SOUP supports Vestal bus shelters

Betsy PickleFeature, South Knox

In a somewhat surprising win, the latest SOUP pot stayed close to home.

Knoxville SOUP, held Tuesday at Kerbela Shriners, 315 Mimosa Ave., listened to presenters seeking funding for four projects, including two specifically benefiting children – which tend to win over hearts. But the project that earned the donations from the door was one that aims to aid the needy in one of South Knoxville’s oldest neighborhoods.

It’s a project that helps people of all ages, children included.

The project, Ogle Avenue Bus Shelters, proposed by the nonprofit East Tennessee Permaculture Research Institute, earned $765 to go toward building shelters on the north and south sides of Ogle Avenue near their building, which now houses the FISH Hospitality Pantry.

The current bus stops for KAT Route 45 on Ogle near Martin Mill Pike are no more than signs by the road, with riders having to suffer through the elements as they wait on nonexistent shoulders.

“People often wait on a guardrail with their feet in the road,” said Mary Woody, ETPRI’s AmeriCorps member. “It’s a very unsafe location.”

ETPRI is based at the Sustainable Future Center and hosts a variety of programs to engage the community. The FISH pantry has grown considerably since it relocated from the now-defunct Vestal United Methodist Church.

The Sustainable Future Center has an ample buffer between its fence and the roadway and plans to donate that for the north-side shelter. There is adequate paved space on the south side to install a covered shelter.

KAT and the city will provide the base and curb cuts (which are needed only on the north side), and the SOUP money will go toward materials, construction and maintenance. Woody said plans for the shelters include solar panels to power lights and phone-charging stations.

They are also partnering with the Knoxville Leadership Foundation on the project. The cost per shelter would be about $1,000.

In her appeal to the dinner crowd, Woody said, “We’re asking you to be a part of something big. Together we will build a bus shelter to keep our neighbors safe.”

Attendees were moved enough to cast the majority of the 142 votes for the shelters.

Other projects seeking funding were:

  • Hillcrest United Methodist Church’s Blanket Ministry for patients at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital; contact Marcia O’Neal,, 865-573-6991.
  • Chapman Highway Dogwood Trail Enhancements, Dede Wilkerson, 865-806-1187, and Chapman Highway Dogwood Trail on Facebook.
  • Spring Hill Elementary School’s Outdoor Asphalt Game Boards, Jessica Bocangel,, 865-748-0182, and Spring Hill Elementary on Facebook.

This was the 14th SOUP microfunding dinner held since March 2015. In its three and a half years, the grassroots organization has raised $8,040.75 for community projects.

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