Faith Promise and City of Knoxville Team Up with Emerald Youth Foundation for Inner-City Pool

Ribbon Cutting

Cutting the ribbon at the restored E.V. Davidson Recreation Center pool are City Councilman Daniel Brown; Oscar Cruz, 7; Tank Strickland of Mayor Rogero’s office; Fynal Barnes, 6; senior pastor of Faith Promise Church Chris Stephens; Knoxville Parks & Recreation director Joe Walsh; TaTiyona Kaiser, 6; Emerald Youth president and CEO Steve Diggs and Terrance Rooks, 10.


Knoxville’s inner city has a swimming pool and a swim instructor after collaboration among Faith Promise Church, the City of Knoxville, and the Emerald Youth Foundation.

In September 2014, Faith Promise Senior Pastor Chris Stephens approached Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett to ask what the church could do to help the city.  The answer he received?  The city owned an indoor pool that sat empty and in disrepair.  Rogero suggested that Faith Promise help Emerald Youth Foundation reopen the pool, so the church contacted Emerald to learn more details.

Pastor Chris, Missions Pastor Brad Ervin, and Emerald Youth Foundation President and CEO Steve Diggs met Sept. 17, 2014, to talk about the pool located at the E. V. Davidson Recreation Center, 3124 Wilson Avenue.  Diggs came to the meeting with estimates for repairs and operating costs.  FPC donated $20,000 to the cause, which covered the repairs and the first two months of labor.  EYF had been using other pools within the city previously — this would be the first pool of their own for year-round practices and programs.

Meanwhile, former EYF swim coach and FP member Justin Baxter was looking for a career change and an opportunity to make a difference somehow.  One Sunday in October, Baxter heard Pastor Chris talk about the partnership between the church and EYF. Emerald Youth had told Baxter that this was their vision for the future, but Baxter had no idea this vision would be coming true so soon. Within a few weeks, Diggs called Baxter and asked him to start and manage a new program — the Emerald Youth Sports Swim School and Aquatics Program.  Baxter’s work began on Nov. 10.

“God has provided an opportunity for me to have a job and, hopefully, make a difference in children’s lives,” said Baxter.

The pool’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was Dec. 15 at the recreation center.  The focus of the swim school is to teach city kids the lifelong skill of swimming.  One of Baxter’s goals is to show kids how the water can provide great exercise and be fun.

“There have been 160-plus kids in swim lessons since the pool opened.  We also started holding Community Splash Days once a month where the community can come out and swim and enjoy the pool,” Baxter said.


Future plans include lifeguard classes, swim team practice between seasons, and learn-to-swim classes for adults and kids not in Emerald’s after-school program and aerobic classes.


Faith Promise is a multi-site church in East Tennessee with the vision to make it hard to go to Hell from East Tennessee.  Each weekend, more than 6,000 people worship at Faith Promise via five area campuses or online.  The Emerald Youth Foundation’s mission is to raise up youth who love Jesus Christ and become effective leaders who renew their communities. They serve close to 2,000 young people each year through faith, education, and sports programs.

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