Tennessee Immigrant Empowerment Solutions (TIES) was founded by staff from UT’s Center for Literacy, Education and Employment and from Catholic Charities of East Tennessee’s Office of Immigrant Services (OIS) in early summer of 2009. The purpose that brought them together was a shared desire to sponsor a course designed to prepare Legal Permanent Residents for the Citizenship Interview in Memphis. The classes began in early 2010. In that same year the TIES board added a staff person from Bridge Refugee Services and a lawyer from the Public Defender of Knox County’s Office.
In their first deliberations, the board realized there were other immigrant needs not being met by existing agencies. These included English for non literates, assisting the immigrant professional and promoting a network among the agencies that were serving refugees and immigrants in Knoxville.  These were listed in the Charter of TIES that became part of the incorporation documents prepared by UT’s Legal Clinic making TIES a 501 (c) (3) incorporated in the state of Tennessee. The organization was approved January 15, 2011 as tax exempt by the IRS.
From the beginning TIES established a Citizenship Preparation Program, a cycle of 10 classes offering an overview of the legal application, a course on American History and Civics that centered on the 100 interview questions, help with reading, writing English from dictation and the give and take of the interview process testing the applicants ability to comprehend English. In the last 7 years, these courses have helped almost 400 LPRs to prepare and those who applied have a 93% passing rate. Classes have been offered in Knoxville (2 locations) , Oak Ridge, Johnson City, Chattanooga and Cleveland.  The program is all-volunteer except for a site coordinator who is paid.
In 2013, staff from Bridge came to TIES asking whether we (TIES) could bring the REACH program to Knoxville. REACH, sponsored by World Relief Nashville, served refugees with college background and professional experience in their home countries by helping them gain employment in the USA in the same field. Leadership from Knoxville Internationals Network (KIN), and local churches joined the TIES board to initiate REACH locally in a program named INVEST.
During the 30 months that it took to begin the program, the TIES board: signed a co-sponsorship agreement with World Relief Nashville, developed a video and received funding from a wide variety of churches and community based organizations including United Way and Farragut Rotary.
On March 1 of 2016, INVEST Knoxville began using the materials developed and tested by Reach. The program was initiated with 14 immigrant professionals beginning the 9-month process.
INVEST connected with about 40 immigrants (LPRs or citizens) who met program requirements. 27 went through the introductory seminar. 6 achieved job improvements and 4 participants receive temporary paid internships with the City of Knoxville. The Political climate grew more negative to the extent that World Relief Nashville closed the REACH program as well as its office in Nashville. The Board of TIES voted to transfer the INVEST program and all remaining funds to Knoxville Internationals Network (KIN), a program with a more extensive base of volunteers. That was accomplished as of May 15, 2017.
Later that same year TIES successfully submitted a grant in partnership with Bridge Refugee Services for training refugees requiring a driver’s license for work. TIES would develop the curriculum and provide the educational program to prepare for the question and answer portion of the test and Bridge would provide the required driving skills preparation. UT’s Haslam school of business funded this program in December of 2017.  TIES trained the first group in a six session course completed in March of 2018.
The Alliance for Better Non Profits invited TIES to participate in a seminar to explor better coordination of NGOs who worked with refugees in Greater Knoxville. This program is ongoing.
The Appalachian Fund has also given TIES a grant for board development which is planned for summer of 2018. 
April 15, 2018                     Tiesknoxville.org
President    Geri Mulligan            tiesknoxville@gmail.com

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