BBBS Of Greater Chattanooga Establishes A Diversity Task Force

Monday, May 3, 2021
Edward Ellis, III
Edward Ellis, III

Edward Ellis, III began his work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga in 2014. Initially, Mr. Ellis served as a match support specialist, providing ongoing guidance and support to Littles, Parents/Guardians, and Volunteer Bigs on a regular basis. Match support specialists monitor mentoring interactions and offer insights and advice to ensure child safety, facilitate healthy relationship development and promote positive youth outcomes.

In October of 2020, Mr. Ellis was promoted to lead the agency in continued efforts towards DEI progress as the Diversity Partnerships Manager. BBBSGC is committed to being intentionally inclusive in who it serves, who it is, and what it represents to the community at large, said officials. As such, the diversity partnerships manager position was created with a goal of helping to establish and implement the organization’s DEI strategies. The position is responsible for leadership and creation of diversity volunteer recruitment, training, and partnership strategies. 

One of the main responsibilities held by the position was the creation and leading of the Diversity Task Force.

"I am excited to be leading this transformative work for our agency," said Mr. Ellis. "The Diversity Task Force is a phenomenal group that will help us achieve our goals by serving our children through recruiting diverse mentors and ensuring a culture and climate at BBBS of diversity, equity and inclusion."

The DTF is a group of community leaders, civic champions, and city influencers. The group will collaborate to recruit and retain underrepresented mentors and philanthropic partners to the agency. This task force will develop and promote policies and implement recruiting efforts that provide equal access and opportunity for organization volunteers, families, supporters, and staff. The Task Force will foster a culture that values the diversity of every member of BBBSGC’s community and ensures all feel welcome, valued, empowered, and engaged, said officials.

Officials said, albeit a major and necessary addition to the agency, the mission at BBBSGC remains the same. It is a one-to-one mentoring organization that seeks to defend the potential of every child, while providing professional support for every match. A child may enter the program between the ages of 6 to 14. They may stay matched with their Big until they graduate from high school or turn 18.

In its 116-year history, BBBS of America hired its very first African American president and CEO – Artis Stevens. His leadership brings forth a distinct racial and cultural perspective, a wealth of knowledge, insight, and marketing expertise to the organization nationwide.

Below is current demographic information for the Bigs and Littles.

Current Youth Demographics Current Volunteer Demographics
American Indian – 1 percent American Indian – 1 percent
Asian – 0 percent Asian – 1 percent
African American – 81 percent African American – 18 percent
Latinx/Hispanic – 4 percent Latinx/Hispanic – 2 percent
Multi-Race – 5 percent Multi-Race – 4 percent
White – 10 percent White – 73 percent
Other/Unknown – 0 percent Other/Unknown – 1 percent

Currently there are a total of 63 waiting Littles including 37 African American boys, 11 African American girls, one Latinx/Hispanic girl, one Latinx/ Hispanic boy, eight White/ Caucasian boys, four White/ Caucasian girls and one multi-race boy.

While mentors and children are paired on many different factors, shared life experiences are an enhancement to a match relationship. This work ensures all voices are represented and empower Littles to fulfill their potential.

“Building healthy relationships through mentorship is essential as it teaches youth how to navigate social norms, expand their worldview, and exposes them to positive role models," said Dionne Jenkins, DTF member. "By increasing the diversity among mentors, the Diversity Task Force will better assist BBBS with fulfilling its mission to ignite the promise and power of youth for all children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.”

Here are the members of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga Diversity Task Force:

Tiffany Barnett-Burrows - Manager, Leave Management Center, Unum Life Insurance Company of America

Gena Ellis – Content Creator/Facilitator, First Things First

Lakweshia Ewing – CEO, Unlearn Everything and Live; We Over Me; Sankofa Fund for Civic Engagement

Kimberly Perry Gardner – Assistant VP, Accounting Center of Excellence, Unum; Current Big Sister

Miles Huff – Senior Director, Talent Initiatives; Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce; Former Big Brother

Dionne Jenkins – VP of Diversity and Inclusion, TVFCU

Quincy Jenkins – E.D. of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Chattanooga State Community College

William Ladd – Pastor FBCE8, Made to Flourish Leader, Current Big Brother

Jocelyn Loza – Owner & Marketing Consultant, Hoopla Marketing Now; President of Latina Professionals of Chattanooga

Dwayne Marshall – VP of Community Investment, Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga

DeAndre Mercer – Branch Operations Manager, Enterprise; Current Big Brother of the year for the state of TN

Oliver Richmond – President, Kingdom Partners

Adrienne C. Terry – Business Development, Director of Event Services, Chattanooga Tourism Co.

Ricky Thomas – Dean of Community & Brotherhood, The McCallie School; BBBSGC Board Member

"I look forward to continued partnership with Edward and the Diversity Task Force," said Jessica Whatley, executive director, BBBSGC. "This group is already bringing so many ideas to the table that will ensure our youth can reach their biggest possible future and that our organization represents the communities we serve."

For more information about BBBS, visit

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