“Serving the poor is in my DNA,” shared Mike Cowart. “My parents only had a 6th-grade education, but after working in maintenance at the VA Hospital, my dad would go to a widow’s house to repair her plumbing. Meanwhile, my mom would cook a casserole for a family who had recently lost a loved one. Helping others is just something we did.”
But homelessness and addiction touched Mike’s family as well. “Following my brother’s service in the Air Force, he started drinking and battled many issues. Unfortunately, this led to him struggling with homelessness for most of his adult life.”
Mike has carried the lessons he learned through his own family. His sons Benji and Jeremy are both very successful and are constantly giving back to their communities. Benji is a worship leader and published singer/songwriter, and Jeremy is a world-renowned photographer, speaker, author, and founder of Help-Portrait and The Purpose Hotel.
“Volunteering at the Mission is the highlight of my week.”
“I’ll never forget when Jeremy told me about his idea for Help-Portrait,” shared Mike. “He was going to take photos of people experiencing homelessness then give them a copy of the photo. I remember telling him I didn’t think it was a good idea. ‘Why would someone who was homeless need a photo? Boy, was I wrong.”
As Mike transported people back and forth from the Mission to the church to have their photos taken, he will never forget the stories he heard. “One man told me the framed photo would be the only gift he would give to his family for Christmas. Another said he’d not had a photo taken since his mug shot. And the woman who shared that she’d never worn makeup couldn’t stop smiling. Their stories changed me,” shared Mike.
After apologizing to Jeremy for not believing in his idea, a fire started in Mike’s heart. He’s continued to get more involved in serving the homeless and helping those in need in his community, whether it was working for Mercy Ministries or starting Room in the Inn at his church, he wanted to help.
“But I knew I had to do more. I signed up to serve meals at the Mission during the pandemic,” said Mike. “The experience pulls on my heartstrings each time I’m there. As I stand next to men in the program and hear their incredible stories of transformation, especially as they get closer to graduation, I wonder, how could anyone not be inspired by this?”
“When I’m driving home, I think about how this is such a great investment of my time,” shared Mike. “It is the highlight of my week. I’m grateful I have the opportunity to serve at Nashville Rescue Mission.”