There is not a more invested and dedicated church partner than Two Rivers Church.

Their Community Assistance Team (CAT) welcomed a young man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in September, showing him how to cook, helping furnish his apartment, assisting him in opening a bank account, and inviting him to take part in Thanksgiving dinner. He had been walking to and from work every day, so the team provided him with a bike, helmet, bike lock and other accessories, allowing him to get to work faster and to have greater independence getting around the city.

Many team members also volunteer outside of their co-sponsorship role, transporting clients to and from appointments, support group meetings and sewing workshops, and helping provide child care assistance. One member of the team, Leslie Hoback (pictured with the baby), also took on the task of requesting, coordinating, organizing and delivering donations from the congregation for our Christmas gift drive in December, bringing many gifts and food items for both the young man co-sponsored by the team and another family of six.

The congregation’s generosity extends beyond their Angel Tree contributions, though. In December, the church selected Bridge as the recipient of its annual Love Gives campaign, put together a campaign video about our organization and showed it at services, resulting in $20,000 in donations.

We are so grateful for the myriad ways this church has shown the meaning of service and generosity in its support and partnership.

All of our volunteers are spectacular, but we give special recognition to our “Volunteers of the Year” for going above and beyond.

  • Brian Notess has a busy day job as senior producer of the University of Tennessee’s Office of Communications and Marketing, but still makes time to produce wonderful photography and videos for Bridge. He has also mentored clients, provides strategic input to our marketing and communications efforts and is helping develop a program to connect refugees and the arts.
  • After working with refugees for decades through church teams, Beverly Duckett is spending her recent retirement helping refugees in many ways. She shops for clients, drives them to appointments, serves on a Community Assistance Team (CAT) and spends one day a week (before the COVID-19 outbreak) as our receptionist (not to mention helping unpack and organize storage closets post-move). Essentially, if we need help, Beverly is there!
  • Savanna Norrod used to serve as a case manager at Bridge, and she continues to assist refugees with her time and talents as a volunteer. Weekends find her helping out with the women’s sewing group or a bike giveaway event. She contributed to our Christmas and winter clothing drives and, on top of that, she is also a donor!
  • Last but not least, we also want to extend heartfelt gratitude to our Board of Directors for their many contributions—time, donations and personal investment—in the management of our organization and the cause of refugees.

To ALL of our volunteers, we cannot thank you enough for all you do!!

We have been busy this past year—moving offices, launching new client programs, welcoming and supporting arrivals in their new lives. And we could not have done it without a growing stable of partners. We recognize a few of these who stand out in the ways they have helped refugees in East Tennessee.

  • Enkeshi Thom El-Amin, founder of Sew It Sell It, helped launch our women’s sewing group and is working with Bridge on strategies to help it expand and become an enterprise program for our most vulnerable clients.
  • Paul Laudeman, with Kickstand, has hosted multiple giveaway days, providing free bicycles to our kid clients, along with a few of their parents, as well.
  • Dwight Cross at Strata-G, LLC (also our sponsor for this week’s appreciation event!) has gone above and beyond serving as IT support for Bridge and helping us make the transition to a new office space and new IT service provider.
  • We can’t say enough about Adam Caraco at Beardsley Farmwho has worked closely with us to launch a community garden program—helping scout out garden sites, tilling up multiple plots for clients, giving us plants and brainstorming this awesome new initiative.
  • Sam Shieh, thank you for being a wonderful landlord and champion of refugees.

Thank you to ALL our partners for helping Knoxville

be a community that makes  refugees welcome!

Over the past several years, Bridge has been relying more and more on private donations. We recognize those who have gone the extra mile to support refugees in this way.

  • Norm McKellar, with McKellar & Easter, Attorneys at Law, used his connections to raise sponsorships for our fall fundraising concert that helped us exceed our goal by more than 50 percent.
  • Former Bridge client Karzan Bahalddin is paying it forward by setting aside funds from each car his dealership, Orange Auto Sales, sells toward the purchase of a vehicle for a refugee family.
  • Olivera Lukajić Dessieux has pitched in again and again to provide in-kind donations, from backpacks for newly arriving children enrolling in school to complete household set-up for refugee families.

Among so many wonderful partners, supporters and donors, Nicole Eggers deserves her very own recognition. As an assistant professor of African history at the University of Tennessee—with a focus on the Democratic Republic of the Congo—Nikki brings a unique skill set to Bridge, having both lived in the country many of our clients come from and being fluent in Swahili. Her presence has been critical in the establishment of women’s and men’s support groups, the launch of our women’s sewing group and, most recently, the refugee community garden program. She has helped put together videos in Swahili for clients stuck at home, has befriended refugees in her neighborhood, and has spent countless hours supporting our programs as a volunteer. She’s also a monthly donor!

Thank you, Nikki, for being simply amazing!