Meet the 2023 Celebrate Awards winners

Learn more about the five winning nonprofits from the United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s Celebrate Awards.

NOOGAtoday | genericdowntown

Chattanooga is home to many nonprofits that help the community — here are just a handful.

Photo by Kelly Lacy via Chattanooga Tourism Co.

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We recently announced the winning nonprofits of United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s 2023 Celebrate Awards — we’re back to tell you more about the recipients.

NOOGAtoday | A Step Ahead Chattanooga

A Step Ahead Chattanooga has an online store where folks can offer support by buying merch.

Photo by Brooke Bragger Photography provided by A Step Ahead Chattanooga

A Step Ahead Chattanooga

After being nominated by a board member, A Step Ahead Chattanooga won the “Innovation in Action” award. Executive Director Mandy Cowley said the organization is grateful for the recognition alongside those they partner with.

The nonprofit was founded in 2013 by Rachel Schulson and began serving Hamilton County to provide access to long-term forms of contraception (think: IUDs and implants). Currently, it now serves areas of Southeast Tennessee, North Georgia, and North Alabama + has expanded to providing the birth control pill with goals to expand to all other methods.

Mandy said everyone should be able to find the method that is right for them, and that they step in to offer financial support. Check out the numbers:

  • Connected 6,700 folks to free birth control
  • Covered over $2 million in clinical expenses

Those looking for support can connect with the nonprofit via phone or during a visit at one of its partnering clinics, including the Hamilton County Health Department, Erlanger, and more.

In 2020, the Tennessee Department of Human Services granted funds to expand educational outreach with a focus on the rural areas they serve. All of the nonprofit’s efforts are done in partnership + outreach within the community.

“The organization has the goal of empowering people to live on their terms.” — Mandy Cowley


The Children’s Advocacy Center has several areas catered to their services, including this children’s play area to create a comfortable environment that feels homey.

Photo by NOOGAtoday

Children’s Advocacy Center of Hamilton County

Nominated by the Director of Internal Fairs, Kristen Pavlik McCallie received the “Nonprofit Leader of the Year” award for her work as the center’s executive director. Kristen said the award signals the community values an organization that advocates for victims.

The Children’s Advocacy Center was founded in 1991 + provides direct service for kids who are victims of sexual abuse while coordinating with its Child Protective Investigation team. The nonprofit also provides educational resources in the community and law enforcement. Here is a quick look into the full team:

  • On-site district attorney
  • On-site therapists + therapy dog, Ashley
  • On-site pediatric service for examinations
  • Advocates to work with the family + caregivers
  • Forensic interviewers

Kristen said systems are how they “move the needle” in a hard topic to discuss + that the nonprofit works to give dignity and justice to victims. She added the main goal is to sustain the work they do — the nonprofit has already had its busiest months to date in March and April.
Find out ways to volunteer + donate.

“We are trying to boil the ocean. We are doing this important work and folks need to feel supported and given the tools — that’s my duty, is to give them the tools.” — Kristen Pavlik McCallie

NOOGAtoday | MetMin

The staff at MetMin continue to focus on areas they see in the community that need support.

Photo by United Way of Greater Chattanooga

MetMin — Metropolitan Ministries

After being nominated by a volunteer, MetMin won the “Nonprofit of the Year” award. CEO Bill Rush said the award recognizes all the years of service + those that are committed to the nonprofit through the staff and volunteership.

MetMin was founded 45 years ago with an emphasis on helping seniors in fixed-income households founded on various levels of needs:

  • Home eviction prevention
  • Utilities disruption
  • Food + nutrition
  • Emergency shelters + rapid rehousing

Bill said they have extended to serving 18 counties of Southeast Tennessee and eight counties of Northwest Georgia. He added they have evolved to do other services including health services — check out the nonprofit’s Impact Hub with a new Cempa walk-in clinic and other services.

Bill said a key goal and focus currently is helping those facing homelessness in the community + providing grab bags with necessities. He also said they want to focus on addiction prevention.

MetMin also has a pantry that is modeled in a unique way, resembling a grocery store experience. Folks can go in, where volunteers will help pick out food items, bag them up and deliver them to their cars. Bill said the pantry is run 80% by volunteers, but they’re hoping to get that number to 100%.

Find out how to volunteer + donate.

“MetMin has been this incredible bridge for folks to help keep utilities on, housed ... those are our key values, how do we go deeper?” — Bill Rush

NOOGAtoday | Partnership

Lamar Selcer acts as a mentor to not only children but other volunteers as well.

Photo by United Way of Greater Chattanooga provided by Partnership for Families, Children and Adults

Partnership for Families, Children and Adults

After being nominated by staff members, Lamar Selcer won the “Volunteer of the Year” award. CEO Kevin Hyde said Lamar has been a leader for volunteers with his experience.

Partnership began in 1877 under a different name + has undergone several changes. Kevin said the nonprofit works in a broad network to take care of vulnerable folks across generations in a multitude of programs. Here are just a few areas:

  • Children facing adversity
  • At-risk homelessness in youth
  • Deaf, blind + hearing impairments
  • The only Rape Crisis Center for Hamilton + Marion Counties (done privately without government help)

Lamar’s work with the nonprofit has been extensive with a focus on the youth programs where he played a large role in securing funds and starting the Camp Hope Chattanooga in 2020 — a year-round camping + mentorship program. He also helps with upkeep of facilities and much more.

Kevin said the current focus for Partnership will be a fundraising project coming in the near future + looking for a new building to serve as the Rape Crisis Center, as the current building is ~100 years old.

Find out ways to volunteer + donate.

“Without the support of the people in our community, you’re just a program. When you link with a community that cares, it’s unlimited with what you can do.” — Kevin Hyde

NOOGAtoday | Bethlehem Center

The Bethlehem Center hopes to gain the Eagle Accreditation from the United Methodist Association to further its goals and outreach.

Photo by United Way of Greater Chattanooga

The Bethlehem Center

After being nominated, the Bethlehem Center won the “Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion” award. Executive Director Reginald F. Smith, II said the recognition affirms what the center is doing + shows the community supports it.

The Bethlehem Center was founded in 1920 as a Christian-based mission to serve youth and families in the community with a focus on after-school programming + social service work on three levels:

  • Education
  • Leadership
  • Spiritual development

The center has several programs for youth and adults. Reginald said the center is licensed by the state for its educational programming at the Read to Lead Academy, offered for students K-8th grade + Bethlehem Leadership Unit for 9th-12th grade.

The center also has art and outdoor summer programs with a particular new shift towards the growing Latin + Hispanic community in the city. The nonprofit strives to showcase the different cultures with events like its Juneteenth Jubilee and the Beth Cup, a soccer tournament.

Reginald said the nonprofit is always looking for more volunteers, especially in its on-site farm that helps with food insecurity within the area.

Find out how to volunteer + donate.

“We want to make sure we are teaching our young people to embrace culture and different cultures.” — Reginald F. Smith, II