NEWPORT—Maria Lee, First Lady of Tennessee, was in Newport Monday afternoon to help build a new front desk station for Empower Cocke County.

The effort comes as part of the Lee’s bill known as Tennessee Serves, an initiative to get Tennesseans out and about helping to serve those in need. The focus is specifically on distressed counties and lower income areas.

Lee said she first learned of the small construction going on in the Empower building through Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger.

“It’s what we do through Tennessee Serves, we get out and help anywhere that we are needed in any way we can,” Lee said.

Working along side Lee, were State Representative Jeremy Faison and his wife Miriam.

Building and Growing

Empower Cocke County Director Annette Burke was excited to see the new addition to the front desk.

“We were just using scrap furniture we threw together, so this will be really nice to have,” said Burke.

Besides a new front station, the building has received walls, an additional bathroom and separate rooms with doors for counseling services.

According to Burke, the two main missions of Empower are to encourage positive life changes for those in need and uniting the body of Christ to assist those needs.

“Addiction, depression, poverty, the breakdown of families are just some of the issues we see on a daily basis and with each of those come other needs,” Burke said.

The ministry also reaches out to incarcerated men and women by offering assistance, counseling and Christian outreach.

For more information on Tennessee Serves visit>firstlady.

Anyone wanting more information on Empower Cocke County can visit their website at

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