Farm offers a second chance for those in need

Posted By | October 14, 2013 12:00 am

At the little chapel on the farm are (L-R) Bro. Larry Self, director of Cookeville Rescue Mission; Ronnie Lindsey, Step Upward Farm house leader; and Kim England, CRM interim director.

Residents tend gardens and livestock while living at Step Upward Farm.

Near the border of White and Putnam counties, in a quiet neighborhood, sits a cozy house, just like the others that surround it.
But, there’s something different about this house; something special — it’s the site of the Cookeville Rescue Mission’s Step Upward Farm. The Step Upward Farm serves as a serene place where folks can get their life back on track and discover or reconnect with their faith.
“Our target area is young fathers,” Bro. Larry Self, director of the Cookeville Rescue Mission, explained. “We feel like there’s young fathers out there, running wild, who have children and a wife, or someone, out there. We felt like, if we could get them out here, get them right with God and teach them some responsibilities; it teaches structure and responsibility.
“With the help of the good Lord and a lot of other folks, we provide them with the tools to rebuild their life.”
Residents of the farm stay in the program for at least three months and typically leave the farm after completing nine months of the program. The peaceful setting allows residents the opportunity to meditate and focus on how to get their life back on the right path.
“Here’s a stigma that we run into: ‘it’s (the Step Upward Farm) is just for homeless men coming out of the rescue mission,’” Self said. “That’s not the case. We do take them in, but everybody that has alcohol or addiction problems didn’t sleep under the bridge on I-40 last night.”
People from other counties, needing to get away from their environment are welcome to learn more about and participate in the program.
Guests, other than close family members, are not allowed to visit the Step Upward Farm.
“We keep it to a minimum of who (visitors) comes in,” Ronnie Lindsey, house leader, said. “We don’t have a driveway full of people at all hours.”
While at the farm, residents tend to the animals, plants and learn various skills such as woodworking. Flowers grown at the Step Upward Farm are sold during Easter and Mother’s Day.
These skills help when it comes time for residents to begin finding work outside of the farm. A small, on-site computer lab allows residents to create resumés and fill out online job applications. But, the job search is tough.
CRM staffers encourage local employers to consider Step Upward residents for employment.
“Getting a job and, of course, in White County it’s a little more difficult than in Putnam County,” Kim England, Cookeville Rescue Mission interim director, said. “We want to let employers know we are here, (residents) are in a structured environment, and, a lot of times, they’re better workers than what they’ve (employers) already got.”
The Step Upward program isn’t free. Residents pay $50; $75 if the resident has an off-site job that requires transportation.
Currently there are five residents at the Step Upward Farm; although, the facility has the capacity to house 8-10 residents at one time.
“We’ve had some successes and some not to (succeed). That’s just the way it is with anything,” Self said.
“That’s just the way it is with anything,” England added.
Self adds that the tools and resources provided through the Cookeville Rescue Mission and the Step Upward Farm can make a positive difference in the lives of Step Upward residents once they return home.
The Cookeville Rescue Mission provides ministry and resources to men, women, and families in need.
In 2012, the Cookeville Rescue Mission provided:
•Lodging to 9,155 people — mostly single males
•28,998 meals
•Clothing to 1,275 people
• Ministry and ministry-related materials to nearly 14,000
To learn more about the rescue mission, volunteer and donation opportunities, or about the services provided, visit www.cookevillerescuemission.org or call ((931) 525-6330. 24-hour help line is also available at (931) 528-5819.

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