Providing a Gateway to Abilities from Disabilities 865.317.GATE INFO@GATEWAYTN.ORG
About Gateway to Independence
Our mission is to help young adults with disabilities achieve independence by providing social activities and pre-vocational training.
How It All Started  The Gate was created in 2004 in response to a community need. One current participant, Russell Hogsed, was ready to graduate from Maryville High School. Russell has significant disabilities that make him unable to walk, talk or care for himself. In spite of that, he exudes a joy for life. He thoroughly enjoys being out in the community and social interactions. As Russell, his parents, and his teachers looked into the future, there was a void. There was not a program or organization within our community offering the appropriate opportunities for Russell. Russell’s parents, Shirley and Frank Hogsed, along with two special educators, Jo Bennett and Liz Crawford Scott, were determined that Russell would not be left at home with a life of isolation. With this determination they created Gate - Gateway to Independence as a place where adults with significant disabilities could come together to achieve independence by engaging in social and pre-vocational activities. The program started with 5 participants and has grown to over fifty adults who come together three days each week to enjoy the company of peers, staff and community volunteers. In addition to the participants enjoying themselves at The Gate, their caregivers (parents, siblings, guardians… etc.) have a respite of several hours per week knowing that the participants are safe and having fun. The focus of the program is on enhancing social skills and pre-vocational skills in a caring community. The participants may be playing games (Wii and UNO are most popular) , working on crafts, participating in Special Olympics practice, listening to and making music, going bowling or just talking with friends. The Gate is a 501c3 corporation. The program is funded by donations, grants, fundraisers and a small participant fee.

Our primary purpose is to provide a program that will provide our participants with the opportunity to experience positive social interactions with their peers and their community. Through the Gate’s day program, our participants engage in a variety of activities to improve personal communication skills and acceptable behaviors.

Our Staff
Executive Director Volunteers

Erin Rhoades (November 2022)

Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science with teacher licensure in Elementary Education. Worked as classroom teacher in Washington County, VA and Blount County Schools. Served as Director of Children’s Ministry at Sycamore Tree UMC, where she became familiar with The Gate.

Program Director

Allison Galyon (2023)

Program Assistants

Tene Lewis (Since 2012)

Teresa Hawk (Since 2019)

Tonde Carter (since 2014)

Jessica Lewis (Since 2016)

Lily Winebarger (Since 2022)

Brandi Hurst (Since 2023)

Sarah Parker (Since 2023)

Anita Fine (Since 2023)


The Gate is fortunate to have several community volunteers who have given their time for many years. They come on a routine basis and are a major contributing factor in The Gate’s ability to run this program so cost effectively.


In addition we are proud to have an established relationship with Maryville College which provides college volunteers to our program every year.


We are also privileged to have involvement from throughout the community for special music and support on special events throughout the year. Many area churches and organizations support us by hosting special events in addition to their ongoing dedication to the success of our program.

Our Facility
Madison Avenue Baptist Church Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays