Our Staff & Board
Eva Pierce, Executive Director
Eva Pierce is a native of Bluefield, West Virginia. She moved to Knoxville in 1991, after attending college in Houston, Texas and receiving her degree in Behavioral Science from Mid-America Christian University in Oklahoma City. In 2011, she completed the Nonprofit Management Certificate program at the University of Tennessee. In May, 2015, she graduated from the Consortium for Social Enterprise Effectiveness at the Haslam College of Business at UT.
Her professional background includes working with the elderly, with persistently mentally-ill adults, and homeless families. Before becoming Executive Director of Hand UP For Women in 2002, she developed and implemented training curriculum for the Department of Children’s Services at the University of Tennessee’s Office of Social Work Research and Public Service.
In 2006, Eva was named one of Knoxville’s “Street Saints” by the Knoxville Leadership Foundation for “walking with the broken, downtrodden, marginalized, and lonely people of Knoxville so that they can see God’s purpose for them and find hope again.” She has also been nominated for the YWCA’s Tribute to Women. Eva is one of only four nationally-certified Christian Women’s Job Corps trainers in the state of Tennessee, and also served two terms on the Tennessee State CWJC/CMJC Advisory Board, representing the East Tennessee region.
Eva credits her mother with instilling in her the values of faith, pursuing your fullest potential, and believing that you are a strong woman of God. She says that her work with Hand UP For Women is the culmination of every personal struggle and professional opportunity she has ever had.
In her rare spare time, Eva enjoys entertaining friends with her husband, Les, and stepson, Lance, as well as relaxing at home with her dog, Gertie. She is a huge Tennessee Volunteer football fan, but also follows her native West Virginia Mountaineers. She attends Black Oak Heights Baptist Church.
Karen Mills, Site Coordinator
Karen Mills is a Knoxville girl through and through, even moving back into her childhood home after she married her husband, Tom in 1983. Son Eric joined them in 1985. She graduated from Fulton High School and attended Walters State Community College.
When asked about her career history, Karen said, “I worked for 8 years as a Divisional Secretary in the buying offices of Miller’s Department Store. For 4 years, I worked for a company call Belli-grams that delivered well-wishes via belly dancer!” After being a stay-at-home mom for 4 years, Karen went to work for a local veterinary clinic, where she remained for 22 years. If you run into her out in public, she may not know YOUR name, but she’ll know your pet’s.
After leaving the clinic, Karen was offered the position of Program Assistant at Hand UP For Women. She says that “I am home now. The ladies, even with the challenges they face daily, are inspirational to me. It’s wonderful to see God working in them. They hold each other up and have formed a sisterhood like no other.” She has since become certified as a Site Coordinator, and on her days off from Hand UP, she works part-time as a Ministry Assistant at her home church of 40 years, Oakwood Baptist.
Karen enjoys singing very much in the Chancel Choir at church. She also loves being at home relaxing with her family and pets, as well as going out on the town with friends.
Duncan House Manager
Marilyn Anderson Duncan House Manager
When Hand UP For Women purchased Duncan House, it came with the ability to house three women who fit the residency criteria. The ministry needed a mature Christian woman to live onsite and manage the residents and day-to-day life at the house. An added plus would be someone who had great empathy for the women in the program. After thought and prayer, Marilyn Anderson was offered this position and graciously accepted.
Marilyn helps provide a warm, loving atmosphere for program participants and house residents alike, as well as monitoring residents’ adherence to the Duncan House policies. She assists with classes and meals, shares her patio with ladies who like to enjoy the beautiful back yard, and helps with caring for the Duncan House pets.
In addition to house duties, Marilyn leads our graduate group HUGS – Hand Up Graduates in Service. This special group gives back to the program through fundraising efforts to assist participants and graduates in times of acute need. They have helped fund funeral expenses for a participant who passed away, and bought school supplies for her children. HUGS has provided financial assistance to women who otherwise could not have gotten to their jobs, or obtained housing for their families. The group has also planned and implemented volunteer appreciation events.
Admin Coordinator & Facility Manager
Lisa Costner, Administrative Coordinator and Facility Manager
Lisa Costner joined the team at Hand UP For Women in 2010 as Administrative Assistant but has since been promoted to double duty as the Administrative Coordinator and Facility Manager. Lisa grew up in Knoxville, attending the University of Tennessee and graduating from Draughons Junior College with a degree in Business Science in 1982.
After spending five years at Environmental Systems Corporation, Lisa and her husband, Ernie made the decision for her to home school their two children. During those ten years, she also worked part-time and started a residential and commercial cleaning business, Living Solutions, in 2003.
Lisa and Ernie worked together in ministry at several churches, including Southside Baptist Church and Centerpointe Baptist Church. At Centerpointe, Lisa also filled in for the church secretary as needed, and it was there that she first became familiar with Hand UP For Women, as that was where the ministry was first located. In her years with Hand UP, Lisa has proved herself to be great at everything from what’s on her job description to the resident Miss Fix-It.
After losing Ernie far too young to a three-year battle with cancer in January of 2019, Lisa has found comfort in the love of her family, including grandchildren Braden, Kason, and Caroline. Captain the dog watches over her day and night, and even forgives her for petting the pups at Duncan House. On weekends, she can be found at a good concert, watching soccer with friends, or worshipping at Northstar South.
Part-Time Office Assistant
Bea Bowman, Part-Time Office Assistant
After graduating Hand UP For Women in 2019, with the highest attendance and participation rate in her class, Bea continued to live at Duncan House while she thought and prayed through her next steps. While she waited, she offered to help out any way she could, including taking care of Little Bit and Baby, the Duncan House dogs, setting up for dinner, cleaning, pitching in with celebrations, running errands, and office duties.
It wasn’t long before the staff saw what a relief it was to have such a dedicated assistant, who also came with a great skill set and passion for what we do. Thankfully, Hand UP For Women was in a financial position to add her on officially, so Bea became our Part-Time Office Assistant in December, 2019.
Board of Directors
Dottie Sampsel, President
Diana McSween, Treasurer
Sara Johnson, Secretary
Betty Lou Simpson
Dr. Todd Stinnett
Kat Van Dusen