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Restaurant Ministry Gives Felons Second Chance

Posted at 10:19 PM, May 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-31 23:40:53-04

A new restaurant in Nashville has opened its doors not just to customers, but also to employees who have criminal histories in order to get them back on their feet.

In the South it's all about soul,  and on Jefferson Street at the new Kingdom Cafe & Grill, the soul isn't just in the food.

"This is a ministry for us and we want to give people the opportunity for a second chance," said Fairfield Baptist Church Rev. Howard Jones.

His church funded the cafe, along with a vision. The restaurant will hire anyone willing to be trained, regardless of pass records or mistakes.

"It's stressful but I love it," said dishwasher David First, "it's a challenge and I'm always up for a challenge."

First has a felony on his record. He said that made finding a job almost impossible, even when local managers wanted to hire him.

Then he saw a new restaurant was moving in.

"I just kept coming back. I was determined I would find someone that I could talk to that would give me the opportunity for employment and by the grace of God I got it," he said with a big smile.

If you ever visited the old Harper's Restaurant you won't recognize it now.

"One of the things we're doing is making everything from scratch," says Head Chef Biance Morton-Hughes.

In addition to the main cafe and buffet, the restaurant has a private bridge room, a fast casual grill with wifi and a separate event space.

"We're not just serving food, we're serving compassion," Morton-Hughes said.

It's an idea that's catching the attention of local lawmakers. Many of them, along with local judges, District Attorney Glenn Funk and Mayor Megan Barry showed their support at the restaurant's ribbon cutting Tuesday.

"When you have a job, you have hope, and when you have hope, you have everything," Mayor Barry said.

They're glad the ministry is giving people like First the chance to dream again while he washes dishes and brings home a paycheck.

"My future goal is to move up the corporate ladder so I figure if I start from the bottom I'll be more than happy to work my way to the top," he said, cheerfully.

That's exactly the goal, says Rev. Jones.

"It could be a great spring-board for them and they can get employment in other places," he said.

Knowing that many who earned jail time in their youth are different people as adults. And like the restaurant, they too can transform.