Valencia Breckenridge, CEO of GraceWorks, talked about the impact the nonprofit makes on the whole Williamson County community and strategies for looking forward. // Photos by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
Thursday night’s annual GraceWorks benefit dinner at the Hilton Franklin was both a celebration of the 25-year-old ministry and a reminder of how it continues to make an impact throughout Williamson County.
The celebration part of the evening came through the dinner the 280 attendees enjoyed, music from the Christian folk band We the Kingdom, and a silent auction that offered a variety of desirable items.
And Valencia Breckenridge, CEO of GraceWorks, served up some levity when she talked about how much she enjoys shopping at the nonprofit’s thrift store.
“I am often shopping at our thrift store and when I go out to speak, I have to be mindful that I might have on somebody’s dress,” she said as laughter ensued. “I just so happen to have on some thrift store things tonight, and I must say I think I look kind of cute in your stuff.”
Breckenridge talked mostly about the mission statement of GraceWorks and how it has a full-circle impact on the whole community: “Neighbor serving neighbor, by the power of God’s grace.”
“Need we be reminded how quickly the shoe can be on the other foot?” Breckenridge said. “You go and you’re thinking all is well, and the rug gets pulled from under you and you are the one in need of help. … Our new mission statement intentionally includes all of us, the one doing the serving and the one being served.”
GraceWorks also used the evening to release its latest impact report to those who hadn’t yet received it.
Among the details in the report is the fact that 9,772 Williamson County neighbors were offered food, shelter, home goods and the hope of Christ in 2018. It also showed that 197 homeless neighbors were provided temporary shelter or transportation to shelter and that 5,081 food carts left the nonprofit’s food pantry and filled neighbors’ pantries.
Nearly 88,680 hours were served by volunteers valued at more than $1.9 million, and the GraceWorks Thrift Store accounted for over $1 million.
“GraceWorks is making a difference,” Breckenridge said. “Given that our neighbors can also access our other services multiple times a year, it’s hard to get your mind around the difference GraceWorks is making in the community. We offer core services of bank, utilities and food, along with a number of other wraparound services such as the Manger, the Big Backpack Giveaway, holiday food baskets, fuel bags, mobile food pantry and much more.”
Al Pramuk, CEO of presenting sponsor Gresham Smith, a Nashville engineering and architecture firm, said his company’s partnership with GraceWorks is a natural fit. Some 90 of its employees live in Williamson County, and he cited the importance of realizing that a county as wealthy as Williamson still has so many people in need.
“I was really amazed at how GraceWorks goes about looking at finding those gaps of people that really are in need and collaborating with other organizations to serve those people,” he told the audience.
In looking ahead, Breckenridge said GraceWorks has developed six strategic goals:
- Intentionally initiate new and cultivate existing partner relationships
- Optimize staff composition, competency and capacity
- Provide relevant and sustainable services though a high-quality experience
- Ensure highly effective governance and practices
- Establish and sustain efficient technology
- Replicate the GraceWorks mission where God leads