NORTH KNOXVILLE - A verse from the book of Matthew says, in part, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me." That passage from the Bible inspired a Powell couple to start a home for people who are homeless or mentally ill. Though they have passed away, their mission lives on.
The garden Benjamin Wethington planted a decade ago keeps growing bigger. Just like the non-profit organization his parents founded 33 years ago when he was eight.
"My parents, they just came in and said 'This is what we feel God calling us to do.' And no one in our family had ever been homeless, had ever had any mental illness," he said.
Benjamin Wethington is now the Executive Director of the Agape Outreach Home.
Agape is a Greek word that means unconditional love.
"All our guys are either homeless or come out of hospitals and psychiatric hospitals and so our goal is to just give them a family," he said.
Mark Coughlin went through the licensed program at the Agape Outreach Home 15 years ago. Now he acts as a mentor and works there.
"It's been a great big deal to me and I really think I've come a long way, and right now I am walking along with my right foot forward," Coughlin said.
He spends a lot of time in the Agape garden.
"I just have a whole lot of experience in it and I've been doing it for most of my life, so I'm pretty good at it now," he said.
Agape teaches its residents how to cook, clean and manage money, and how to keep up with their medicine and schedule a doctor's appointment.
"We've had thousands of people come through here and get help and get back on their feet in the community and that's really rewarding," Wethington said.
The garden helps feed the residents and their souls. It's a therapeutic outlet that provides healthy food for the two dozen men who live in two supervised homes. Agape also has six independent living homes.
The crops are different in the spring and the fall, but always abundant. They plant more than they need so they can give some away.
"I always call someone, 'Hey, come get these vegetables.' There are some widows here in town. We give away to a food truck and the Knoxville dream center. We just want to help serve," Wethington said.
They serve with unconditional love.
Agape Outreach Home takes its residents on a vacation every year. They just got back from a week at the beach.
(© 2016 WBIR)