It’s SEEED with three E’s – Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development, and it’s been in business for more than 12 years in East Knoxville’s Morningside Community. Its work offers life skills training to young adults 18-25 years old who need a livable wage career.
“We are working on giving these young people pathways out of poverty,” J.D. Jackson, SEEED’s chief operating officer, told the Rotary Club of Farragut yesterday at Fox Den Country Club. “We teach them job skills, job placement skills and how to navigate life. These are young adults who have fallen through the cracks, almost homeless, almost always from homes with single mothers. We have got to solve the no father in the home issue.”
The first step for those in the program is an eight-week Career Readiness training program – how to dress, how to make eye contact, how to budget, shaking hands and learning people skills. Then comes four more weeks of “Boot Camp” training in three targeted career paths – green construction, community engagement that includes marketing, and environmental-friendly urban agriculture community gardens.
“These young adults come to us saying ‘I need help’ and ‘I need a job’ and then we make sure they can handle the program,” Jackson said. “If they are late without notifying us that they’ll be late they are out of the program. They have to be serious and professional about this.”
SEEED is in the process of building a 1,200 square foot “green construction” home at 1122 Texas Ave. in Lonsdale. It will be a three-bedroom, two-bath home with concrete walls and a foam exterior and rooftop solar panels, Jackson said. Once finished, SEEED will sell the home to a low-income family below the market value and use the profits to help fund their programs.
“In our construction track, the trainees learn how to survey properties, put footers in, learn the electrical and plumbing skills, and the building process from the ground up,” Johnson explained. The plan is to build 20 more houses in the next three years, starting with four in 2022, Jackson said.
One example of a successful Community Engagement project was a partnership with the city. The city was interested in starting a recycling program in Morningside and asked SEEED to help. So the SEEED participants expanded the project and knocked on doors in five inner city zip codes. “This was a marketing job for the city and we signed up 740 clients for recycling,” Jackson said.
The third boot camp is all about healthy food for the community. Their garden is called the “Edible Forest.” They plant community gardens, recruit volunteers, and grow and distribute food in the community. “One of our former students is now working in the commercial hemp business here and making $40,000 a year,” Jackson said. “That’s a perfect outcome that validates our program.”
Jackson also says SEEED is heavily involved in helping transform East Knoxville and the criminal activity that has led to double-digit murders this year.
“Poverty is a major driver of this crime and we are fighting poverty,” Jackson added. You will find this quote on their website: “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.”
To learn more about SEEED you can call their 1617 Dandridge Ave. office at 865-766-5185 or visit their Facebook page here or check out their website here.
To explore membership in the Rotary Club of Farragut, call 865-659-3562. Farragut Rotary meets each Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. at Fox Den Country Club. Tom King, a past president of Farragut Rotary, has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and has been the editor of two newspapers.