SVEC members honor Julie Keel

“As associate executive director of Mountain TOP, Julie has taken on leadership positions across the plateau that have resulted in a fresh approach to looking at and resolving the issues present throughout our community. She works with community leaders, educators, civic leaders and volunteers to bring about a transforming change in our community. Julie loves our community, and it is evident in everything she does. ”

— Ed Simmons, from his nomination form


In recognition of her dedication to improving the living conditions and the lives of the people of Grundy County and the surrounding area, Julie Keel has been selected as the October winner of the SVEC Who Powers You contest.

Julie Keel — The Facts:

• Julie Keel grew up in south Mississippi and moved to Grundy County 10 years ago to take a position at Mountain TOP. “I came to camp here when I was a child and knew the area,” Keel said. “I was working with the restoration efforts in south Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina when I found out about this job, and I felt like this kind of work was where my heart was. A Christian worldview is my motivation. Since being hired, I have done just about every job here except the actual construction work.”

• Mountain TOP (Tennessee Outreach Program) is an interdenominational, nonprofit Christian partnership ministry dedicated to rural life ministry in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee. Its purpose is to meet the physical, spiritual and social needs of people through the love of Christ. To accomplish this goal, the organization begins by addressing the basic need of shelter, making major and minor home repairs in the seven-county area it serves.

“We help people fix homes, and it is a big job,” Keel said. “According to national standards, 30 percent of the homes in Grundy County alone are classified as ‘substandard.’ We tackle each job by looking at the individual situation. We believe that each person has an asset to give to the project. It is not a handout program. We don’t do it for them; we do it with them. It’s a collaboration. We want each person involved to benefit from the connection. Everyone is impoverished in some way. Mountain TOP has the gift of helping people fill these needs by working together.

“Having a safe place to live is tied to the health of individuals and families — physically, socially and emotionally. Not only do the families have their homes repaired, they have social interaction with volunteers of all ages from all over the state and nation, increasing their exposure to different cultures and a wider worldview. Volunteers actually pay to come for a weekend of work to help repair homes, lives and spirits.

It changes the world of the person whose home has been repaired, but it can also change the world of the people doing the repairs. We often see second generations of families coming in to work, sharing the experience with their children. We also conduct youth day camps during the summer to help broaden the experience of area children. I love that this job allows me to connect with this community.”

• Keel and husband Jerrett, a Grundy County native, make their home in Tracy City and are looking forward to the addition of a baby in just a few months.

• If you would like to donate time, money or supplies to the organization, visit