KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Leaders in East Knoxville held an event to pass out food, vaccinate the community and so much more in an effort to start moving forward after months of tragedy.
“We want to educate," said Cynthia Finch, a Clinician and Community Advocate. "We want to communicate and we definitely want people to participate."
Her wish was granted on Saturday after many community members came out to participate in the event. People continued visiting the event all day long, with an understanding of how important and needed the event was.
“I do live in this community and sometimes people need things," said one community member. "Their pride means they won’t ask, so it’s good that they’re giving stuff out to the community."
But for many, the event was more than just a way to collect some essentials. It also served as a lifeline for both the community and for families in East Knoxville. Many seniors showed up for the food pantry event, and for a COVID-19 vaccination.
The event was bigger than just vaccines. It also provided opportunities for employment and gave kids in East Knoxville something to do.
“Recovery means dealing with food insecurity, unemployment, making sure people get the vaccine and just trying to help understand what this pandemic has done to all of us in our community,” said Finch.
The organizers poured more time and effort into the event than many, working to ensure their community provides for people in need. They filled blue bags with food and informative items to direct people to places where they can find more help if they need it.
Organizers also said they filled the bags with one of the most important things of all — love.
Above anything else, Knoxville Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie said people need to allow themselves to feel after so much tragedy. It's exactly what events like this hope to do.
“People are having to process through not being able to pay their bills, not being able to have enough food, and so this why it’s so important," said Vice Mayor Mckenzie. "It's incredibly important, again, to have these types of events."
For many people in East Knoxville, the recent tragedies at Austin East High School aren't the only things on their minds. Many live close to poverty, with worries such as food insecurity and low income on their minds.
“We here in the East Knoxville community, we’re committed to being a part of the movement. We’re here today in the rain, and we’re trying to make it better, and we’re trying to create access," said Finch.
Organizers also said that the event could be the first step to move forward out of months of tragedy, into a better tomorrow. They said returning to normal will take work, and the community may not recover until people have stable jobs again, until they're able to feed their kids and can finally relax.