Sevier United Way reaching out to Hispanics

SEVIERVILLE - Could a game show with fun prizes won by answering questions in both Spanish and English become a Sevier County United Way event to reach out to the growing Latino population? Maybe.

Tom Newman, Executive Director of Sevier County United Way, met with King Family Library’s Anjanae Brueland (Interim Assistant System Director & Business Coordinator) and Cassandra Graesser (Branch Manager), along with Family Matters’ Gloria Christiansen and Publisher Laura Long to discuss ways to reach out and meet the needs of Sevier County’s growing Latino population. A multi-cultural game show was one of many ideas discussed during the brainstorming session.

From left: Sevier County United Way Executive Director Tom Newman, SCPLS Intrim Assistant System Director and Business Coordinator Anjanae Brueland, SCPLS Branch Manager Cassandra Gaesser and Family Matters' (a local, multi-cultural resource) Gloria Christiansen. Photo by Sevierville Business

“Sevier County has the fastest growing Hispanic population in the state of Tennessee right now,” Newman said. “It’s at about five percent. United Way hopes to gather together others in the community who are interested in bridging the gap between the challenges faced by Latinos in Sevier County and the resources we have to meet those needs.”

Some the issues addressed at the meeting included literacy, integration, jobs, transportation, and parenting skills.

Graesser suggested a short, focused language class so that Sevier County leaders could learn how to speak basic Spanish phrases that encouraged Hispanic people to take part in programs to meet their needs. Christiansen, who is bilingual, said she would like to teach such a class and asked if leadership organizations could be brought in to assist with ideas and volunteers.

Sevierville's Gloria Christiansen looks over a shelf of books designated for Spanish readers at the King Family Library in Sevierville, Tennessee. Books in Spanish have a special sticker that make them easy to find. Photo by

Long said that she had attended very successful events in Knoxville such as music performances, art shows and film screenings (Spanish films with English subtitles) that brought together artists and business people to interact and support one another. She would like to see similar multi-cultural events take place in Sevier County and offered her support.

Newman said last year’s campaign goal was to engage 1,000 Sevier Countians to ‘Give.  Advocate.  Volunteer.’ At the end of the calendar year, over 2,000 local residents participated in some area of United Way.

 “Opening up our appeal to more than fundraising encouraged more people to join us in our mission in their area of interest,” explains Newman.  “Not everyone can donate money, but many people can donate time and talent.”

In partnership with the Dollywood Foundation and Head Start, United Way began the Imagination Readers program to provide a volunteer reader everyday to every Sevier County Head Start classroom.  Plans are being made to grow the program to provide more reading times to four to five year-old children in more locations like pre-kindergarten programs and Sevier County Library System locations. 

Brueland said she hoped that the meeting’s efforts would be useful in connecting library resources with Latino challenges and needs.

King Family Library in Sevierville offers a variety of publications in Spanish on topics such as preparing tax forms, banking and financial planning, finding a job, and locating community health resources. More programs are needed to encourage Sevier County's growing Latino population to take advantage of all the library has to offer. Photo by

Anyone interested in becoming a part of what Newman is calling his “Bridging the Gap” team to reach out to Sevier County's Latino population may contact him at 865-323-6298.

Anyone interested in becoming involved in this year’s Sevier County United Way campaign may contact Newman, any of the following United Way board members or call the United Way office at 865-430-5727.

Stacie McCarter - TVA Employees Credit Union
Michael Comer - Citizens National Bank
Roger McFalls - Tennessee Farm Bureau Insurance
Faye Nelson - Sevier County School System
Sharon Whaley - SmartBank
Danny Devaney - The Comedy Barn
Steve Bramble - LeConte Medical Center
Amy Pangelinan - BB&T
M.C. Wilson - Retired
Lori Brandel - SunTrust
Gregory Payne - What To Do Guide of the Smokies
Rick Valentine - Sevier County Ambulance Service
Alex Johnson - Johnson & Murrell Attorneys

Anyone interested in supporting your local United Way through donations or volunteering, please call 865-430-5727. 


What did you think of this article?

  • No trackbacks exist for this post.
  • No comments exist for this post.
Leave a comment

Submitted comments are subject to moderation before being displayed.


 Email (will not be published)


Your comment is 0 characters limited to 3000 characters.