Restaurants, grocery stores, and fast-food establishments all have one thing in common: extra food.

There are two outcomes for this extra food. The first is that it can be thrown away, while the second is that it can be given to someone in need.

When choosing the latter option, there is a good chance that some of the food will make its way to Knox Area Rescue Ministries. Headed by Chef Howard Agnew, who is a former restauranteur with a specialty in fine-dining experiences, this ministry helps to serve over 1,000 meals each day to those in need who are living in Knoxville, Tennessee.

KARM Is More Than Just a Free Meal

In the past year, organizations such as Chick-Fil-A have donated over 40,000 pounds of food to Chef Agnew, helping him to take care of those who are the most vulnerable.

Although the ministry does an excellent job at feeding those who are hungry, its mission goes much further than that. Knox Area Rescue Mission provides rescue services that include shelter and supportive relationships. This process is designed to help those who are hurting, or in need, to find a way to restore themselves.

On an average night, over 300 guests will spend the evening in the facility’s overnight shelter. Over 50 guests will be staying in the Crossroads Center, which is a program that is designed to help the homeless create a new home for themselves.

KARM provides job training opportunities as well, including kitchen work that is offered by Chef Agnew.

Employment Services Help People Become Independent

Once the recovery services are provided, Knox Area Rescue Ministries works to put people into a program called LaunchPoint. The goal of this program is to help each person begin a new journey through life.

It is a 4-week program, designed to help people find the plan and purpose for their life. They are taught to set realistic goals for themselves, implement manageable steps, and learn necessary skills for self-care.

Participants in the LaunchPoint program spend four hours in classroom settings each day, then spend their afternoons in the facility’s “laboratory.” They discuss budgeting, job training, and self-advocacy while providing mental and physical health supports.

During the final week of the LaunchPoint program, the enrollees share their new life plan with their peers, mentors, and staff. Action plans are created to encourage short-term goal development. Lessons transition to communication and respect, with a self-presentation of their personal plan required for graduation.

Since its inception, over 650 men and women have graduated from this program, moving to independent living, employment, or toward a break in their cycle of homeless.

As for Chef Agnew, when he was seeking a new job, he was given a choice: working at the prestigious Blackberry Farm or running the kitchen at Knox Area Rescue Ministries.

“This was the place I felt led to,” he says when asked about his choice.

Food provides the foundation of rescue at KARM. Chef Agnew is leading the way.