Kim Cantrell has but a few minutes to spare on a regular basis. She’s answering a cell in one hand while waving goodbye to visitors in her office with the other. And there’s stuff to pick up. Lots and lots of stuff to pick up. This week it’s dog and cat food and other pet supplies. Tomorrow or the next day it could be diapers or cleaning supplies.
But at the moment, it’s wrapping up Kibble Bowl 2021 for Knoxville Pays It Forward (KPIF). KPIF partners with the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee Office of Aging to help seniors participating in the Knox PAWS program. The donations help provide for the pets of seniors living on a fixed income.
Cantrell, 55, is the founder and executive director of KPIF. Now fully organized as a 501(c)(3), it began nearly a decade ago as a Facebook group getting like-minded organized as needed to help people in sudden life-altering circumstances.
“There’s not a lot of resources out there for people who are basically okay, but an unexpected disaster, like a house fire, puts them out of their home,” Cantrell said. “We’re filling that gap.”
Almost a year ago, Cantrell was organizing KPIF volunteers to get supplies to tornado victims in and around Cookeville, Tennessee. This was right on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic starting shutdowns and social distancing.
“Things really changed last year due to Covid,” she said. “We usually have a music festival, some galas, and we haven’t been able to do some of our collection drives.”
She also said KPIF missed participating in Christmas and Valentine programs at Heritage Assisted Living residences, which, in the past, have served as drop off points for donated goods.
“We’ve had to operate on some slim pickings over the past year, but we made it, we’ll be all right,” she said. “We’ve been very blessed.”
One of the blessings is not having to worry about mortgage or a rent payment. KPIF operates out of a warehouse owned by Cantrell’s father, Ken Parigin. The space is shared with Parigin’s Mid-South Trucking and Equipment on Rutledge Pike. Parigin sits on KPIF’s board. Cantrell also works for her dad and has her real estate license.
“At some undetermined point in the future, we’ll be moving,” she said. “Dad’s going to be ready to retire soon, the property is for sale. We’ll be downsizing from the 6,000 square feet we’re using now. We won’t be maintaining the furniture warehouse in the future,” she said. “Before we even had this space, I could put out the plea on Facebook for furniture needs, and nine out of 10 times, have that filled within 48 hours. So that’s not a concern. We’ll just keep helping people.”
The focus will be KPIF’s ongoing programs like their diaper and formula banks and the household crisis baskets, which provide two weeks-worth of cleaning and hygiene items. KPIF also has a program to assist families with children battling cancer.
Last year, Cantrell was named East Tennessee’s Remarkable Woman in a contest sponsored by WATE.
“I have to keep reminding my husband (Alan) of that,” she said, jokingly, but insisted she was very honored for being recognized. As she should be.
To find out more about KPIF, to make a donation or apply for assistance go here.
Beth Kinnane is community editor for KnoxTNToday.com