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Cindy Risk’s death leaves void at the heart of the Model City

February 1st, 2014 7:37 pm by Nick Shepherd

Cindy Risk’s death leaves void at the heart of the Model City

Hunger First founder Cindy Risk is shown in front of the shelter at the corner of Center and Myrtle streets in this 2007 file photo. Photo by David Grace.

Every once in a while, someone entirely unique comes along and does great, selfless work.

Family and friends say Cindy Risk was one of those people. She was killed in a car accident last weekend.

Cindy was born in Pratt, Kan. She eventually moved to Los Angeles and lived there in the 1960s and 1970s.

She got pregnant with her first son, Michael Gillis, and moved to Kingsport. She had another son, Samuel, while in Kingsport. She would divorce her first husband after 10 years.

Risk experienced real poverty throughout her life.

One of Samuel’s favorite memories is when the family moved to Horse Creek.

He said they used all their money to move out to Horse Creek,  so they couldn’t afford to turn on the lights or water for three months.

But every night, the family would sit around a Coleman lamp and Samuel would pick out a book to read. They would pass it around the table so everybody got a chance to read.

Risk graduated high school and tried to get her college degree from Northeast State when it was in Sullivan Gardens.

She couldn’t afford a car,  so she would walk from her home to campus and then walk back. It was on one of those walks that she would meet Steve Risk. He  picked her up one day while she was walking to school.

“She told me that she knew right then at that moment that she was in love with him,” Michael said. “There was never any question.” 

For an expanded version of this article, please see Sunday's print edition or our expanded electronic edition.

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