Best of Knoxville 2014: KNOXVILLE LIFE—TRUE VOLUNTEERS!

Best Philanthropist

The Haslam Family
The Haslam Family Foundation donated $4.34 million in 2012, the last year for which data is publicly available, which is not quite 5 percent of the foundation’s $90 million assets. The donations are numerous, from United Way and Salvation Army and all the arts organizations to legal aid and March of Dimes and the Knoxville Zoo and Ijams and St. John’s ($210,000 over two years). Still, the University of Tennessee is where the big bucks are going—almost $2 million in each of the previous three years. Meanwhile, it’s interesting to note some of the non-Knoxville donations: $100,000 to George W. Bush’s presidential library over each of the past three years, and a total of $100,000 to the NFL over three years. (C.W.G.)
Runners Up: Randy Boyd, Stan Brock, Eddie Mannis

Best Local Charity

Love Kitchen
This win can’t be a surprise to anybody, seriously—who doesn’t love Helen, Ellen, and their continuing labor of love? And the charity itself commands tremendous respect not just for its mission to feed the hungry, but also for its commitment to rely on volunteers and not a paid staff. Furthermore, this place is completely funded by private donations; they accept no government donations or grants. Still, what makes the Love Kitchen the first among its peers is the sincerity of its guiding principles and the essential belief that, “Everybody is God’s somebody.” That makes this place a winner on so many counts that this category seems too small for that much love. (D.P.)
Runners Up: KARM, Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, Young-Williams Animal Center

Best Non-Profit Fund-Raiser Event

Mardi Growl
It’s a sheer genius blend of the ridiculous and marvelous. For the seventh year in a row, deliriously proud dog owners paid $15-$20 each to march their dogs in a parade and costume contest benefiting the Young-Williams Animal Center. Boas and beads abounded, one little chub was being pulled in a wagon, others fairly pranced in sparkly finery (yes, some pooches apparently willingly wear shirts, even ones that rightfully belong in Flashdance). There went a tricked-out stroller, then a human-held sign demanding, “Show Us Your Ticks,” followed by a Saint Bernard—he didn’t need no costume. Did they know they’re helping more of their peers to be rescued, neutered, and spayed, and have adoption fees sponsored? Is that why the dogs were beaming, even in the jester hats? Good pups, and as for the good hosts (which includes Friends of Young-Williams Animal Center, the Clayton Foundation, and the city) we’re going to give them an honorary BOK Best Bad Pun Event Name award, just because. (R.K.)
Runners Up: Brewers’ Jam, Fantasy of Trees, Wine on the Water

Best Place to Volunteer

Young-Williams Animal Center
Kennel after kennel at the Young-Williams Animal Center contains a wagging tail eager to meet you. How does anyone ever decide who’s going to be in charge of keeping the foot of the bed warm throughout winter (and spring, and summer, and fall)? With the help of YWAC’s fleet of volunteers, of course. They not only facilitate the first real meeting between pet parents and their new best friends, but they also keep the place spotless, walk and socialize the dogs, assist with administrative duties, and even foster animals before they can be put up for adoption. But what makes YWAC such a great place to volunteer? Is it all the fluffy animals to pet, play with, and walk? The sense of making a real difference in a creature’s life? Bringing together best friends? All the above, says outreach director Amy Johnston. “If you love animals, it’s one of the most rewarding things,” she says. “And it’s kind of an addiction. When you see an animal go home, or 100 animals go home...you are rewarded greatly.” Plus, volunteers of all ages (above 16, that is) lend a hand around the shelter, offering support to the staff. “Without them, I don’t think we’d save as many lives as we do,” Johnston says. (Paige Huntoon)
Runners Up: Beardsley Community Farm, Children’s Hospital, Habitat for Humanity

Best Charity Race

Buddy’s Race Against Cancer
There are the obvious reasons that the Buddy’s Race Against Cancer 5K is so popular—it’s for a good cause (the race raises nearly half a million dollars for Thompson Cancer Survival Center every year), the downtown course appeals to both competitive and non-competitive runners (there’s a 5K run, a 5K walk, and an even more casual stroll through World’s Fair Park), and participants are encouraged to team up for extra prizes. But the 1 p.m. start time can’t hurt, either. If the choice is between lining up for a race just after dawn or just after brunch, we know which one most Knoxvillians will pick. (M.E.)
Runners Up: Covenant Health Marathon, Flying Pints 5k, Jingle Bell Run

Best Nonprofit Community Program

Dogwood Arts Festival
Cool, classy, and inclusive—the Dogwood Arts Festival has a much longer mission statement, but that’s what the modern-day version achieves. Six years into Executive Director Lisa Duncan’s oversight, the festival has something—something nice—for everyone, and all of it a with a sharp East Tennessee flavor and pride. Particularly distinctive is Rhythm ‘N Blooms, the Americana roots music festival, with the likes of the Black Lilies and a sweet arboretum/Old City setting; A Very Special Arts Festival, a chance for students with disabilities to share their talents, works of art, and accomplishments with an interested audience; and the Chalk Walk, in its sixth year of ephemeral art on downtown sidewalks. And lest we forget the origin of the festival, those dogwoods and springtime beauty will always be front and center, from the landscapes of the rich (but not always famous), also known as “featured gardens,” and the 60 miles of landscaping, rainbow flowers, and blossoming trees that make up the Dogwood Trails. Which brings to mind another proud legacy of the community program that never rests: the Bazillion Blooms. Ever-vigilant in restoring native dogwoods that have died out due to disease, development, and neglect, Bazillion Blooms has instigated the planting of more than 6,550 dogwood trees with more on the way in December 2014. (R.K.)
Runners Up: Boys & Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley, Interfaith Health Clinic, Random Acts of Flowers

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