CORRYTON, Tenn. — A former healthcare social worker in Knox County is working to make it easier for people struggling to find help. Over the course of the past few years, she single-handedly compiled a 'Red Book' full of hundreds of resources, big and small.
"Pretty much anything the community might need help with, I can try to find them," Cheryl Sutton said.
She said the concept of the book came during her time in social work.
"I had a lot of people coming in asking for different things. So I just started kind of keeping a little notebook and it was red, so everybody could find it," Sutton said.
Cheryl left the healthcare field due to physical and mental health problems that required her to start receiving disability benefits. However, she took her Red Book with her, and it's been her full-time pet project ever since.
"It's just my hobby, my calling, my passion," she said.
The physical Red Book contains nearly a hundred categories. There are resources for food pantries, hearing aids, home repairs, pregnancy support, homelessness, veterans services, LGBTQ+ resources, healthcare and dental services. The list goes on and on, and every day it keeps growing.
"I spend at least an average of two hours a day digging," Sutton said. "So as I find stuff, I update it."
The physical book of resources is so packed, that she transitioned it over to a Facebook page in 2019. The page is called Knox County Red Book of Resources. On the page, organizations of all sizes can make their services public.
Sutton's current project within the digital Red Book is to locate all of the food pantries and kitchens across Knox County.
"It's my most time-consuming project," Sutton said. "I've been emailing all the churches and saying, 'Hey, do you have any outreach? Do you have food outreach? Do you have food pantries?'"
Sutton plans to include all of those pantries in the Red Book, so people experiencing food insecurity in all areas of Knox County have a local, accessible place to get a meal.
Sutton said a lot of what she does with the book is a reflection of some of the struggles she's lived through.
"A lot of the things were based on my needs, like for senior citizens or disabled people, or housing repairs and stuff like that. It's things that I faced that I needed help with," she said.
Sutton said she's been through a lot of turmoil throughout her life. She spoke of her most recent trouble — her chronic back pain.
"I've had back surgery before and they call it Failed Back Surgery Syndrome," Sutton said.
Her back pain makes it very difficult for her to get around, Sutton said. In addition, she said she has faced some mental health battles.
"I have a lot of anxiety and panic attacks, trauma, and PTSD triggers," she said.
Both her physical and mental health has posed a challenge for Sutton. However, she remains steadfast in wanting to use that pain to make things better in the community.
"My motto — if you learn from the pain, it wasn't in vain. So, I try to make a lesson out of tragedies," she said. "If I need help with this, I'm not the only one. There's hundreds of other people out there that need the same kind of help."
That's why she keeps growing the Knox County Red Book of Resources so that others can find and access the resources available to them.
"The gratification for me, is just the people thanking me and being grateful that they found stuff," Sutton said.
You can find resources on the Knox County Red Book of Resources here.