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Community Cares Coalition Organized To Tackle Local Problems

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Community Cares Coalition Organized To Tackle Local Problems

Four local organizations have come together to form the Cookeville Community Cares Coalition to work on issues like poverty and homelessness.

Hip Cookeville CEO Blair Dudley said the coalition has the ability to work directly with people in need. He said the street-level work they do can resolve issues that might take a government entity three to six months to tackle.

“There are so many issues that either are not being addressed at all, not by government, or there are simply not enough resources to address them, and a lot of it stems around poverty,” Dudley said.

Dudley said the coalition is made up of the Cookeville Human Fund, Helping Hands of Putnam County, the Recovery Kitchen and Hip Cookeville. He said the organizations have been meeting since 2020, so it was time to become official and find a name for the group.

“We’re out there like immediately, and we may not know what we’re doing, but we know what we can do,” Dudley said. “We take on, we tackle the problems and we meet people at an individual level. This is the need that they have. We don’t give a crap what their background was, and there are a lot of places that they come in and they have to fill out all these forms and they have to do all this stuff just to get shelter. That’s not us.”

He said in December of 2022, they opened a shelter at Collegeside Church of Christ that protected some 50 unsheltered people from potentially deadly temperatures. He said this year, they planned a shelter well in advance at Cookeville Rescue Mission’s Johnstone Building. The shelters will be on standby year round for any inclement weather including temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, tornadoes, and freezes.

“It shows what we can do if we drop our egos, if we drop our taking credit for stuff, it shows what we actually can do if we don’t have another agenda,” Dudley said.

Dudley said that he and Becca Duncan of Helping Hands usually take the lead for the coalition, but everyone involved plays a pivotal role and there is no defined leadership structure. He said the next major project the coalition has planned is a day service that provides impoverished or unsheltered people with the resources they need like computer access and necessities without having to travel and jump through hoops.

“I love our community and I love how they step in and they feel what we can do, and they support what we can do, and they actually care,” Dudley said.


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