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VOL. 46 | NO. 25 | Friday, June 24, 2022

Longtime Urban League CEO Nichols retiring

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The Knoxville Area Urban League announced the retirement of Phyllis Y. Nichols, the organization’s longtime president and CEO and a highly regarded leader of one of the country’s best-known civil rights organizations.

Nichols will conclude her nearly 30-year career with the Knoxville Area Urban League in September and is the longest-serving CEO of the five leaders in the organization’s 54-year history in Knoxville.

She joined the organization as a curriculum and education specialist in 1994 after years in public education and private business and then became CEO in 2000.

“Leading the Knoxville Area Urban League has been challenging but also the most fulfilling work one can imagine,” Nichols said in her retirement letter to the nonprofit’s board of directors. “The people I have been privileged to work with, the engagement with our national organization, our board and the community we serve have all contributed to the accomplishments we have achieved.”

Jan Brown, board chair for the Knoxville Area Urban League, saluted Nichols for her decades of service and the immeasurable impact she has made on the community.

“The Knoxville Area Urban League has been fortunate to have benefited from her leadership and dedication as the CEO for the last 22 years,” Brown said. “She has rebranded and transformed this important organization, which will have a lasting impact and legacy for so many people, organizations and businesses in the greater Knoxville region.”

While serving as CEO, Nichols earned national recognition as a strong advocate for economic and social equality initiatives.

She also served on numerous high-profile commissions and committees on crucial topics such as education, equity, social justice and employment and workforce development.

Under Nichols’ leadership, the organization achieved the community development financial institution (CDFI) certification that allows the Knoxville Area Urban League to provide capital to a target market not served by traditional institutions such as startups and small and minority businesses.

“For nearly 30 years, Phyllis has been the most dedicated public servant and tireless advocate, not only for the Knoxville Area Urban League, but also in our national fight for equality, civil rights and social justice,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said.

“Her work will have a lasting impact on the thousands of individuals and families helped through Knoxville Area Urban League programming, minority businesses and communities of the greater Knoxville area, and our future ability to continue positive change in the region.”

Wild Laurel achieves Audubon certification

Wild Laurel Golf Course in East Tennessee has been designated a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” by Audubon International for its dedication to environmental excellence on the 18-hole track in Townsend known for its stunning mountain views.

“Wild Laurel Golf Course has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program,” says Christine Kane, CEO at Audubon International. “The owners and management team are to be commended for their efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife on the golf course property.”

“We are located in the middle of the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, and we felt an obligation to make sure our footprint was as environmentally sound and sustainable as possible,” Wild Laurel President John Trotter says. “We are immensely proud of all the hard work we have accomplished in order to receive this designation.”

To be certified by Audubon, a course must demonstrate that it maintains a high level of environmental quality in several areas including environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, outreach and education, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation and water quality management.

‘Save Lives with 25’ limit starts July 1

The speed limit for any Knoxville city street where a specific limit is not posted moves from 30 MPH to 25 beginning Friday, July 1.

In December, the Knoxville City Council voted to reduce the speed limit for unmarked streets. The change was made after research presented by the Transportation Planning Organization through the Planning Commission.

With the increase in bike and pedestrian activity, data shows a marked increase in the number of vehicle-bike/pedestrian conflicts. Based upon AAA data, there is a 70% greater chance for fatality in bike/pedestrian conflicts at 30 MPH, versus 25 MPH.

Community Resilience Grant applicants sought

Applications are now being accepted for a third $20,000 grant to fund a project that improves community resilience by strengthening Knoxville’s social-cultural environment.

On June 2, a panel of judges selected two winners of the Mayor’s Social Innovation Challenge: SEEED Knox and Emerald Youth Foundation.

Each organization and their partners will receive $20,000 for their winning projects, which address the mental health and support networks of Knoxville’s young people.

“A resilient community is one that has programs and institutions that recognize trauma and mental health challenges and the ways we can address and treat those issues together,” says Community Engagement Coordinator Kathy Mack.

The deadline to apply for the new grant is Monday, July 11, at 11:59 p.m. via the United Way of Greater Knoxville’s website.

A committee of community volunteers will review applications and select a winner to be announced in August. Groups that applied for, but didn’t receive, the earlier round of funding are encouraged to apply again.

Proposed projects must be collaborative, community driven and community led; address current gaps in services; support underserved youth; and position youth as the experts on the barriers they face and what they need to succeed.

Direct questions about the Mayor’s Social Innovation Challenge Grant to Kathy Mack, or Torrie Boggs,

Landmark Recovery to open Seymour location

Landmark Recovery, a family-owned drug and alcohol addiction treatment provider based in Nashville, will bring clinical care for substance use disorder to East Tennessee by opening later this month in the former Brookhaven Retreat facility located in Seymour.

Once home to Brookhaven Retreat, which charged as much as $50,000 for a 30-day stay, Landmark Recovery of Knoxville will offer addiction treatment at less than half that cost and accept most major insurance.

Nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, this 48-bed facility is located at 1016 IC King Road in Seymour and brings 50 new full-time and part-time health care and administrative jobs to the Knoxville area.

As Landmark’s first treatment center in Tennessee, Landmark Recovery of Knoxville will provide inpatient, outpatient, detox, and partial hospitalization services for those experiencing substance use disorders. Landmark offers twice the hours of therapy compared to the national average and free alumni services to its graduates to help sustain recovery after treatment.

“With the increased availability of fentanyl, we are seeing more and more hospitalizations and deaths due to overdose in our rural communities. Opening this location will make quality resources available to not only those in Blount and Loudon counties, but everyone in East Tennessee struggling with substance use disorder,” says Matt Boyle, co-founder and CEO of Landmark Recovery.

KPD chief applies to join Active Bystandership

As one of his first actions as the new Chief of Police for the Knoxville Police Department, Chief Paul Noel has submitted the department’s application to the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement Project.

“It is imperative that we create a culture of accountability and loyalty towards one another by intervening before mistakes or misconduct occur or when they do occur, and ABLE will help lay that foundation” Noel says. “Accountability will be the key word for our supervisors and command staff. Our officers must hold themselves and each other accountable and look out for their fellow officers. We owe that to one another and the residents we serve.”

In order to register for the ABLE Project, the KPD was required to submit four letters of support – one from Chief Noel, one from Mayor Kincannon and two from community-based organizations vouching for the department’s sincere interest in self-improvement.

The Knoxville Area Urban League and Knoxville NAACP provided support letters for KPD’s application. If accepted, KPD would commit to the 10 ABLE standards and kick-start its participation with an ABLE Train-The-Trainer Event.

The ABLE Project was created by the Georgetown University Law Center for Innovations in Community Safety in partnership with Sheppard Mullin, a global law firm.

ABLE is an offspring and expansion of the Ethical Policing Is Courageous Peer Intervention Program that was developed by the New Orleans Police Department and Dr. Ervin Staub, the founding director of the UMass Amherst Psychology of Peace and Violence Program, in 2014.

Chief Noel helped develop and champion the EPIC Program while serving as a Deputy Superintendent at NOPD.


UScellular donates hot spots for homework gap

To help provide equitable learning and keep local youth connected, UScellular has donated 75 wireless hot spots and two years of service to YWCA Knoxville & the Tennessee Valley as part of the After School Access Project, which provides assistance to nonprofits that support youth with safe internet access for homework and education. The donation provides a total value of $86,000 for the organization.

“The success of students in the communities we serve is important to us at UScellular,” says Thomas White, director of sales for East Tennessee. “Connecting people and communities is our mission and the After School Access Project is just one way that we’re helping ensure students have the reliable access they need to grow and pursue their dreams.”

Through the After School Access Project, the company has pledged to donate up to $13 million in hot spots and service to help up to 50,000 youth connect to reliable internet in its markets. To date, the company has donated more than 3,800 hot spots, a value of $3.7 million, to its communities through this initiative.

Eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations can apply at

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