"FareStart is a lighthouse on Westlake."

March 27, 2019

Tennessee holds up an auction item at our annual gala event.The FareStart Adult Culinary Program is a place for people to take an honest look at the direction they are going and make a decision to move forward out of poverty, homelessness or hopelessness. No one exemplifies that reset and pivot more than one of our most reliable volunteers and graduate, Tennessee.

Tennessee walks into a room and grabs your attention. A smile across his face, he exudes an optimism that is infectious. His outlook wasn’t always this forward-looking and positive though. There was a time when he had to dig deep and change his direction.

“My life was out of control,” he said. “I knew that I had to hit a reset, a forced reset. I decided to take a walk across America – like some romantic notion. But soon, I was out of money and my world became just about surviving, food and shelter.”

He heard about FareStart after bouncing around a few different shelters.

“I heard about FareStart from someone who was a current student,” he said. “This place would get you a bed that was safe and give you job training? I heard about it on Monday and went in that Tuesday for orientation.”

FareStart was different from other organizations that he had been involved with before.

“For me it was a humbling experience,” he said. “FareStart is a lighthouse on Westlake. Everything here is purposeful and designed for the student experience. From the staff who would smile and remember my name to the volunteer who let me cry on her shoulder, the love in this place is real. FareStart broke me of my self-doubt.”

After graduation Tennessee decided that he wanted to work in housing as he saw it as a fundamental problem in the way that we address homelessness and poverty. He started working for a local housing service organization that specializes in low income and transitional housing.

“The community that FareStart creates is powerful,” he said. “If we can carry over that camaraderie into the rest of the students’ lives when they get out that would be phenomenal. We need not only housing, but support services too. We can’t just take someone who was a few weeks ago, living on the street and put them in an apartment without support. That could just set them up for failure.”

He wants to see housing incorporate more support services like we have at FareStart. He thinks the model works and should be more common.

Tennessee volunteers with FareStart because he wants to give back and because seeing students go through the program and come out the other side feeds him as well. He is at our Guest Chef Night quite a lot as a volunteer and he goes because he loves seeing the graduation ceremony, which is a part of every Guest Chef Night.

“Every Thursday, I get to see people operate in their greatness,” he said. “I’ve gone through the program and I have a new set of eyes. This program isn’t easy and not everyone makes it through, but when they do they deserve every accolade they get. I’m passionate about FareStart because you get to see people blossom and live up to their potential. I can’t help but talk about it to anyone who will listen.”