Bridging the Gap: Appalachian Promise Fresh Start gives inmates job opportunities, savings

Bridging the Gap

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Never in her wildest dreams did Sherri Hoskins think she’d be at home around welding equipment, in a factory, watching over jail inmates as they work on their craft.

(Photo: David Killebrew/WATE)

It’s a story about faith, forgiveness and second chances.

After Sherri Hoskins lost her only child in a crash involving a drunk driver, she found it in her heart to help others who’ve made bad decisions, putting together a pilot re-entry program for jail inmates that’s getting attention from leaders around our area and around our state.

It’s all part of Appalachian Promise Fresh Start, a nonprofit Sherri founded after the tragic death of her 17-year-old daughter, Afton, at the hands of a drunk driver.

She wanted to do something lasting in her memory. In the process through her grief and anger, she found forgiveness.

“Your heart turns from hard and cold, ” Sherri says, “to…’let me help you. Please let me help you.'”

The help started with jobs for Claiborne County inmates like John Collins III, serving two 6-year sentences for aggravated assault.

“It’s a bad situation that turned worse in less than five minutes with two guys,” Collins told us. “I thought I was going to have to fight them both, nobody got hurt but I picked up something and threatened them.”

He’s became a valued member of the Homesteader Trailer factory, which teamed up with Appalachian Promise Fresh Start.

Collins and other workers earn $13-14 an hour, money that adds up in a 40-hour work week, that’s automatically deposited into a bank account.

This earned money they’ll get when they’re released from jail, along with money management guidance under Sherri Hoskins’ watchful eye.

She credits First Century Bank with being willing to open accounts for inmates, when other banks said no.

(Photo: David Killebrew/WATE)

Anthony Mountain is president of Homesteader, Inc, a local manufacturer of trailers. He says the company’s partnership with Sherri’s organization is a win-win:

“This gives them hope, it gives them a chance, it gives them opportunity, it lets them, when they get out, go back to their children and stand up as a father rather than holding their head down to their families, and that’s the rewarding part,” Mountain said.

“Yes,” Sherri says, “They’re inmates, and yes – they’ve done wrong, but they’re starting a new life with a fresh start.”

Collins looks around the factory and says, “it’s everything to me. It’s the biggest helping hand that God could give.”

The program is getting attention. Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs says:

“I think it’s a great idea. One of the obstacles to successful reentry is fiscal instability, as well as fines, court costs. back child support, etc.
This program addresses some of those concerns by allowing inmates to work off and pay back these costs and even build up a savings account.”

T-shirts to help inmates:

Appalachian Promise Fresh Start is also selling t-shirts for $10.00 to raise funds to provide clothing and boots for the inmates to use while on the job at Homesteader.

Call 423-259-8189 for more information. There is a $1.50 shipping fee.

(Editor’s Note: Watch for Bridging the Gap stories each Monday night at 6.
We will focus on re-entry programs at the detention facility – the largest jail in East Tennessee and will talk with Knox County Sheriff’s Office employees who work directly with inmates to find out how the programs work and how our community can get involved. If your business is hiring former inmates and wants to be featured on our program, email Lori at

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