In 1997 a group of Tennessee businessmen began to talk about the direction of their city. "We wanted to know how we could really make a difference in Chattanooga," says Hugh O. Maclellan Jr., president of the Maclellan Foundation. "We realized that the city's biggest problem was the breakdown of families, and that every part of Chattanooga was being affected by it."Maclellan and his colleagues confronted grim statistics that showed Chattanooga families were suffering from unusually high rates of divorce, absentee fathers and teen pregnancies, which were hurting not only the individuals immediately involved, but the community as a whole. The numbers told the story:
The divorce rate in Chattanooga was 50 percent higher than the national average. (The state of Tennessee as a whole ranked fourth worst in the nation for divorce.) Chattanooga had the fifth-worst out-of-wedlock birth rate of 128 leading cities in the United States. A 1994 study showed 50 percent of births in the city and 39 percent of births in the county were to unwed mothers. One in three Tennessee families were headed by a single parent, compared to one in four nationwide; in 2000, the state ranked eighth worst in the nation.