A small gesture can hold great meaning.
As part of a tradition dating to 2011, WBIR-TV 10 has chosen to dedicate its yearly Labor of Love Project to the building of the Sertoma Center's handicap accessible duplex.
For the past 55 years, the Sertoma Center, a non-profit organization, has been working to better the lives of adults with intellectual disabilities in the Knoxville area by providing job skills training, daily living skills, therapeutic restoration and aid in finding suitable jobs.
The Sertoma Center serves approximately 115 adults, including full time residents living at one of the 26 locations in Knoxville designed to house adults with intellectual disabilities. However, due to the growing size of the residential wait list, the Sertoma Center recently began plans to build their first duplex from the ground up.
"Also, over 50 percent of our members are over 50, when most of these people weren't expected to live past their teens but because of the environment they're living in, they're living much longer," said Becky Massey, executive director of the Sertoma Center. "So, we decided we needed to build an actual real handicapped accessible duplex, since half the time handicapped accessible building means there's a bar in the bathroom."
The center's efforts to get the project started caught the attention of WBIR-TV 10.
"We heard that this duplex was to get them into more of a real life house and give them more freedom and independence that they couldn't have otherwise, a home," said Christy Moreno, news director of WBIR-TV 10. "When I first went to the Sertoma Center to check it out, I thought it would be kind of sad or depressing, but when I went in there it was life changing ... I didn't hesitate to say we would do anything we could to help raise awareness and build the duplex."
WBIR teamed with the Homebuilders Association of Greater Knoxville and the Knoxville Association of Realtors to spearhead the Labor of Love project with the Sertoma Duplex.
Construction began the first week of August and will tentatively conclude on Nov. 12, with about 90 total days of construction.
"It's come so far in such a short amount of time, and it just makes you feel great," Moreno said. "It also makes me very proud to work here, that I'm in a station that takes on a project like this. It's unheard of in other stations like this. You can leave work and feel good about what you're doing."
Massey agreed with Moreno's positive affections toward the project.
"I think this is probably one of the most significant, best things to happen in our history," Massey said. "I can't say enough about WBIR and the folks there. They have all just been amazing and just really will make a difference in a lot of people lives."