Recognized for its Work to Advance Economic Mobility in Knoxville


Volunteer Ministry Center (VMC) has been named as the 2021 Bank of America Neighborhood Champion for its work in ending homelessness and addressing the affordable housing crisis in Knoxville. Its latest project, Caswell Manor, will nearly double the number of permanent supportive housing units in the city, giving residents the opportunity to climb the economic ladder, many for the first time in their lives.


As part of the program, VMC will receive $50,000 in grant support and an opportunity for engagement in virtual leadership training delivered by experts in the nonprofit sector on topics like human capital management, increasing financial sustainability and storytelling.


“Volunteer Ministry Center is not only serving the immediate needs of our neighbors experiencing homelessness, but also working to help provide a set a path forward to economic mobility,” said Terry Cline, president, Bank of America Knoxville. “The expansion of its permanent, affordable housing model is a game changer in our community.”


The grant will enable VMC to continue the design, planning, and development of 48 one-bedroom apartments at Caswell Manor, currently under construction at the intersection of East Fifth Avenue and Winona Street. Caswell Manor will serve people who are experiencing chronic homelessness, providing stability, support and re-integration into the community. Services will include interpersonal counseling, skills training, workforce re-entry training, education, financial literacy, life enrichment, field trips and more. Property attendants will be on-site around the clock, seven days a week, with weekday professional case managers working in close cooperation with the McNabb Center and Cherokee Health Systems.


VMC’s permanent supportive housing model has a proven record in helping to end homelessness for Knoxvillians. In 2020, Minvilla Manor had an overall average tenancy of more than four years with 92% of the residents maintaining and/or gaining income.


“At a time of a health pandemic, two critical factors have been highlighted.  First, the ability to have a safe and secure home to retreat has not been more apparent and acute. Secondly, sound, informed, and knowledgeable leadership is so critical in navigating through a crisis at any time,” said Bruce Spangler, CEO, Volunteer Ministry Center.  “VMC is honored to be recognized by Bank of America and appreciate its partnership and community spirit.”


Alongside Knoxville, Bank of America will bring the program to over 42 additional communities across the U.S. this fall as part of its commitment to investing in the long-term health of communities. The Neighborhood Champions program is invitation-only for nonprofits who are poised to take their work to the next level. Leading members of the community participated in a collaborative selection process to identify this year’s awardee.


The Neighborhood Champions program is an extension of the bank’s signature philanthropic initiative, Neighborhood Builders®, the largest corporate philanthropic investment in nonprofit leadership in the country. Since the program’s inception in 2019, Bank of America has invested $6.3 million in 126 organizations within 42 communities through the Neighborhood Champions program.