Raising a Voice/Likewise Coffee, 1209 E. Magnolia Ave, July 2023
You may be familiar with Likewise Coffee on E. Magnolia Ave. You may not know, however, that it is wholly owned by a nonprofit organization committed to fighting sex trafficking and helping vulnerable and exploited women in East Knoxville. Raising A Voice, founded by Will and Katie Boggs, is that nonprofit.
Will and Katie met in college. After getting married and graduating, they moved overseas for a year to research how exploitation takes hold in differing communities. Both Katie and Will have a background in international ministry, and Katie has focused mainly on women’s ministry. Using what they learned, they began a nonprofit to support women at risk of sexual exploitation in Kenya.
When Katie decided to get her master’s degree, they moved to back to the States to Knoxville (Katie is from Maryville.) but with no set plans to plant their nonprofit here. However, after a year, they could not ignore the hurting people they encountered, and a decision was made. East Knoxville would not only become home for them, but it would also be the launching pad for Raising A Voice in Knoxville. They have since also planted nonprofits in Rwanda and Argentina.
Raising a Voice (RAV) began in 2018. Katie runs the logistics of the nonprofit (as well as the coffee shop), and Will uses his degree in International Business to manage the nonprofit’s admin, fundraising, and partnership side. They have four caseworkers supporting the community and their Women’s Resource Center. The resource center recently relocated but stayed on Magnolia Ave to remain accessible to the community. It provides services to women in the community such as showers, a place to nap safely, meals, laundry services, basic wound care, and non-laboratory testing like Covid tests, pregnancy tests, etc.
When working in the community, Will believes it begins with outreach to establish relationships. The caseworkers go into the community and meet women, providing them with hygiene bags and information on how to access the services they offer. After the relationship has begun and the women choose to come into the women’s center, RAV can help meet their immediate physical needs. In the next outreach stage, the caseworkers can begin working with the women to set goals for what each individual wants to achieve. Based on that goal, they create a plan for the next steps. This may happen in the first visit, but sometimes it takes women longer to develop trust, and it may take months for them to feel safe enough to be ready to set a goal. For most, getting an ID is the first step. At that point, they can begin working toward housing and other helping services that require a legal ID to get started.
RAV works closely with other nonprofit organizations in the community to serve the women in their care. KARM, VMC, Hope Center, UT Law, Legal Aid, Family Justice Center, and various rehabilitation services. They help to get records expunged, get women into rehab, and permanent homes, to name a few things. Working with each of these nonprofits allows them to expand their capabilities and refer cases to others who can meet their needs expertly.
Likewise Coffee opened in November 2020. It is an airy yet cozy space. They kept the walls that divide it into different rooms allowing each one its own inviting vibe. The Boggs chose this location based on its front-facing position in the East Knoxville community. The menu has all of the expected coffee and tea drinks you expect from a coffee shop, but there are a couple of differences. Likewise, Coffee roasts all its beans in-house. They also committed to making good coffee affordable to everyone. They are easily $1-2 cheaper than other area café’s. This was intentional. They want to appeal to the business person who wants to come in and have a meeting, but also the individual standing at the bus stop waiting for their ride to work. A cup of drip coffee is only $1.95. The nonprofit also owns Cultivate Coffee and Flowers, a partnership with Flourish Flowers in Fountain City, and it operates with the same philosophy.
They hope their affordable prices and comfortable space both inside and outside of Likewise Coffee will draw people to the area that may have yet to be there before. They also hope to change opinions about East Knoxville for those who judge it based on its history. With the stadium’s arrival in the next two years, the area continues to develop, and Will sees this as a good thing. More development means more resources and more opportunities.
Their next step is to renovate a building they have purchased into a home for 6-8 women that will also house a bakery to give women a place to work and learn valuable life skills. If you are interested in what the Boggs are doing in East Knoxville, please visit their website and social media. They welcome volunteers to help serve, those who would like to donate items for hygiene bags, and those who would like to invest financially. They currently have a wish list for the women’s center. You can check that out HERE and send the purchase directly to them.