Hunger First volunteers offload some on the food donated by Tammy Russell in memory of her son, Steven Nathaniel Carr, who was killed in a car crash on Feb. 7. Photo by David Grace.
KINGSPORT — When Tammy Russell lost her son in an auto accident at the beginning of February, she wanted to honor his memory.
She had received some money after he passed away, and when her family was making arrangements, an idea on what to do with the money popped into her head. She thought she should take all the $700 that was given to her and buy food to donate to Hunger First.
And that’s exactly what she did.
“It took all day to spend the money,” she said. “I borrowed a bigger truck and bought $700 worth of groceries. It filled the pantry up.”
Hunger First is a free store in downtown Kingsport. It was started by Cindy Risk almost 20 years ago. After she was killed in a car crash in January, her children decided to keep the operation going.
Russell had been following the coverage of Risk and Hunger First in the Kingsport Times-News.
A couple of weeks later, on Feb. 7, tragedy struck her family too. Steven Nathaniel Carr of Kingsport was killed in a car accident. He was 25 years old.
So Russell decided to honor her son in a different kind of way. She said he had a rough life as he got older, and after reading the stories of Hunger First needing donations, she thought she could help.
“I think my son could have related to all the people who come through here,” she said. “I think he would have appreciated this.”
The day she pulled up to Hunger First with a truckload of food, Courtney Risk had been talking to her brother, Michael Gillis, about how she wished someone would just bring a truck full of food. Not 10 minutes later, Russell pulled up.
“I was overwhelmed,” Gillis said.“I was honestly in awe. It is the most anybody has done.”
It was exactly 20 days after Russell lost her son.
The gesture filled Gillis with a sense of hope and humbled him. He was also glad to have something to give to the people who come through the doors at Hunger First.
“I’m glad we have it to give back,” he said. “It’s never about the glory of doing it, it’s just about doing it.”
Another donation came to Hunger First from an unlikely source.
A friend of Gillis asked him to take a ride with him. Gillis had met him in a philosophy class and the two had become friends.
The man is in his 20s, is a father, works two part-time jobs, goes to school, has a car payment and lives with his father. Gillis said his friend is really working toward the American Dream.
When Gillis went for the ride, his buddy pulled up to his bank’s ATM and handed $400 to Gillis as a donation to Hunger First.
“He got his taxes back and he said he wanted to make a donation ,” Gillis said. “You’ve got people out here who could easily give that kind of money, but this kid gives $400 because he’s just that kind of guy.”
Hunger First is currently open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays but plans on officially reopening the store in a few weeks. They are still serving hot meals and helping anyone who comes by, no matter the day.
Hunger First is still in need of donations of clothing, food and money. The food helps feed those who need it and the money helps keep the doors open and the lights on.
You can send money to: Hunger First, 829 Myrtle Street, Kingsport, TN, 37660.
You can also go by the store to drop off donations Monday through Friday.
For Russell, donating to Hunger First honored her son’s memory, and she wanted to thank everyone who gave to her that made the donation possible.
“I would like to thank everybody who thought enough of me and him to give money to us for whatever reason they meant for us to have it,” she said. “I just want to thank them.”