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Kentucky Derby fundraiser benefits Tri-Cities youth

Debra McCown Thomas • May 4, 2019 at 10:30 AM

It’s time for the annual “Talk Derby to Me” event, a lively Kentucky Derby party that serves as the main annual fundraiser for HOPE, a charitable organization that supports Tri-Cities youth in a variety of ways.

“Our goal is to get kids through college for little or no money, teaching them life skill lessons along the way so when they get out of college and start their adult life they will know how to save, they will know how to purchase a home,” says founder Stella Robinette.

“If we teach kids this, they’ll be strong enough to stand on their own two feet where taxpayers are not taking care of them.”

Talk Derby to Me, being held at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 4, at Taylored Venue & Events in Kingsport, is a traditional style Kentucky Derby party where women wear (and can be awarded for) fancy hats and men wear colorful ties. Tickets are available at the door for $50 apiece.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Robinette says, and there will be dancing, door prizes, and a silent auction. “We have food and drinks, we have DJ Express as our DJ, and they’re great.”

And in addition to the fun they have during the evening, she says, attendees will also know the money they spend will benefit a great local cause.

Robinette says she founded HOPE (the acronym stands for Help Our Potential Evolve) 11 years ago, both to honor the life lessons she was taught growing up and to help with the struggle she saw the next generation having with burdensome student loans and difficulty navigating the path to higher education.

An important skill area HOPE teaches young people – both through the program directly and through other organizations that serve youth in Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City – is money management and college planning that includes help seeking scholarships or knocking out basic course requirements through community college.

The program is not just for disadvantaged kids, Robinette explains, but for all young people who are interested. In addition to college planning and money management skills, it includes education in areas like etiquette, work ethic, job interview preparation, and the importance of staying positive – as well as opportunities to give back in the form of community service.

The projects they’re involved in often help younger kids. For example, they provide luggage and necessities to children removed from their homes by the state and they hand out donated school supplies to kids in need during an annual Back-to-School Bash event.

The philosophy for helping young people succeed as they enter adulthood, Robinette says is: “If they know better, they can do better.”

“They will know exactly where their dollars go because we usually put out what we do with our money,” Robinette says, “and then they will be helping a great cause, helping youth in their future.”

H.O.P.E. could not do what it does for youth without its sponsors: Goodwill, Mike McIntire, James Phillips, Powell Valley National Bank, Millennium Auto Collision Repairs, Eastman Credit Union, Nathan Vaughn State Farm, Barger Group, Rainbow Motors, Kingsport Armature Electric, Eastman Chemical, Taylored Venue & Events, Honda Kingsport, Brown & Edwards, Lipoma, and Dr. & Mrs. Keith Johnson.

For more information about HOPE in the Tri-Cities or about the Talk Derby to Me event, visit www.hopetricities.com or contact Stella Robinette at (423) 276-6541 or email her at Stella@hopetricities.com.

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