The Legacy Housing Foundation was recently formed in Knoxville. Absent a big announcement, the focus, from the beginning has been to, “provide vital services and programs that make affordable housing communities better places to live.” It’s already been quietly going about its business, serving hundreds of residents, but it will soon have a coming out party, of sorts, when it hosts the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for a fundraising performance November 10 at the Crown Plaza.
The idea for the foundation came to founder Phil Lawson when he read an article in The Mercury. The article included the story of a single mother who said that by the end of the month she had to choose between food and toilet paper. As the head of Lawler Wood Housing, which was re-branded as LHP Capital in 2015, a company with a large portfolio of HUD housing, it struck him that this was a need that could be filled.
He’d always felt a sense of mission as he built housing for people who struggle. One of the things he’s known for is providing special finishes to subsidized housing that others see as superfluous. His company updated The 1100 Studio Apartments (formerly Townview Towers), just off Summit Hill, for example and upgraded the kitchens with better appliances and granite counter tops. His thinking: If the kitchens are nicer, families may be encouraged to cook better food. His financial backers thought it silly, so he took the cost out of his portion.
So, he founded the 501(c)(3) Legacy Housing Foundation to make life better for the people who live in the homes he builds. Dan Hamilton, president of the foundation’s board said, “Our mission is to provide innovative programs and life-enhancing services to build strong affordable housing communities. We will help build housing but our first and most important goal is to provide services to address the many issues that often impede a person’s ability to live a stable and healthy life while living in subsidized housing.”
They’ve started with an effort designed to be fun, fill the needs mentioned by the women in the article and to, hopefully, build a sense of community and connection so often missing in subsidized housing developments. The Good Times Community Block Parties (pictured in this post) are fun, but with the purpose of providing essential end-of-the month type supplies to those who need them.
Angela Howard, Executive Director of the foundation said that, “In 2016 Legacy Housing Foundation had 42 Good Times events at 18 different affordable housing properties in Knox and surrounding counties. In the first half of 2017, there have been 48 Good Times events at 27 properties serving 2364 residents.” The Good Times truck literally rolls in at the end of the month and not only distributes the needed supplies like soap, toothpaste, shampoo and toilet paper, but it does it in a fun way that engages residents and neighbors.
The foundation, however, has plans that go well beyond block parties. Summarizing their goals with the words, “Uplift, Empower and Improve,” the foundation intends to do just that, by increasing awareness of and access to supportive services and by providing learning opportunities on topics such as financial management, employment skills and health and wellness.
Ultimately, the goal is to elevate the standard of living, not only by providing personal necessities, but by increasing the understanding, skills and esteem required for success. They plan to tackle issues like child care and jobs. The Knox County Health Department is putting together a needs assessment to help inform the targeting of aid by the group in order to be most effective in the help provided.
And now the time has come for a public launch and to begin augmenting the seed money with which the foundation began. “After many months of hard work getting this nonprofit off the ground, we are finally ready to make our public launch,” said Howard. “We invite everyone to come to our Nov. 10 jazz party and benefit. There will be food, drinks and fun for all—and the best New Orleans jazz ever.”
And she’s not kidding when she says, “the best New Orleans jazz ever,” as the band laying down the party tunes will be the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The photographs you see here of the band were taken at their 2015 appearance at The Standard. It was a night those of us there still reference as a perfect night in the city.
I have a personal connection to the band, having grown up going to see the 1960s and 1970s incarnations of the band in Preservation Hall on St. Peter Street in New Orleans. The heat was stifling, the benches hard and the waits long. The jazz? Magical. Every time. It was a burst of sweaty joy in the middle of a crazy good, horrific and complex gumbo of a city.
So, come join the fun. You’ll find details and tickets here for the November event. $50 gets you in and $100 gets you a pre-concert reception with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and (maybe) a chance to mingle with the band. It all happens at the Crown Plaza downtown and it promises to be another night to remember in the city.
Sweet Audrey’s Jazz Club is the presenting sponsor and other levels of sponsorship are still available. Businesses or individuals interested in supporting the foundation should call Angela Howard at 865-549-5530. Visit the Legacy Housing Foundation website to explore more ways to get involved. Visit the Facebook page and give them a “like.” Really. Do it now. For goodness sake, when I wrote this they only have 37 “likes.” Support a good thing. They also have a “donate,” button on the page. Don’t be bashful.
And I’ll see you on November 10 for a great night of hot jazz – all for a very good cause.