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Friends and Neighbors kicks off awareness, fundraising campaign

August 6th, 2012 10:36 am by Marsha Salley

Friends and Neighbors kicks off awareness, fundraising campaign

The logo, which heads the website and all printed materials, was also a donation - created and supplied by graphic designer Andy Reynolds. The logo tells the organization's story: Friends and neighbors bonding together in Kingsport (see the water tower an

During the 2011-12 school year, over 240 children from homeless families enrolled in the Kingsport City school system. "Homeless" refers to families that literally camped in their cars, were boarding in motels, or staying with friends or relatives in public housing. That's 240 kids who awoke in chaotic, cramped, often substandard housing conditions, who looked for clothes that might or might not be clean, who rounded up books and school supplies and headed off for a day of learning.


It's not hard to imagine that kids who are worried about where they are going to sleep the coming night have a difficult time recalling the dates of the Revolutionary War or mastering the intricacies of higher math. Kids simply cannot learn when they are highly stressed or worried - especially about housing, food and clothes. These facts led Kermit Addington and others to start Friends and Neighbors, Inc., a non-profit agency that helps homeless families with children in the city school system find transitional housing.


Part of the rent is covered by Friends and Neighbors for a time and the rest is met by the renters. What started out as a Sunday school project has become a full-time opportunity for families with school-aged children in Kingsport City Schools - families who simply need a hand up rather than a handout.


Incorporated in August 2011, Friends and Neighbors has provided homes for nine families. The long-term goal is to add five more families - a typical load for a full-time case manager. A promotional campaign to raise money is planned but, unlike the typical fundraising effort, the organization is starting with a prayer vigil.


"On Aug. 8, we are urging churches, prayer groups and individuals to pray that we raise $20,000 - half of the salary for a case manager. We have the faith to believe that whatever we need will come forward," Addington says. The prayer vigil kicks off at noon at First Baptist Church in Kingsport. Organizers have a flyer they are distributing around the area and are also generating public interest with Facebook, area church bulletins, and through speaking opportunities.


Friends and Neighbors has earned a lot of support from the community in its first year in existence. Recently, the organization was supplied with an office on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., where the future caseworker will interview prospective clients and perform administrative work. One small church donated its entire offering to the organization after Addington spoke that Sunday morning. In addition to money, people have given furniture and even a heat pump to the new venture.


The logo, which heads the website and all printed materials, was also a donation - created and supplied by graphic designer Andy Reynolds. The logo tells the organization's story: Friends and neighbors bonding together in Kingsport (see the water tower and smoke stacks), guided by faith, looking to a brighter day ahead.


As Friends and Neighbors has grown, one relationship has often led to another, Addington explains. An accountant he asked to set up their financial structure introduced him to Shanna Tincher. Tincher developed the Kingsport consignment sale, Twice Upon a Child, which raises money each fall for local nonprofits. She was very interested to hear about the mission of Friends and Neighbors and, as a result, Twice Upon a Child will donate half of its admission price for the Aug. 23-25 consignment sale to the organization.


"God put us together," Kermit says, matter-of-factly. "I couldn't do all this for the families... Wherever God puts me is where I go. It's all by faith."


To make a donation or for information, contact Friends and Neighbors at 423-967-2278.

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