Bristol’s IGNITE Community Visioning process paves the way for the Youth Networking Alliance (YNA) with the purpose to bring folks together who cared about children and youth issues. Bristol Virginia already had coalitions working together, but Bristol Tennessee did not. The YNA included both sides and was able to work together as a community.

Mary Rausch at King College Linking Center proposed Bristol should become a Community of Promise, as King College was a College of Promise, affirming The Five Promises outlined by America's Promise.

Richard Wells, Vice President of America’s Promise, visited Bristol in November of 2001 as agencies and organizations pledged their support. The proposal of being a Community of Promise was taken to and approved by both Bristol City Councils and both Bristol School boards. Thus we became Bristol’s Promise: Youth Networking Alliance.

The 5 Promises provide a strong framework for successful children and can be equally applied to adults and families.


ongoing relationships with caring adults - parents, mentors, tutors or coaches


safe places with structured activities during non-school hours


healthy start and future


marketable skills through effective education


opportunities to give back through community service

In 2004, both Bristols were able to conduct the Search Institute Survey. In fall 2004 Bristol Tennessee received a grant for Communities That Care (CTC) and undertook community-wide planning, a process already embraced by Bristol VA. Bristol’s Promise embraces both the asset-building approach of the 5 Promises and targeting Risk Factors as identified by CTC surveys. Several evidence-based programs were begun in Bristol TN; many were already in place in Bristol VA.

In 2005 the CTC process was completed. Bristol Tennessee City schools used CTC and Search Institute data and received an $8.2 million Safe Schools & Healthy Students grant. Bristol VA uses the YRBS (Youth Risk Behavior Survey) every other year with in-depth assessment every 5 years.

In 2006 Bristol’s Promise officially incorporated and became a 501 c 3 organization. In 2007 Bristol TN achieved America’s Promise recognition of 100 Best Communities; in 2008 Bristol VA received the America’s Promise 100 Best Communities recognition.

Bristol’s Promise is an umbrella and coalition organization with an unfunded and incomplete Collective Impact Approach. Margaret Feierabend is board president and serves as volunteer staff coordinating initiatives and programming. We have responded to community needs with initiatives to meet those needs, been an organization available to others meeting needs, as well as educating our community on programs and solutions.

Bristol’s Promise has a board of 11-15 members from the TN/VA community. It meets 3 to 4 times annually and is responsible for the organization. The BP budget is $4-6000 annually

The Youth Networking Alliance meets every other month with 20 to 40 attending, representing schools, nonprofits, agencies, health departments, faiths, government, etc. Programming varies with a regular update from both school systems in September and programs such as:

  • ACE – Adverse Childhood Experiences with Becky Haas, Johnson City
  • Healthy Kingsport with Joanna Montgomery
  • The Teenage Brain with Alice McCaffrey, SCAD
  • Reading Initiative/Reading on Grade Level
  • Poverty Simulation Information and Training --- Missouri Association for Community Action Holly Lucas
  • Workforce Development --- April Taylor, BTES, area initiatives

Bristol Youth Council began in 2001 and came under BP umbrella soon after it formalized. Working with Bristol VA Youth Services, Jo Hutton and Margaret Feierabend, BP, BYC focuses on youth leadership skills, career exploration, community experiences and volunteer service. It meets weekly during the school year and has met occasionally through the summer. The students came from 5 area high schools; the 2 cities, Sullivan County’s East and Central, John Battle in Washington County, and home schoolers were welcomed as well. The service group has diminished over the past several years to be primarily Virginia High School students. BYC will be reinvented this 2017-18 year for 2018-19.

Sullivan County Department of Children’s Services Community Advisory Board: In 2011 TN State Legislature required that Dept of Children’s Services form Community Advisory Boards (CABs). Sullivan County has 2, one for the Bristol area and one for Kingsport. Bristol’s met for several years, moving to coordinate and meet in the off months from Youth Networking Alliance. When leadership became a problem, the CAB combined with Bristol’s Promise. Erin Culbertson, our region’s CAB coordinator, became a member of the BP Board. Meetings are one in the same with the YNA meetings and activities are coordinated.

Bristol’s Promise serves as fiscal agent for:

Sullivan County Anti Drug Coalition begun by BP in 2010. Three TN State Grants provide funding for 1) Coalition development, eliminating tobacco use, educating about the dangers and consequences of underage and binge drinking, for 2)Prescription Drug Abuse and most recently, 3) education about and distribution of Naloxone to agencies. Funding will reach $280,000 in 2017-18. Alice McCaffrey is the Executive Director, full time, with 2 part time people working with her.

Buckle Up for Life, begun in Bristol in 2013, is headed up by Samuel Jones, who began the Tri City Diaper Ministry several years ago. He has his car seat check technician certification for regular car seats, buses and special education children as well. His education programming includes distracted driving—texting, etc. He works with Toyota’s Buckle Up for Life Program, Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital and others. His programming is carried out at the YWCA, Bristol Faith in Action, Girls’ Incorporated, Bristol Youth Council and more. He is receiving a $10,000 grant for the 2017-18 year. Samuel’s work is provided at no cost to the organization; he volunteers his time.

Reading Buddies began in 2013 with Nelson Pyle, retired Bristol TN Principal and current School board member. The concept is to improve reading with K-2 students helping them to reach reading on grade level by grade 3, a proven benchmark for success. The program began in one BTCS school and is now in 3 BTCS schools and 2 BVCS schools. Volunteer mentors are recruited to read with a child for 30 minutes one time per week throughout the school year. In addition, reading parties are held 3 times a year for families, supper is provided, and then the children hear a guest reader read a book while the adults learn activities to engage their children in reading the book. At the end the child receives the book and a stuffed animal that goes with the book.

Participation in all aspects of the program continues to increase. Results are shown with increased reading grades.

This summer the YMCA partnered with Reading Buddies to provide scholarships for up to 30 students and encouraging adult mentors to continue to read for 30 minutes a week with their buddy. Also the YMCA programming included time for reading and reading guests for all summer participants.

Last summer a partnership with the Bristol Public Library (BPL) and BTCS began. This year it is a huge success. Kay Ward, Reading Buddies Coordinator and Family Resource specialist and Amy Kimani, Director of BPL, ride what is now dubbed as the Book Bus, a small special services bus that has rotated out of use by the school system. They have made 4 tours this summer, stopping at neighborhoods, the YMCA, public housing, etc. having books available for check out. After the lack of library cards last summer prevented children from checking out books, Amy attended reading programs for adults to get library cards for themselves and their children. This has helped but many children haven’t had the adult help to sign up for the cards. Amy solicited book donations from other libraries and with library staff, set these books up with a check out system with ‘library cards’ issued from the bus to the children without adults needing to be present. This has been a huge success! The hope is to expand this program to Bristol VA next summer in some way.

We are looking at Roanoke’s Star City Reads program to expand our umbrella to a collective impact model including all the Reading efforts—Imagination Libraries, Paws to Read, Jr League Little Libraries, One Community, One Book, and more. Also Roanoke’s hard board book, Roanoke Baby; working on funding for It’s Bristol, BABY!

Other initiatives that BP has begun or helped to begin include:

Community-wide Housing Plan – housing partners coming together to make a community wide plan using Theory of Change. It is incomplete at this time.

Family Promise of Bristol – came out of housing plan work, previously known as Interfaith Hospitality Network, now in its 6th year, helps families with children to get on their feet, achieving independent housing. The program works with congregations to provide housing.

Poverty Education and Awareness Task Force – began in 2014; came out of the housing plan work; realizing real change depends upon the public will to provide adequate funding for transitioning folks out of poverty—intense case management work over a period of time, providing resources and housing, and policy changes that support people in their work – living wage, access to education, affordable housing and healthcare, etc. Among the goals are to host a Poverty Simulation at least annually. This year we are preparing to host our 2nd and 3rd simulations. The first one was with the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership program which we hope will be an annual event.

Pioneering Healthier Communities – headed up by the YMCA, several initiatives have been accomplished. Without paid staff, this initiative has not been sustainable. Initiatives included Move to a Healthier You, hosting Mark Fenton, Walk Across America, for walkability of our community, promoting work by Appalachian Sustainable Development, providing double SNAP benefits for Farmers Market folks, etc.

BP and United Way of Bristol are partnered for most of this work. For a Collective Impact approach, United Way National’s focus on Health, Education and Income provide a framework for organizing work necessary to help our community members succeed.

There are many Collective Impact approaches that focus on children, youth and families. Three that we have looked at include Cincinnati’s Cradle to Career, Strive Together, Alignment Nashville, and Step Up Savannah. Greatly building our capacity is needed to undertake Collective Impact approach to any extent.