All photos by David Grace.
New things are happening at Hunger First — a new director, a donated freezer and a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank — but donations have almost dried up.
Towards the end of March, Michael Gillis was officially named the new director of Hunger First and the non-profit organization received their 501 (c) 3 recertification. Around the same time, Hunger First struck a deal with Second Harvest Food Bank where they can buy food for 18 cents a pound.
A surprise donation was also made to Hunger First by a local business.
"Milhorn appliances donated a freezer, that was pretty awesome," Gillis said. "We went in there with the intentions of purchasing one about a month and a half ago. He knew mom and he said pick one out, which was pretty awesome."
Hunger First is still operating three days a week, but plan to go to five during the summer. 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. The founder of Hunger First, Cindy Risk, died in a car wreck in January.
The organization recently received a certificate of membership from a group out of Kansas called One Spark. One Spark also donated $100 to Hunger First. Northeast State has also listed Hunger First as a food pantry with student emergency services.
While new things have been happening for Hunger First, Gillis said donations are drying up.
"All the donations have stopped," Gillis said. "Pretty much it's just trickle down. We're trying to think of ways to drum up money, to keep the money flowing in to keep the doors open."
Gillis said people don't have to donate a lot of money. He said they don't have to donate $100 or $20 or even $10 because if people would donate $1 or even 50 cents every week, it would pay for rent, lights and food.
He said a little goes a long way. Recently, the organization bought 1,700 pounds of food with $119.
Hunger First feeds around 500 to 600 people a month.
Gillis has been trying to get the non-profit's name out in the community, so he tried contacting FunFest, where he was told they didn't have spots available. He's also trying to get a float in the Fourth of July parade, if not this year than next.
Hunger First is looking at a few other things, like a commercial and adding a Paypal donation button to their Facebook page.
One of the bigger events the organization has planned is the grand reopening which will take place sometime this summer. Gillis is asking for people that have donated, received help or volunteered at Hunger First to get in touch with them before the grand reopening.
"We need everybody that was ever a part of Hunger First, once or still remains, to get in touch with us so we can let them know when we are doing the grand reopening," he said. "That way we can show all the support that our mother had and the community had."
If you would like more information about the grand reopening or would like to donate to Hunger First, you can call (423) 967-5368, go by the store 829 Myrtle Street in Kingsport or visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/hungerfirst.
Even when times get hard, Gillis said Hunger First will survive.
"We're here to stay," he said. "We're not going anywhere, we're not going to fade out. We're not going to disappear."