A Letter from the Executive Director:
In 2008, I became the Executive Director of the Gate-Gateway to Independence. My life has been enriched by the people I have met and I want to share some of their actions with you.
The Gate-Gateway to Independence was founded in 2003 as a result of a need in Blount County. Russell Hogsed attended Maryville schools and was ready to graduate. Russell had been part of the school community from the age of 5 and thrived on the stimulation and interaction with community members.
With his graduation, that would all end. Unlike most of his peers, Russell is not able to live or work independently. He was facing a lifetime at home with only his family for company. His parents, Shirley and Frank Hogsed along with two Maryville teachers, Jo Bennett and Liz Crawford Scott decided this was not acceptable. They formed the Gate as a place for young adults with disabilities to come together to "achieve independence by providing them with social activities and vocational training". They started with 4 participants and today, we have 30 young adults who gather with each other and volunteers from the community to socialize, have fun, increase their independent living skills and most of all, be a part of a group that accepts and cares about them. The Gate provides a place where abilities are nurtured and limitations are never the focus.
None of this would be possible without a dedicated staff and a wide range of volunteers. Like the participants, each volunteer is unique and valued. Two volunteers in particular provide a depth of commitment that is rare. Becky and Brad Carleton have come to the Gate twice a week since the beginning. They have also faced significant challenges in their lives and provide role models of what it is to live a full, meaningful life in spite of challenges.
The Gate is a 501c3 and all funds come from donations, fundraisers, and grants. We receive no state or federal funding. Consequently, the program would not be possible without the donation of the space we receive. The congregation of Sycamore Tree United Methodist Church generously invited us to use their space free of charge and we have done so since the beginning of the program.
Corporations are generous to us. As I write this letter, ALCOA employees are building cabinets that they will install to increase our storage.
Schools and colleges send volunteers and allow us to use their space.
The Gate is a testament to the power of a community of people - the founders, the staff, the volunteers, church congregations, businesses, schools and board members all working together. The power of seemingly small, individual actions taken together creates The Gate.
It is the participants who most touch my heart. Each has been labeled by society as "significantly disabled" and none of the participants can live or work independently. In spite of that, they come together to celebrate their abilities and create a caring community where everyone is valued. There is joy, enthusiasm and fun each time we gather together.
I hope you will take time to look at our photographs and check out our upcoming events on this website.
Please call me to schedule a visit, to volunteer, to share ideas, to make a donation or to get more information about how you can assist to insure that there continues to be a place for all young adults regardless of abilities.
Christy Walsh, Executive Director