ABN Member Spotlight: Salvation Army Staffer Maria Down

The true mark of an amazing nonprofit employee is a heart for people and a conviction that they can make a difference.

I had the pleasure of meeting Maria Down, the special events and volunteer manager at The Salvation Army, Knoxville Area Command, and she perfectly embodied these characteristics. She began her work with nonprofits during an internship in New York City, where she was the missions coordinator at a church plant. However, she will tell you her calling to work with nonprofits began well before then.

“I’ve always had a heart for people and a personality for people and details,” said Maria. But that passion wasn’t always directed at nonprofit work. Graduating from MTSU with a degree in music business, Maria took a job in the corporate world before realizing her calling to work in a nonprofit.

The entire time I was working there I just kept thinking there is so much more that I could be doing with my life.

She came to Knoxville and began working for the Salvation Army where it is evident how passionate she is about her work. “The most rewarding part about what I do is meeting people and learning from them. That, and knowing what I do is for a greater cause,” she said.

Since she started at Salvation Army in 2012, she has put her talents to work organizing awareness and fundraising events and working with volunteers. Most recently, she worked to create the “Cup of Hope” event to raise awareness about domestic violence, an issue that she is particularly passionate about.  But she’s not stopping there. Her biggest goal for the future of the Salvation Army in Knoxville, is to do a better job of telling its story and letting people know who the organization is and what it stands for.

“We are the good neighbor no one knows about. We are here to give hope to anyone and everyone who walks through our doors and to be a guiding light.”

The Salvation Army has been changing lives in Knoxville for 117 years and is continuing to find ways to be a better partner in the community; most recently by partnering with the Alliance for Better Nonprofits in Knoxville.

Maria is excited for the future of the Salvation Army and her hope is that younger generations will become more aware and involved in events. With such a genuine and passionate person coordinating events, I have no doubt that the future is bright for Maria Down and the Knoxville Salvation Army.