YWCA launches Keys of Hope Campaign

By Ken Leinart

YWCA Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley is making a big push to reach its goal of raising $11.5 million to renovate its office at 420 West Clinch Avenue in downtown Knoxville.

With $9.9 million raised since 2019 when the YWCA started working to secure the funding through grants, fundraising efforts, private donations, and other gifts to the non-profit agency.

YWCA announced the “Keys of Hope Capital Campaign” during a press event Wednesday, April 24, to not only draw attention to the fundraising goal, but to recognize contributors.

The YWCA also announced the renaming of the downtown building to the YWCA Nancy J. Land Center in honor of Stephen and Nancy Land who made a “unique gift” to the renovation campaign.

“This is our epicenter,” Kathy Mack, Chief Youth Engagement Officer, said during a brief welcoming statement Wednesday. “This is the home of the Jenny Boyd Keys of Hope Program.”

The program is named after another contributor to the YWCA campaign, Jenny and Randy Boyd and the Boyd Family Foundation. Jenny Boyd, who could not attend Wednesday’s event, was honored as well during the ceremony. Randy Boyd accepted the honor on her behalf.

The YWCA building was erected in 1925. In its near 100-year history the building has never been renovated.

Stephanie Burrage, CEO of YWCA Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley, said renovations are desperately needed.

Burrage said women  “come to us after leaving an abusive relationship, leave jail, or are recovering.”

Every year, she said, more than 1,200 women are turned away from the YWCA program because of lack of space. The program can last up to two years. Women are given counseling, take classes on self reliance, and are given a road map on how to be self sufficient.

“Our program costs less than $6,000 per woman, per year,” she said. Through government programs, Burrage said, “Taxpayers are paying about $40,000 per woman, per year.”

And the YWCA program works.

“Ninety-percent of the women who come through our doors and complete the program reclaim their role as contributing members of society,” Burrage said.

That is why, Burrage said, it is vital to have the YWCA building renovated. “Keys of Hope offers a safe haven.”

The building, Burrage said, is energy inefficient, has leaky pipes, and no air conditioning. She added that after the renovation YWCA Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley will be able to increase the number of women it helps on-site by an additional 25 percent.

“We’ve seen first hand the world of the YWCA,” Nancy Land said during the ceremony renaming the building in her honor. “These women have jobs, pay rent. It is truly a hand up, not a hand down.”

“And we need your help to get over the (fundraising goal) line.”

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs spoke about the fundraising goal of the YWCA and the way the agency has gone about it.

Jacobs said when numerous people get involved, no matter how much they might donate, it makes it a community project.

“The accumulation of effort has a much bigger impact,” the mayor said.

“This is a wonderful program and, as ‘mayor,’ it’s kinda cool because I often get put in these situations where I’m given credit for work that other people do. This is certainly one of those times,” he said, laughing.

Then, pointing to the YWCA staff and honorees at wednesday’s event, he added, “These are the people that make it happen.”

Burrage said the YWCA can house 58 women, but currently only houses 17 until the YWCA can find other housing. This is because work will probably start soon on the renovation and the building has to be emptied when it does begin.

She said once the work begins it should, “Take about 12 months … If there are no supply chain issues.”

Also recognized at Wednesday’s event were Jennifer Linginfelter of U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett’s office and Tiffany Davidson of the City of Knoxville and Mayor Indya Kincannon’s office.