From right, Teddy Gaines, Devaun Swafford, Brenton Leeper and Blake Leeper visit with WKPT's Dave Light to promote Saturday's pancake breakfast to benefit Kitchen of Hope. (Dave Grace photo)
KINGSPORT — Athletes and coaches got together Thursday morning to promote a pancake breakfast that will raise money for the Kitchen of Hope.
Blake Leeper, a Paralympic sprinter, Brenton Leeper, a football player for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Devaun Swafford, a football player for the University of Tennessee, and Teddy Gaines, a football coach for East Tennessee State University, joined Dave Light on WKPT.
“We’re trying to raise money for the Kitchen of Hope,” Swafford said. “Like any other place, they have bills and stuff that need to be paid so they can provide hospitality to homeless people who may need a hot meal.”
The Kitchen of Hope, located at 740 E. Sevier Ave., feeds people who are hungry. It opened about 13 years ago and is accessible to everybody, but staffers mostly see homeless individuals come through their door.
The church where the kitchen is located had some recent plumbing problems. Pipes burst, and Pastor Geraldine Swagerty estimated the cost of the repairs to be between $6,000 and $8,000.
So members of the church turned to the community and put together a pancake breakfast to help raise money for the plumbing repairs. Swagerty’s daughter, Johnnie Mae, reached out to several former Dobyns-Bennett High School athletes for help, and they jumped at the chance.
“Being from Kingsport, I definitely feel like it’s our job to give back and help,” Brenton Leeper said. “I know, personally, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now if it wasn’t for receiving help along the way.
“When the time presents itself, I always jump to help somebody else.”
Blake Leeper said that even though he’s traveled from city to city and around the world, Kingsport is home and he wants to help in any way possible.
“Having an opportunity like this is great to come and show Kingsport that hey, it’s good with our family, now let’s go help somebody else,” he said.
Blake Leeper said his involvement came about because Johnnie Mae knows his grandmother. When grandmothers get involved, he said, grandkids get involved, too.
Gaines feels community involvement such as helping the kitchen raise money is what we’re supposed to do.
“I’m a big believer that’s what we’re put on this earth to do, to serve,” he said. “That’s our purpose, to serve others. ... I don’t have much myself, but if I can help anybody I can, I’ll definitely do my best.”
The pancake breakfast will be held Saturday, Dec. 28 from 8 to 10 a.m. at Applebee’s on Stone Drive. All proceeds will go directly to the Kitchen of Hope, and the athletes will be on hand to sign autographs.
Tickets for the event are $5, and the first 10 people through the door will receive a signed UT piggy bank. Call Johnnie Mae at (423) 429-7553 or Jaquetta Hale at (423) 579-4651 to learn more.
Checks can be made out to Kitchen of Hope.