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Feeding a Need

A Place at the Table moves to St. John's Lutheran

Five years ago, a small group of people started making to-go bags of food to give those seeking shelter under an interstate overpass off Blackstock Drive downtown. Word spread quickly, and soon those to-go bags turned into a hot meal served each Monday evening to more than 200 people. A Place at the Table acquired its 501c3 status in 2018, and now they are looking to move their Monday night dinners indoors at Saint John’s Lutheran Church on N. Broadway. 

“Pre-coronavirus, we were serving hot meals, cooked in homes and transported to under the bridge, averaging 20 volunteers a week and serving 200 buffet-style,” says Cyndi Sweet, Knoxville realtor and board president of A Place at the Table. “When the virus hit, we took one week off and decided we could stand the idea of not serving food. We went back to bagged foods - a sandwich, chips, dessert, water, some snacks. Right now, we’re setting up outside St. John’s Lutheran.” 

Moving from the I-40 overpass to St. John’s was intentional, as the long-term goal for APATT is to serve a proper sit-down meal, complete with plates and silverware, every Monday evening inside the church’s fellowship hall. 

“The church approached us about partnering, and we shared our big dreams with them,” says Cyndi. “Ultimately, the dream is to have our own building. I would love to own our own building with a coffee shop or pastry shop where the homeless work there and make income, and then our income goes back into the project.” 

In addition to serving weekly meals, APATT has a clothing and necessities ministry, such as hotel toiletries, Band-Aids, wet wipes, batteries, and other helpful items. The organization is run entirely by volunteers, so donations are pivotal in keeping the program afloat. 

“Financial support is always great, but if we could find a reasonable place, whether it’s a storage unit or a facility in the vicinity of KARM, Old Gray Cemetery, or anywhere in that Knoxville area, we could store things, that would be great. Or necessities. We never have enough necessity bags,” says Cyndi. “They just need to call me on my cell phone and I’ll coordinate it.” 

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