By Mike Steely

Senior Writer

Next Step Initiative was founded by two sisters, Addie Arbach and Rebecca Parr, who believed that through compassion, hope and love, they could have an impact on the lives of those living with issues of generational poverty, trauma and addiction.

Almost three years after its inaugural meeting, Parr is leaving Next Step Initiative.

“To be honest, I have not put much focus on my personal life and health, and it is time now for a rest and period of reflection,” Parr said. “I know that I will continue to use my voice around specific issues, and that through the community role I have served to help so many, there is still much work to be done, but rejuvenation is necessary at this time in my life.”

Addie Arbach credits her sister with the idea of Next Step. She said Rebecca called her with “a new idea” that she and her friends were discussing.

“I wanted to save lives by distributing Narcan, referring people to treatment and advocating for the rights of the homeless or addicted,” Arbach told The Focus, “without judgment.”

Arbach lost her son because of using dirty syringes in 2015.

She said Next Step started inside her car “with a box of Narcan and a pot of spaghetti.”

The organization held its first meeting on September 13, 2017, at Sustainable Future Center, which is now the home of Next Step Initiative, and registered as a state nonprofit in February 2018. In March 2018, it began distributing the overdose reversal medication Narcan through a state grant.

In November of 2018 Next Step Initiative became fiscally sponsored for 501c3 through Community Shares. In 2019 Next Step Initiative focused on serving the growing homeless population of South Knoxville through nutrition, Narcan distribution, and getting those who needed it into treatment.

The sisters practiced helping people reclaim their lives through compassion, education, work and recovery. “Helping people through love, compassion, access to healthcare, food, education, resources, treatment, volunteer work, art, and activities that are productive, are a main focus for Next Step Initiative,” Parr told The Focus.

“It is not enough to just give people things,” Parr pointed out. “There must be a comprehensive approach to bringing people back to productivity.

“Next Step Initiative is committed to this approach. Though I am no longer a spokesperson for Next Step Initiative, I remain an advocate for the principles and mission it represents.”

The Next Step location has closed temporarily during the COVID-19 outbreak but is accepting appointments and distributing food with the help of its staff and volunteers.

“Next Step has been feeding an average of 100 nightly,” Arbach said last week. During the virus outbreak and distancing regulations, Next Step has been distributing single servings of food place by place using 200 Ziploc bags, 100 dinner containers and cups with lids.

Arbach said she is pleading with the city to reopen the public bathroom so the homeless can wash and use the bathrooms.

“Through it all there was my sister, Becky. I can’t imagine my journey without her support,” she said.