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Nick Shepherd

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Hunger First's grand reopening scheduled for June 2

May 27th, 2014 12:11 am by Nick Shepherd

Hunger First's grand reopening scheduled for June 2

KINGSPORT — Hunger First is preparing for its grand reopening on June 2, when the free store and food bank will go back to providing food and clothes for people five days a week.

The store had been operating just a couple of days a week since founder Cindy Risk passed away in an automobile crash in January. The reopening is another step for her children to continue her dream of providing food and clothing to people who need them, no questions asked.

"I don't expect to do a big thing, maybe cook out some hot dogs and have the people here," said Michael Gillis, Risk's son and director of Hunger First. "Hopefully, we'll have as many people as we can have that's been supporting us from the community."

Gillis was named director in March. Hunger First is a labor of love for him because he gets no salary. Everyone who works at Hunger First does so on a voluntary basis. Every dollar that comes in as a donation is used to either buy food or keep the lights on and the doors open.

Opening the doors for more days means more money will need to be raised to continue providing food. Hunger First has a series of fundraisers planned to help meet this need and, as always, will depend heavily on contributions from the community.

A swimmer named Melissa Mabe is trying to raise funds for Hunger First and will swim two miles in September. A friend of Gillis mud races in Church Hill and will give a portion of her winnings to Hunger First. Tri-Cities promotions is hosting a benefit concert in memory of Risk at the Bonnie Kate Theatre in Elizabethton. The concert will feature Acidic, Calico Theory and Buddz and will be held on June 8 starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, only $5 with a food donation. Dollar General in Colonial Heights has a can drive going on for Hunger First as well.

Gillis is also launching a 50-cent campaign to coincide with the grand reopening.

"If you imagine 50 cents from each person, for instance on Facebook, we have a little over 700 likes, 50 cents from each one of those, that would be $350," Gillis said. "One months' worth would take care of the rent for either four months or take care of rent for two months and buy food for the next six months."

Gillis also gives back himself. He owns his own business and anywhere between 10 and 20 percent of his profits are funneled back into Hunger First.

Because he runs his own business, he depends on the volunteers and his family.

"My brother and sister, Sam and Courtney, have been my strength through this whole thing," he said. "If it weren't for my brother and sister and these volunteers out here, I don't know what I would do." 

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