The Gateway, 530 West Fifth Avenue, Knoxville, September 2022
When last I wrote about the Metro Drug Coalition and their mission, I mentioned the plans to bring their operations along with new support services to 530 Fifth Avenue where they have renovated a portion of a building that will serve the needs of those working to maintain recovery and those reaching out for help to start the process. Offering recovery meetings, and support classes, the first phase of that project has come to fruition and a gathering was held last week to proclaim its opening.
Maha Krishnamurthy, President of the Board for MDC, welcomed everyone and introduced the speakers which included Knoxville Mayor Kincannon and Knox County Mayor Glen Jacobs, Matt Yancey representing the State Commissioner of Mental Health, and Webster Bailey, Executive Director of Cornerstone of Recovery, in addition to Karen Pershing, Executive Director of the MDC.
Mayor Kincannon said, “It’s such a pleasure to be here today as we make another step towards helping people on the journey of recovery. Our neighborhoods are better, our workforce is stronger, our city is more vibrant when people recover and become active members of the community. The Gateway will provide a sense of community, accountability, and hope to help people stay on track to success.” She noted that the city gave the project a $215,000 grant in 2019. “Addiction effects us all . . . 60% of our unsheltered neighbors suffer from addiction disorders . . . Supporting The Gateway is one of the most important things we do.”
Knox County Mayor Glen Jacobs pointed out that overdose deaths across the county, at 357 so far this year, exceeds the number of deaths reported at this point last year. He said there is no “silver bullet,” but “there are steps we can take and The Gateway is one of those steps . . . This is a place that is an oasis of connection where people within the recovery community can hold themselves accountable and each other accountable.” He thanked the MDC for their 36 years of service to the community.
Webster Bailey asked for a moment of silence for those who couldn’t be there because they have died, are in detox, or haven’t made it to recovery. He said there is more support for recovery than ever before. He said the project has been in process since 2018 and noted the building was constructed in 2019. The building served as a shelter for homeless people who had COVID early in the pandemic.
He thanked a number of people who helped push the project across the finish line, including the Boyd Family whose support is noted in the full name of the center. They are selling bricks to line the front sidewalk and people can be honored on those brooks, including those who cared about the issue and others who succumbed to the disease.
Karen Pershing concluded the remarks by thanking many people in the room for making the space become a reality and pointed out the MDC has never owned a piece of property until now. She said, “The vision for this phase is truly about the community coming together to serve individuals and families who have been impacted by substance abuse issues, in a way that brings hope and restoration.” She pointed out that the center can use and would welcome any volunteers.
As funding and construction allows, the offices for the MDC will move to the location as a part of phase two (they hope to begin within a month or two). A final phase will include a coffee shop (open to the public), and a recreation and work-out room. If you’d like to learn more about the center and their plans, please visit their website. They continue to raise money and could use your support. You may make a donation to this important cause here.