Wesley House champions hope, changes lives

Tom KingFarragut

Not too long ago I listened to Garrett Wagley share his passion for Knoxville’s Wesley House, his passion for those this ministry supports and those who do the work. He was speaking to the Rotary Club of Farragut. After a few minutes it was clear to me that his heart is linked to this community commitment that affects the lives of inner-city children, their families and older adults.

As executive director Wagley told us about this “oldest and spunkiest nonprofit in Knoxville,” a quote kept floating around in my mind: “Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person.”

There is no doubt in my mind that Wesley House is changing the world for a lot of people. Maybe one at a time. A little boy from Lonsdale … a little girl from Mechanicsville … or a senior adult from Beaumont. They’re helping families remain families. They’re putting thoughts in the minds of kids – thoughts like, “Maybe I can do that” or “Why can’t I do that?”

Wesley House is 112 years old, dating to 1907. Today it helps 100-plus at-risk children from the communities of Lonsdale, Mechanicsville and Beaumont in grades K-8. That’s a chunk of the inner city. They also have programs for 28 senior citizens that focus on fellowship and wellness checks.

As Wagley explained, Wesley House provides academic, emotional and spiritual support to kids. And make no mistake – this is not an after-school day-care program or recreation center for these children just to hang out and chill. Wesley’s transportation program picks the kids up when the school day ends and brings them to the facility. Parents pick them up at 6 p.m. – Monday through Friday. A lot goes on after school.

Wagley was clear as a bell. “We focus on academics – reading, writing, math, getting students comfortable working on computers, for example – plus the arts. Today, 18 of our students are taking violin lessons, and we use tutors for kids struggling in a particular class or subject.”

Changing the world one person at a time …

Their annual budget is $650,000, and the United Methodist Church provides part of the money needed. The rest comes from donations and fundraisers.

“We serve families that work who have low incomes, and for many of them and these kids hope is hard to find. They’re from tough neighborhoods, tough family situations,” Wagley said. “We have one little boy who lives with his second cousin. Both of his parents are in prison.”

Another life is being changed …

If you would like to consider helping Wesley House, visit its website and you can find information about various fundraisers and scholarship opportunities to help fund a student’s tuition. The center is in the former Laura Cansler Elementary School at 1719 Reynolds St., Knoxville, TN 37921.

The Wesley House motto is “Going Places. Big Places.” It’s a message of hope, of motivation and of a dream for a better life. Sometimes dreams become reality.

If you’re interested in exploring membership in Farragut Rotary, drop me an email. We meet each Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. at Fox Den Country Club.

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