Cindy Risk outside of Hunger First. Times-News file photo.
The founder of a Kingsport outreach program for the needy and homeless has been killed in a vehicle crash.
According to a preliminary report from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the incident occurred Friday at approximately 5:20 p.m. Cindy Risk, the operator of Hunger First on Center Street, was driving a 1997 Jeep south on South Wilcox Drive.
Meanwhile, a northbound 2004 Chrysler attempted to make a left hand turn from South Wilcox onto Lone Star Road. The THP says that vehicle stopped and Risk swerved to avoid hitting it, skidding off the roadway. Her Jeep then struck a culvert and rolled between one and three times.
Risk, 65, of Kingsport, was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the crash. The other driver, identified as Deborah S. Monk, 43, also of Kingsport, and her passenger were not injured. An investigation is continuing with charges pending.
For 18 years Risk has operated Hunger First, which is currently located on the corner of Center and Myrtle streets. It's a “no questions asked” social aid shelter, offering free food and clothing to low-income, no-income and homeless people of Kingsport and the surrounding areas.
Risk always prided welcoming any and all people at Hunger First, absent of questions that can get wrapped up in judgmental red tape.
“This is a place where you can get something you need and not be judged," Risk told the Times-News during a December 2011 interview. "I just think compassion is the way to get to the root of the problem, and then we can refer them to the proper agency. We get all kinds, from alcoholics to new moms, and they all need something.
"I know how it is to struggle and be the outcast. That is why I have scratched, begged and fought to keep this place alive.”
Risk's stepdaughter, Courtney Risk, says the family is currently looking at ways to keep Hunger First operational. A note on the store's door on Monday morning said it was closed until further notice.
"That's the legacy that she left," Courtney told the Times-News. "She came from a rough childhood but turned it around to help so many people. (Hunger First) is a big priority for us — it's something to keep us going."
Courtney Risk says Hunger First currently has plenty of clothes, but the shelves were wiped out of food over the holiday season.
Besides restocking those supplies — and making arrangements for Cindy's funeral and burial — the family has to find someone to fill the void Risk left as the person physically onsite to keep the doors open.
Courtney said it's going to take some time to work through the details and logistics. The Times-News will update that progress.