens Federal Foundation helped us expand our operating system and leadership team so we could meet the needs of addicts. Then, we realized we need more space, and so today we're renovating the brick house behind the Grace House in order to provide additional space to house more residents. The Athens Federal Foundation put a new roof on that building.
"Athens Federal Foundation is literally providing shelter for the homeless in our good city. The Foundation's impact is real, profound, felt, and measurable. We've housed well over 200 people with more than 1,500 restful nights of sleep for folks who would otherwise be sleeping outside or in the car or under a bridge," Harrison added. "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for joining us in this good work of providing shelter. Sheltering the homeless is clearly a Gospel ministry. From Isaiah 58 to Matthew 25, God clearly calls on all of us to reach out to the hungry, the homeless, the afflicted, and the addicted. Scripture says when you reach out to the poor in your midst you will become like a watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Athens Federal Foundation helps organizations like ours become the watered garden, places where folks can come for nourishment, assistance, and grace. Thank you so much to the Athens Federal Foundation for helping us help others put their lives back together."
It's work that keynote speaker Dr. Tony Crisp, pastor of Eastanallee Baptist Church, said was based upon "unconditional love."
"It is a love that expects nothing in return. What you're doing are works that are selfless, and the greatest reward is to see that what you're doing, what you're giving, where you're working, the difference you're making is making a difference in someone's life for good," Crisp said. "Nonprofits have a long history. May they ever live because the government cannot do it, and anything the government can do the nonprofit can do better. Turn Americans loose, and we can change America again. I'm so grateful for you and what you're doing in the community. The reason we're doing what we're doing is because God has put within us something that wants to not just be a success, but to be significant. You're making a difference. You're making an impact. You are salt and light."
This was the fifth round of grants presented since the foundation's 2011 inauguration.
All nonprofit organizations in Athens Federal's service area (Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, and Polk 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 or stop by any Athens Federal office.