Strategic Priorities

Justice and Economic Opportunities

Financial literacy, accessible capital, and employment opportunities are needed to address issues related to poverty in Knoxville, Tennessee. Historic policies such as redlining and the Urban Renewal process have resulted in decades of decline and economic hardship in many neighborhoods, specifically in East Knoxville. As neighborhoods deteriorate economically, generational wealth and skills are lost, homeownership decreases, and residents become vulnerable to further displacement. Additionally, previously incarcerated individuals often experience recidivism and poor economic opportunities. To empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve upward mobility, the Foundation values programs which emphasize financial stewardship training, workforce development and reentry, and mentorship.


Education plays a critical role in life outcomes and flourishing communities. Early childhood development, good schools, food security, and supportive families are among the myriad needs for children to thrive. However, many children in the Knoxville area suffer from educational inequality and lack adequate support systems. The Foundation aims to increase literacy rates, access to nutritious food, and pathways to colleges and careers by supporting afterschool programs, mentorship, and early childhood development.

Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence

Slavery has persisted into the modern era in the forms of labor and sex trafficking. According to the TBI, human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry in Tennessee behind drug trafficking. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and abuse, as they constitute over 80% of all victims (ILO, 2016). The Lawson Family Foundation is committed to fighting trafficking and abuse in East Tennessee through initiatives involving prosecution of traffickers, protection of victims, and prevention of future crimes.