Gov. Bill Lee, First Lady Maria Lee Celebrate Fourth Anniversary of Tennessee Serves

Host foster families at the Tennessee Residence
Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | 05:30pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and First Lady Maria Lee celebrated the fourth anniversary of the First Lady’s initiative, Tennessee Serves, by hosting foster families at the Tennessee Residence.

To date, Tennessee Serves has touched the lives of more than 52,000 Tennesseans across Tennessee, with a significant focus on residents of the state’s 10 federally designated distressed counties.

“As we celebrate four years of Tennessee Serves, Bill and I are grateful for the opportunity to honor and thank foster families from across our state who’ve opened their homes to children in need, living lives marked by selflessness and humility," said First Lady Maria Lee. “We set out in 2019 to transform our state through service, and we’ve been inspired by the generosity Tennesseans have shown coming alongside us in this mission, especially as we serve our state’s distressed counties. Thank you to every person who has partnered with us; you have brought immeasurable hope to communities across Tennessee.”

Tennessee Serves partnered with Youth Villages, a foster and adoptive nonprofit founded in Memphis, to honor more than 50 families who currently foster higher level placements, which include teenagers, sibling sets and children with physical or developmental disabilities.

During the event, families enjoyed a cookout, a bounce house, face painting, balloon art, games and more. Also in attendance were New York Times Best-Selling author and adoptive mother Lauren Akins, Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Margie Quin, representatives from TN Fosters Hope, leaders from the faith community and additional foster and adoption nonprofits.

Key Tennessee Serves Highlights

  • 195 total service projects
  • 65 service projects in distressed counties
  • Mobilized 3,480 volunteers at Tennessee Serves projects across the state 
  • Distributed nearly 6,000 meals to foster families in each grand division
  • Distributed more than 219,000 meals to Tennesseans facing food insecurity
  • Supplied 7,204 backpacks to elementary students in distressed counties
  • Provided new shoes to all 923 students in the Perry County school system
  • Partnered with more than 150 nonprofits and service organizations
  • Supported state parks, foster and adoptive families, active military and veterans, seniors and back to school efforts each year
  • $200,265.00 economic impact of volunteers at Tennessee Serves project

Distressed Counties

Tennessee Serves places an emphasis on serving the state’s distressed counties, federally designated distinctions based on a county’s three-year unemployment rate, per capita market income and poverty rate.

The most impactful projects in distressed counties have included:

  • Packing 25,000 meals for families experiencing food insecurity in Clay County,
  • Distributing diapers, formula, clothing, car seats and other baby necessities to low-income mothers in Lake County,
  • Delivering 4,700 new coats to elementary students in Scott and Morgan Counties, and
  • Providing more than 191,000 meals to all the state’s distressed counties.

Since Governor Lee took office in 2019, the number of distressed counties has decreased from 15 to 10.

Tennessee Kids Serve Summer Challenge

Each summer, First Lady Maria Lee encourages rising kindergarten through sixth grade students to devote a portion of their summer to service through the Tennessee Kids Serve Summer Challenge.

Since launching the challenge in 2019, 1,100 kids representing more than 30 counties across the state have participated, serving a total of 4,511 hours in their communities.