Empower Tennessee

Middle Tennessee's Center For Independent Living

About Us

Who We Are

A Center for Independent Living providing information and referral, peer support, advocacy, skills training, transition services, employment readiness, benefits counseling, ADA consultations, and Braille transcription to people with disabilities.

Independent living is not just a program offered by Empower Tennessee. It is a way of looking at disability and society, and a worldwide movement of people with disabilities working for self-determination, self-respect and equal opportunities. We operate according to a strict philosophy of consumer control, wherein people with all types of disabilities directly govern and staff the organization.

Empower Tennessee (EIN: 62-1585996) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. No goods or services are provided to you in exchange for your generous financial donation. 

Frequently Asked Questions FAQ's

That varies from person to person. “Independent living” doesn’t always refer to where you live or with whom you live. It’s about being in control of life choices. Maybe you need help accessing transportation options. Maybe you’d like to find work or go back to school. Maybe you’re not even sure what you need to find greater independence. Whatever independent living means to you, Empower Tennessee staff can help you get there.

Our staff works with anyone who self-identifies as having a disability. We serve those with mobility issues, sensory impairments, intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, mental illness, chronic health conditions, and more.

No. However, we do offer individualized peer support. Please visit the Peer Support page for more information.

This is a complicated question because the answer is different for every person. However, these are the important things to know:

  • You can work without automatically losing your benefits.
  • You can work and still keep your health insurance.

Whether your benefits will be affected depends on several factors: Social Security benefits, job earnings, work history, family size, and other benefits you may be receiving. 

That depends. All of our tech classes have traditionally been held at Empower Tennessee’s on-site computer lab. With the realities of COVID-19, we have been making the adjustment to online learning just like everyone else. So, while we don't currently offer in-home tech lessons in person, contact us to see what we have available or can work out for you online.

No. However, Empower Tennessee staff can connect you to valuable community resources that assist with a variety of housing needs.

A majority of our services are free to individuals with qualifying disabilities. However, Empower Tennessee does have a few fee-for-service programs, including brailling of materials and website accessibility testing. If there are costs, you will be notified before services are provided. In general, services are free to the community.

Empower Tennessee is always looking for people that wish to serve as Board Members, Volunteers, and Community Advocates. Check out our Get Involved page for more information.

Throughout the year we post opportunities for you to participate at events, workshops, and in the local community. You can learn more on our News and Events page.

We also are always looking for opportunities to expand what we do so Donations are also a great way to help us with our mission! 

Our Mission

To empower people with disabilities with opportunities for inclusion, choice, and independence
 

Our Vision

A community where people with disabilities are valued equally and participate fully 
 

Our Values

Empowerment; Partnership; Fairness; Accountability; Sustainability; Knowledge; Intersectionality

Our Staff

Image of a white male in his early 40s with a buzz haircut and black beard. He's wearing a blue buttoned down shirt with small white polka dots.

Brandon Brown

Executive Director

Brandon Brown has served as the Executive Director of Empower Tennessee since August 2015.

Gina Lynette

Associate Director

Gina Lynette joined our team as the Director of Innovation in September 2019 and became our Associate Director in April 2020.

Marissa Smith-Fletcher close-up outdoors

Marissa Smith-Fletcher

INDEPENDENT LIVING SPECIALIST

Marissa Smith Fletcher has served as an Independent Living Specialist with Empower Tennessee since August 2017.

April Meredith

Independent Living Specialist

April Meredith has served as an Independent Living Specialist with Empower Tennessee since July 2016.

Image of an asian man wearing a plaid shirt, tie, and dark vest

Quoc "Q" Lam

Independent Living Specialist

Quoc "Q" Lam has served as an Independent Living Specialist with Empower Tennessee since August 2022.

Our Board of Directors

Sarah Rayman, President

Robbie Bell, Vice-President

Kasondra Farmer, Secretary

Monica Neely, Treasurer

Melanie Bull

Daniel Cage

Larry Jobe

Lorri Mabry

Jama Mohamed

Chelsea Nitschke

Patricia Powell

Larry Walls

Brandon Brownex officio

If you are interested in joining our Board of Directors and helping to lead our organization into the future please contact us by completing the form below. If you are looking for employment opportunities or other ways to get involved, please visit our Get Involved page. Thanks for your consideration!

Empower Tennessee is a member of The Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS). AIRS is the professional membership association for community Information and Referral (I&R) serving the nonprofit and government sectors. I&R is a core service of Centers for Independent Living, including Empower Tennessee.

AIRS is the driving force behind the delivery of quality I&R services and the sole source for standards, program accreditation and practitioner certification for the I&R sector.

Executive Director of Empower Tennessee

Brandon Brown

Executive Director

Contact Me!

Please feel free to contact me should you have questions or concerns.

Meet Brandon

Brandon Brown has served as the Executive Director of Empower TN since August 2015.

Previously, he served for ten years at Nashville CARES where he directed various client services for people living with HIV/AIDS, including behavioral health and wellness education programs. He has also served on the Board of Directors for Nashville in Harmony, including one term as President. His first professional experience was as a public school teacher, serving in both Georgia and Alabama.

Brandon holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Alabama and a Master’s degree from Vanderbilt University; and is credentialed as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Tennessee, earned recognition as a National Certified Counselor, and is an Approved Clinical Supervisor. He has presented at the local, regional, and national level on topics of behavioral health, clinical supervision, ethics, and organizational wellness.

Through his professional work as an educator, counselor, and non-profit leader, as well as through his own personal and family life, Brandon has witnessed and experienced the struggles and triumphs of people living with disabilities; and he is honored to lead Empower Tennessee in its work with, and for, this community.

Gina Lynette

Associate Director

Contact Me!

Please feel free to contact me should you have questions or concerns.

 

Meet Gina 

Gina Lynette is Associate Director at Empower Tennessee. In that role, Gina evaluates current programs and devises strategies for greater effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability. Gina also researches potential new initiatives that align with Empower Tennessee’s mission and philosophy. In addition, Gina leads the agency’s communication efforts, and assists the executive director in revenue development planning.

Previously, Gina was Director of Communications, Learning, and Development for Support & Training for Exceptional Parents (STEP), facilitating the agency’s event planning, social media, and online learning, and conducting person-centered training for project staff, families, and groups of young people with disabilities.

Empower Tennessee is proud to tap into Gina’s passion for guiding and assisting individuals and families in defining, planning and acquiring the individualized resources and supports needed, while promoting self-determination and independent living skills. This passion comes from her personal experience living with disabilities, as well as from co-parenting her four children — three of whom experience developmental disabilities — with her husband, Ned Andrew Solomon.

Gina holds a BS in Organizational Management from Tusculum College, and an MS in Psychology with a specialization in Leadership Coaching from Capella University. She has successfully guided organizations through the strategic planning process, including goal-setting, implementation, and evaluation; coached individuals through life transitions using a variety of tools to address financial, emotional, and practical needs; and presented as a featured speaker at local, statewide, and national group meetings on a variety of subjects including strategic planning, disability sensitivity, People First Language, stress management, self-advocacy, supported decision-making, and life transition planning.  

Marissa Smith-Fletcher close-up outdoors

Marissa Smith-Fletcher

Independent Living Specialist

Contact Me!

Please feel free to contact me should you have questions or concerns.

 

Meet Marissa 

Marissa Smith Fletcher has been an Independent Living and Referral Specialist with Empower Tennessee since August 2017.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Watkins College of Art & Design.

Marissa is a Nashville native who has committed herself to providing direct services to those in need throughout Middle Tennessee. This includes several years of working with the elderly, immigrant and refugees, people with disabilities, and disenfranchised populations.

She is on the Board of Metro Parks Disabilities and Magic Program, and volunteers her time for non-profits that assist in local and global development.

She continues to play an active role in helping others navigate through the difficulties of the world in which they live, while engaging in the creative transformation of the world that we all share.

April Meredith

Independent Living Specialist

Contact Me!

Please feel free to contact me should you have questions or concerns.

 

Meet April 

April Meredith has been the Independent Living and Advocacy Specialist for Empower TN since July 2016.

Previously, she served over two years as an executive board and advisory committee member with People First of TN through the Our Community Standing Strong grant. Early in her career, April lived and worked in Japan for nearly a decade, including three years as an Assistant Language Teacher in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program and two years as a Prefectural (State) Advisor, where she taught English and culture, promoted internationalization at the grassroots level, and solidified her passion for advocacy and peer mentoring.

April holds a Bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State University, is a 2014 alumni of the TN Rehabilitation Center in Smyrna, and is a 2015 Partners in Policy Making graduate.

She strongly values diversity, is an accomplished writer/poet, and considers it a great honor to be part of this amazing nonprofit organization.

April aims to break down barriers and build bridges with and for people with disabilities so that we may all live as independently as we choose.

Image of an asian man wearing a plaid shirt, tie, and dark vest

Quoc "Q" Lam

Independent Living Specialist

Contact Me!

Please feel free to contact me should you have questions or concerns.

Meet Q / Quoc

Quoc (phonetically “Kwah”) Lam — many people call him “Q” — has been an Independent Living Specialist with Empower Tennessee since August 2022.

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with minor (concentration) in Psychology and English.

Quoc worked in the Public Health arena in California serving as Program Manager overseeing Alternative Testing Sites, Partner Counseling & Referral Services as well as developed and managed a Men’s
Wellness Center (for testing, treatment, counseling of at risk populations). He trained and certified hundreds of HIV Testing Counselors throughout the State and offered technical assistance and facilitated quality assurance audits on behalf of State Office of AIDS, California and local health
jurisdictions. Client centered counseling techniques and competencies around cultural sensitivity and implementation of harm reduction models of intervention based off transtheoretical model of behavior
change. He has over two decades worth of experience with recovery (12 step, holistic, trauma informed, and traditional therapeutic techniques) from multi-vector approach to healing from trauma and abuse/addictive substances and behaviors. At Nashville CARES he coordinated and facilitated
support groups and implemented DEBIs, education, testing, counseling as well as creative approaches in support of people living with and without HIV in the south.

He has experience in career development, job searching certified by the American Staffing Association. He has familiarity with single and multi-family traditional leasing as well as short term rental processes
as well as navigating the complex process of home buying/selling process. Quoc is grateful this opportunity lends room for incorporation all his skill sets across both for profit and not for profit industries in support of individuals on the path toward identifying with living happy,healthy and whole (because you already are; what is blocking you from believing this philosophy and
living accordingly?).

His favorite quotes:
When “I” is replaced with “We”, even Illness becomes Wellness.
GrOWth is just the word “OW” with a couple letters on each side.

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Board Membership

​Please complete this form and we will consider this information when we are recruiting new board members.​

Board of Directors Member