In preparing for this year’s gala, Executive Director Eva Piece reflects on the women whose lives have been transformed.

There are at least 100 ladies whom she feels have “profoundly changed,” because of the Christian-based program. It’s these Christian principles that guide women in becoming self-sufficient and financially independent regardless of socioeconomic status.

Pierce shared, “The most important thing we’ve accomplished is that showing what we do, works.”

Program mentors have deep conversations with these ladies to talk about the hard realities and unexpected conflicts life throws at them, but this work only scratches the surface of their mission. It takes a year for a participant to complete classes in character, financial literacy, career readiness and life management. And the change is real, emphasizing the importance of participants developing careers, buying their own homes and reuniting with their families.

The pandemic tested the staff, volunteers and mentors at Hand UP for Women, but Pierce said it was two of their best years financially, causing them to grow where the non-profit needed to expand.

“I have seen faith-based non-profits come and go, but in the 20 years, we’ve only gotten stronger,” Pierce said.

Leading Ladies to Change

“I tell the women our purpose is to help them, but one thing that always hits home for me is it feels like I am living out my purpose and my calling,” she explained.

Pierce said she’s occasionally thought about what would happen to these women if there was no Hand UP for Women – many would face grim realities.

She sees this work as her greater purpose: “God put me on this earth to do what I do here. It gives me great satisfaction to see them changed; they do a 360 in every part of who they are,” Pierce said. “I often say I have the best seat in the house to watch God do His thing.”

Pierce points to one Bible verse that summarizes this transformation, Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

By sharing this with participants they gain fresh perspectives on whom they would like to become as they begin their new lives.

How the Gala Gives Back

Now, this nonprofit organization is reflecting on its successes, challenges and progress over the past 20 years with its annual gala. Pierce describes the 20 Years of Transformation Gala as an investment report. Regardless of if there are new faces or old friends, many of the people who come feel called to invest their time, talent and treasure.

“We have always been able to do a whole lot on a small budget, thanks to the richness of our volunteer base. Hearing the stories of transformation from our graduates is why people come,” Pierce said.

Past guests include Senator Richard Briggs and Senator Becky Duncan Massey. This year, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs will moderate a panel of graduates.

“We are blown away by so many people’s generosity,” Pierce shared, “With 300 guests expected to attend and more on the waiting list, this support overwhelms us in the best way possible.”

Funds raised go to classes, resources, training for staff, volunteers and mentors and general funds that help the non-profit to operate.

Long term Goal

Pierce said she wants to raise Hand UP’s entire budget for the next year in this one evening. Every penny helps make a difference. And these changes make for a better East Tennessee, with graduates working here and eventually giving back themselves.

If you are interested in coming to the Gala on March 23 call 865-525-9696 to be put on a waiting list for open seats. If you would like to donate, you can do so here.