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Knoxville children start nonprofit, deliver food from local restaurants to first responders

A 9-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy wanted to find a way to help their favorite Knoxville restaurants stay open while also helping those on the front lines.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A nonprofit started by a Knoxville 9 and 7-year-old is feeding front line workers with food from local restaurants, giving back to both sides of the community affected by the pandemic.

"Project Be Kind" started when Mary Kathryn Kennard and her kids, 9-year-old Kathryn and 7-year-old Fritz, came back from a spring break camping trip to an empty Knoxville.

"We had no cell phone coverage, no internet, and when you're the only adult with them, you can't check your cell phone in the car, so we had no news," Kennard explained.

They noticed the barren restaurants and desolate Market Square right off the bat.

"My 9-year-old literally just says, 'What's gonna happen? What's gonna happen to these restaurants? What is going on,'" Kennard explained.

Kathryn's question sparked an idea.

"And my 7-year-old who adores the firefighters was just like 'Well, let's just feed the firefighters,' and that's the genesis of the idea," Kennard noted.

Thus, the nonprofit "Project Be Kind" was born.

"It's Knoxville taking care of Knoxville," Kennard said. "I mean, we are strong and we are really kind."

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They figured if they could fundraise enough money, they could buy meals from local restaurants affected by the shutdown and deliver them to those who need it most.

Firefighters, sheriffs deputies, police officers, KAT's bus drivers, mechanics, the health department and healthcare workers are among the many who have already received meals.

In six weeks, the initiative has raised over $10,000 and fed almost 2,000 people.

"It's beyond my wildest dreams," Kennard smiled. "It's beyond the kids' dreams, I mean they literally were like 'Wait a minute, our idea has exploded.' And I'm like 'yes, your idea has exploded.'"

Local restaurants Oliver Royale, Not Watson's, Yassin's Falafel House and Cafe 4 were among the first to join in. Since more have joined in and donors keep providing money.

"No matter what's going on, Knoxville is taking care of Knoxville," Kennard admitted. "Everyone in the community is pitching in and trying and working really hard to keep everyone going."

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Team Be Kind will feed 25 people in a day, and they want to continue the nonprofit's help beyond the pandemic.

"Because there's gonna be another round of fires, another flooding event, or tornadoes where small businesses are going to need cash flow again," Kennard said.

A big idea from two of the city's smallest locals.

"Knoxville is strong and we are here and we're gonna keep being kind to one another," Kennard nodded.

You can donate to "Project Be Kind" or help connect restaurants and first responders with food by visiting the website projectbekind.com

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