Sherri (Rhea) Ownby started volunteering with YOKE at South Doyle Middle School in 1990 and if you served in YOKE during that time, you probably knew her. She was known almost exclusively by both her first and her last name – Sherri Rhea just seemed to roll off your tongue. Sherri was also charismatic and extroverted and had the best laugh. She had a unique way of drawing people in and caring for them deeply.
Though she loved volunteering with YOKE, Sherri Rhea thought a staff position was beyond her reach. When a position on staff opened a couple of years later, she didn’t even bother to read the job description. She applied and began to pray. “I just knew I wanted to be a part of this organization,” she remembers. She landed the job and served as an area director for 3 years.
Sherri recalls the day Scott came for an interview at YOKE. “He turned my head and that was very unusual for me,” she explained. A few weeks later, he was back to rake leaves with a YOKE Kid. Sherri Rhea was impressed, and as she watched through the window, she told her colleague Judy Walker, “I’m going to marry that guy someday.”
Scott and Sherri were married in 1995. Shortly thereafter, Scott’s job took them to middle Tennessee where they still live today. Scott and Sherri have three children, Caleb, Eli, and Chloe. Caleb is 25 and was married late last year. Chloe, is a college student at MTSU.
Years ago, when the kids were younger, the family was involved in a violent confrontation with a drug addict in a WalMart parking lot. That incident had an especially traumatic effect on Eli and he developed crippling fear and anxiety. While navigating that season of life, Sherri Rhea began to realize the impact anxiety has on so many individuals and families. Sherri believes that God worked miraculously in their family and Eli has experienced healing and restoration. In 2017, Sherri Rhea wrote a book entitled Released: There is Hope in which she shares details about her son’s battle, and their dependence on God during that difficult time in their lives.
Today, Sherri Rhea is working on another book, a children’s book. She still talks to John and Helen Coatney regularly and spends a lot of time in Knoxville visiting her parents. “I’m so grateful for my experience with YOKE,” says Sherri. “God used my time with YOKE to really catapult my faith.”