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Resident assistants from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville's University Housing department raise a wall while building a Habitat house. Photo courtesy of Jerry Adams/University of Tennessee.

On National Philanthropy Day, observed Nov. 3, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s University Housing department was honored with the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award by the Great Smoky Mountain Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The award is presented annually to an individual or group of young people aged 23 or younger whose voluntary fundraising efforts have demonstrated the spirit of philanthropy and have set an example for others to follow.

UT Housing’s resident assistants, led by Director of Residence Life Jerry Adams, have been raising money and building homes with Knoxville Habitat for Humanity for 25 years. The group has significantly influenced the giving horizon of Knoxville and the greater Smoky Mountain area through their inspiration and leadership.

“It’s so comforting to know that the first house we build and fundraise for the year is already taken care of by this partnership,” said Trinity Edgar, director of donor and volunteer engagement for Knoxville Habitat for Humanity. “We have a deep appreciation for our strong partnership with the University Housing students.”

Beginning in the fall of each year, University Housing begins fundraising through UT student resident events and student volunteers. The group raises more than $30,000 annually, which is more than half of the $55,000 needed to sponsor a Habitat home in Knoxville. Construction on the home begins in February, giving students numerous volunteer opportunities before the end of the academic year. Believing strongly in the Habitat mission and in the value of the student learning opportunity, an anonymous UT professor and their spouse contribute any remaining money needed to fully sponsor the home.

In addition to the annual fundraising, the students of University Housing fill more than 120 volunteer jobs needed to construct the Habitat home. The students work alongside the Habitat partner family to raise the interior and exterior walls of the home, install the roof and siding, paint walls, and install cabinets and trim.

Throughout the fundraising and building process, students learn about the Habitat for Humanity mission, the growing need for affordable housing and, most importantly, the impact that affordable housing can have on a family.​


Maggie Palmer (865-974-3993,​