Whether it is a crate of corn or a handful of squash, no amount of fruits and vegetables is too small to fill the void of those who need it most. Jean Hulsey, left, assists Mike Smith, a volunteer of the Society of St. Andrew. Smith transports the produce to East Tennessee shelters and food banks.

Circle of Greater Good

Photo: Whether it is a crate of corn or a handful of squash, no amount of fruits and vegetables is too small to fill the void of those who need it most. Jean Hulsey, left, assists Mike Smith, a volunteer of the Society of St. Andrew. Smith transports the produce to East Tennessee shelters and food banks.

By Chandra Harris-McCray
Photos by Steven Bridges

The leftover bounty of farmers’ backyards helps put 1,000 meals on the table daily at Knox Area Rescue Ministries.

Restoring the desperate and most vulnerable, not just the homeless, was the motivation behind a seed of close to $10,000 planted by the UT Alliance of Women Philanthropists Giving Circle grants program into the UT Institute
of Agriculture’s Grow More, Give More movement.

KARM volunteer chops fresh vegetables
Serving on average 1,000 meals a day, Knox Area Rescue Ministries have been grateful to be on the receiving end of Grow More, Give More. More than 8,600 pounds of produce generously donated by farmers and UT market-goers translated into sustenance for Knoxville area shelters and food banks.

With a bulk of the funds poured into marketing, Grow More, Give More students, staff and volunteers pitched a tent every Wednesday during the UT Farmers Market with the mission of collecting produce to feed the hungry while reducing waste. More than 8,600 pounds of produce generously donated by farmers and market-goers translated into sustenance for Knoxville-area shelters and food banks.

Partnering with the Society of St. Andrew, a national, ecumenical mission organization which distributes the donated produce to local food banks and charities, Grow More, Give More is reaching more than Knox Area Rescue Ministries.

“The Love Kitchen, Positively Living, Teen Challenge, Restoration Christian Church, Beacon of Hope, Wesley House Community Center, Samaritan Place …” rattles Mike Smith, a Society of St. Andrew volunteer, who transports and delivers the fruits of labor to some of the hungriest places throughout East Tennessee.

Grow More, Give More motto’s “freely given, freely given away” epitomizes the mantra of the women in the Alliance Giving Circle.

The Giving Circle is primarily funded by the alliance’s executive board members who give $3,500 annually. Alliance general members, whose cumulative giving to the university totals $25,000 or more, have the opportunity to make an annual gift up to $1,000 for the exclusive purpose of growing the Giving Circle fund and joining the executive board in choosing the most deserving projects. Since 2007, the pool of these selfless acts of giving has been collectively doled out in grants ranging from $2,500 to $25,000.

They’ve been the catalyst for eliminating children’s fear of reading at UT Martin’s Reading Clinic, shattering the cycle of poverty for working mothers through the UT Health Science Center’s Pathway to Professionalism Program, and building a children’s garden—a living, breathing textbook of earth’s bounty—at UT Knoxville’s Early Learning Center.

There is no UT campus or institute the alliance hasn’t educated, empowered or inspired.

Jean Hulsey helps a young boy try on sunglasses
Grow More, Give More co-founder Jean Hulsey helps a young customer pick out promotional green sunglasses at the UT Farmers Market in Knoxville.

“You feel the pulse of the dreams, ideas and passions of UT students and faculty,” says Rita Freeman Silen (Knoxville ’74), an alliance executive board member. “You begin to understand the great need for financial support.”

Tapping into the power of their purse—more than $350,000 so far—dozens of UT women philanthropists are energized by the sheer thought of making an impactful change for causes and programs that often extend into the depths of communities beyond UT.

“We fulfill a need that otherwise would not be met,” says alliance executive board member Sara Phillips (Knoxville ’73). “We not only get to read about projects as the applications come in, but we get to see the outcomes and how communities are forever changed by resources provided by the alliance.

“I see my giving in action.”

“We have a direct link to students, faculty and staff to make a transformational difference,” says Laura Morris (Knoxville ’79), who also serves on the executive board of the alliance, “not only in their lives but in communities across the state.

“It’s philanthropy up close and personal.”

GMGM shopping bags
Grow More, Give More became a reality because of the UT Alliance of Women Philanthropists Giving Circle. The $10,000 grant was poured into a marketing effort to spread the mission of collecting produce to feed the hungry while reducing waste. UT Institute of Agriculture Marketing and Communications assistant director Jean Hulsey and adjunct assistant professor Amy Caponetti spearheaded the effort.

Learn more about the Giving Circle by visiting alliance.tennessee.edu/grants