Here in the Innovation District, our mission is to ensure Chattanoogans have the necessary tools to succeed. (Specifically, our work revolves around eliminating barriers to access in the entrepreneurial and technological spheres.) This mission extends to all members of our community, and we strive to develop pathways to access that ensure that everyone – from seniors in rural areas, to children in underserved communities, to small business startups – can thrive.
As our TEC CEO, Deb Socia, is fond of saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
Right across from the entrance to The Edney on East 11th Street is the Patten Towers building, once a historic hotel, which now provides affordable housing for low-income Chattanoogans, many of whom are seniors or find themselves in need of assistance.
Over the past seven years, organizations inside The Edney, including The Enterprise Center, The Company Lab, and Society of Work have come together regularly to support the tenants of Patten Towers. These groups partnered with other local organizations to hold regular events, food drives after a fire left many residents without necessities last year, and bingo nights and music to remind the residents that the surrounding community cares.
“When the crisis is no longer urgent, it can be hard to get continued support,” Deb also says often, as a reminder to look beyond reactivity toward sustainable solutions.
In our nonprofit community-driven work, we strive not only to respond to crises – as we did with our HCS EdConnect partnership at the start of the 2020 pandemic – we work to create proactive, practical programs that support the day-to-day livelihood of all residents within our community. When our most vulnerable residents receive support, we strengthen the heartbeat of the whole city and are better equipped to face future challenges when they arise
A Neighborhood Celebration to Remember:
Bidding 2022 Adieu
Throughout November and December, The Enterprise Center, Society of Work, and Colab worked tirelessly to coordinate people, donations, planning, and set up for a festive luncheon jubilee for Patten Towers.
We are so proud to be a part of a dedicated network overflowing with willingness to create this meaningful holiday celebration. It was a local effort for a neighborhood cause, and we want to say thank you from the very bottom of our hearts to all who contributed funds, personal time, and positive energy, for making this day possible. As many residents told us during the event, “this day is our Christmas.”
We were able to transform the space with holiday decor and feed nearly 200 guests, distribute goodie bags to all attendees, give away 15 amazing prizes, provide a crafts table, and serenade everyone with live music, creating a truly festive holiday experience for all involved.
We could not have done this without the incredible support of local Chattanooga groups like The Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, the Weldon F. Osborne Foundation, the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance, Tech Goes Home, Be The Change Youth Institute; local businesses like Goodman Coffee Roasters, The Dwell, Hotel Indigo, The Cosmetic Market, and a spectacular and dedicated team of volunteers.
Like a true holiday with friends and family, the event was overflowing with food… We had a hot cocoa station, coffee station brimming with Goodman’s Coffee, a delicious pie station from Publix, cookies from ArtsBuild, holiday meals of stuffing, turkey and more from Cracker Barrel, and creamy mac and cheese and scrumptious salad donated by Hotel Indigo and The Westin.
Food leftover overs were dropped off at Patten Towers for any guests that were not physically able to attend the celebration. Then, the last remaining coffee and treats were rolled on a holiday express led by Melissa and C-Grimey down 11th street to warm any last bellies they could find!
During the meal, C-Grimey of Tech Goes Home and Gabrielle Chevalier from The Enterprise Center distributed 10 awesome raffle prizes. Mary of Society of Work and Lya from Colab kept the party rolling and led the post-lunch bingo hour.
Our participants got some gorgeous goodie bags, filled with visa gift cards, gift cards to Bingo’s Market, a bounty of luxe self-care products from The Cosmetic Market, and several additional donations from shops at Warehouse Row.
A Spirited Affair:
Live music saturated our space thanks to the generous artists at Be The Change Youth Institute. Mayor Tim Kelley also joined us to say hello and Happy Holidays to our shared neighbors! Christopher Shaw from Final Flash Productions captured all of our joyous moments on film.
We distributed over 100 goodie bags, furnished with luxury soaps, lotions, and shampoos donated from The Dwell Hotel and additional items like socks and instant oatmeal purchased with funds from our generous donors.
A Continued Effort
The issue of affordable housing looms large in Chattanooga, and with the recent cold weather and sudden Budgetel Inn closure, addressing such challenges can often feel overwhelming. Chattamatters, our civic storytelling project, has been gathering data on this issue throughout this year, and what is clear is that solving these difficult systemic issues takes the effort of an entire community.
Together, we can help ease the pressure in our own neighborhoods. We at TEC believe deeply that these efforts create ripples that reach far beyond our own arms.
A Note from Our Events and Operations Coordinator
When I was working on developing this event, I was plagued by the nagging worry that it couldn’t possibly be enough; I want to provide relief every day, feed everyone every day, get people everything they need all of the time! But I spoke to Lex Lindell, a community organizer from New Orleans, who opened a small free store on her block, which had a massive impact on the surrounding area and has been duplicated by many organizations in the greater New Orleans Community.
A monthly free store helped ease the stress in the neighborhood, and as a result, there were less conflicts and a better sense of community in the surrounding area. People knew they had a place to go for help. She explained that each effort, if it provides a little relief from hunger, a break from isolation, a new connection, a sense of joy or relief, for even a couple of hours, is enough. If someone’s stomach is full, then they can focus more of their energy on what they need to move forward. Each little forward movement, each little barrier removed, is a success.
I was reminded of Dr. Edna Varner, a Senior Advisor for Public Education Foundation Chattanooga, and her uplifting message in an Innovation District panel earlier this fall. She was also talking about access and systematic issues:
“You are not going to end poverty, racism, or fix the entire education system in your lifetime,” she said confidently. “So focus on what you CAN do in your lifetime.”
So, truly, I am humbled and thankful for every single person who touched this event this year. We made a huge impact and intend to continue these efforts into 2023.
We still are collecting physical item donations for Patten Towers on Floor Five, and will be using those in tandem with additional financial support to launch a pop-up free market and Valentine Celebration for our neighbors in February.
Please contact me (Laura@theeneterprisectr.org) for more details on how you can help and what we are collecting. We will be collecting donations through our website on a rolling basis to continue this endeavor.
I can’t wait to see what the new year brings.
Events & Operations Coordinator –The Innovation District / The Enterprise Center