Fundraising efforts for the Change Center in Knoxville are underway.
It is hoped that the new community center will help change the lives of young people in Knoxville and provide a safe and entertaining place for teens and young adults to hang out in their free time.
It will take $2.9 million to open the Change Center. Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero has pledges $500,000 of capital funds to the project, pending City Council approval.
The Haslam Family Foundation, Pilot Corporation, and Cornerstone Foundation of Knoxville have joined together to donate another $500,000 for the project. The Haslam Family also has pledged $250,000 over five years for operating expenses.
Nicole Chandler, executive director for the Change Center, said they are now pursuing other fundraising opportunities and have managed to raise an additional $138,000 since the announcement of the center in April.
"The community continues to make voice of a need for a space like the Change Center, and we're working as fast as we can to get that built," she said.
After seeing recent acts of gang violence in the Knoxville community, Dan Wilson, founder and graphic designer for The DW designs, said he felt called to do something to help.
"I just really felt like God was leading me towards something, but I wasn't sure what that looked like," Wilson said.
When he heard about the Change Center being built, he knew he could use his design talents in a special way to raise funds.
"We just really felt like we wanted to give back to the community, and the quickest and easiest way we possibly could, which would be to sell T-shirts," he said.
Wilson worked with Chandler and designed a T-shirt to be used as a fundraising effort.
The shirts will sell for $19.95 plus tax through this link to The DW Designs website.
All profits will go directly to the Change Center.
Wilson started his company in June 2014 with a hope of creating original state pride apparel using the best quality products he could find.
Applying his design principles, Wilson used vintage elements to create the Change Center T-shirt, displaying the quote, "I'm a part of the Change Center."
Chandler said: "It's just extraordinary. I was so moved and so honored, and it's a great looking shirt."
Change Center leaders hope to break ground on the renovations for the building this summer with a target opening in the fall of 2017.
The building will undergo changes during that time, but Chandler and Wilson are hoping the T-shirts will help to mark the beginning of change in the community to stop the violence.
"Any individual who wears one is saying that," Wilson said, "'Hey, look, I'm taking a stand against the violence that's going on, and I will be and am a part of the change and a part of the Change Center."