Stacey Patten came to Chattanooga 10 months ago for a fresh start, with a dream of having his own place by March.
Patten, 48, shared his dream with a group of suburban schoolchildren, community activists, artists, college students and Salvation Army program participants who gathered Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
For Patten, the event, held at the Recreate Cafe inside the Salvation Army center at 800 McCallie Ave., also marked his own eight-month spiritual journey.
"It's celebrating Martin Luther King's birthday," said Patten, who moved here from Auburn, Ala. "He means all of us sitting here together like this, togetherness, unity."
The "Dreamers in Action" luncheon was the brainchild of Jon-Phil Winter, the corps officer at the Salvation Army facility.
"The aim is to bring people from different sections of Chattanooga just to share our dreams," Winter said. "This is our first one sort of open to the community."
Winter, who began his work with the Salvation Army center more than two years ago, invited artists who have worked with the organization, community leaders, volunteers and members of the homeless community to Monday's event. The center provides weekly art lessons and is beginning theater training as well, Winter said.
Local actor Jonathan Nichols, who helped coordinate this year's Salvation Army kettle collection campaign at Christmastime, has taught at least one acting class. Theater "unearths things that are in us," he said.
Winter said he envisions a community production with local actors and homeless actors sharing the stage, creating an outlet for program participants where "their identity isn't in their situation."
Lillian Koon, 9, came with her mother from Ooltewah to help serve the family style meal. After filling cups of water, distributing the main course and delivering cobbler and ice cream for dessert, Lillian took the microphone to share what she learned from her afternoon. "I learned never to judge a book by its cover," she said. "Just give somebody a chance for once."