East Tennessee Collaborative (ETC) helps families push toward their goals and find financial independence. This works by connecting mentors from various partner organizations to families that need support. 

Donna, a mobility mentor at the YMCA, is committed to helping as many people as she can through ETC. Donna said, “Being a mentor is the opportunity to walk alongside hardworking people as they push to achieve their goals. It is the chance to help them get over the barriers that keep pushing them down and keeping them from fulfilling their dreams.”

Donna has a background in social work and psychology, and she has spent her life devoted to making a difference. Throughout her career, she has been an advocate for health, education, and financial stability in various roles. She joined the YMCA staff because of their community-focused mission, and she was thrilled when the opportunity arose to become a mobility mentor.

“The YMCA is very involved and supportive of families and our community as a whole. We were all excited at the offer to partner with ETC and about the opportunities for growth this program would bring to so many people in Knoxville,” Donna shared.

As a mobility mentor, Donna works with 26 families, creating personalized pathways for each of them on their journey to success. Each plan is participant-led and focused on their unique situation and goals. For some families this means helping them pursue education, determining the right career path, improving their credit scores or creating a path to homeownership. For others it means helping them get a driver’s license, advocating with landlords for safer housing, communicating with schools about education plans for kids, or clearing off old criminal records. Families are able to shift and change their goals over time, allowing participants to grow and thrive at their own pace in their own ways. 

“With ETC, we’re asking participants to take the lead rather than prescribing them a solution,” Donna said. “I’m not telling them where to go; I’m asking them where they want to go, how they want to get there, and how they want me to help them.”

For Donna, the best part about her job is celebrating wins with the families. She loves seeing the joy in someone’s eyes when they realize the power they have to change their own trajectory. 

“Setting the big goal can be daunting, but when we add smaller action steps and remember to celebrate those, it changes everything. It’s those small victories that get you to that big win,” Donna explained, “No matter how I walk into a meeting with a family; we end it feeling empowered and energized.”

As Donna continues to support families through ETC, she hopes more people in East Tennessee will consider taking the leap and joining the program.

“If you’re ready to look at your dreams and want someone to walk beside you to work towards those big milestones, join ETC. There is an entire network of people ready and excited to help you on your journey to self-sufficiency.”

Click here to learn more about the program or apply today.