KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Kingsport group Thursday kicked off a three-day project hoping to encourage citizens to not only check on their neighbors, but to lend a helping hand.
The Kingsport Neighborhood Commission’s theme this year is “Neighbors helping Neighbors,” and after a year of barely seeing anyone, the group hopes to create a movement of just that – neighbors helping their neighbors.
One way to inspire the community, was to do.
“As a commission, we were trying to find ways that we could inspire Kingsport to help their fellow neighbors in a safe way because as we all know when the beginning of the year was here, we were looking at a pandemic where we couldn’t take cookies to the next-door neighbor, we couldn’t welcome our new members of the community like we used to. So we all brainstormed and thought, you know, we can help people with yard work,” said Jamie Jackson, Kingsport Neighborhood Commission chair.
Jackson added that working outside is much safer during the COVID-19 era.
“So that’s where the initiative, grew from, we put an article in the paper, just requesting that people nominate neighbors that needed some extra yard work. Maybe they’re a shut-in, they’re physically unable to do their yard work and maybe they’re in danger of code violation,” she added.
The nominee that stood out most to the commission was Wanda Montgomery.
“Well, basically what we’re trying to do is inspire neighbors to help their own neighbors. So this will be just kind of a one-and-done thing. We did the nomination, and we just want to be a good example of how easy it is to help a neighbor, a small thing that makes a big impact,” Jackson said.
Fellow commissioner Suzanne Burns made first contact with Montgomery, and told News Channel 11 this initiative is important because of people like “Miss Wanda.”
“People physically can’t do it, the elderly are often ones who have trouble getting to their yard and being able to hire people to do it for them and stay on top of it like that,” Burns said.
The pair of commissioners affectionately spoke of Montgomery.
“Miss Wanda’s health is not good enough right now for her to be able to do these projects and a cute story that she told us is, she wanted to be able to weed eat her yard but can’t stand for long so she brought a chair in the middle of the yard and got her electric weed eater and was trying to weed it, you know, she really has a heart in the right direction but just needed that help so what we want to do is inspire people,” Jackson explained.
She added that Montgomery is a fixture in the Kingsport community. Jackson also added that only the Kingsport Neighborhood Commission members and their families would be doing work on her yard.
“This is a three day project tonight Friday night and Saturday morning, and so amongst the 12 commissioners and our friends and family that we’ve recruited will be out here, I think all the commissioners are going to be coming at one time or another, and even some of our commissioners that can’t physically do the work are planning to sit with Miss Wanda and support and encourage her. Just kind of come alongside as a friend, hear her story, she has a beautiful story: she’s lived in Kingsport her whole life, and in fact, she has lived in this house for 73 years. So, she’s just been a real inspiration to us and, and so I know some of our commissioners are going to get to enjoy to hear her story, and that will be to me just as important as the yard work,” Jackson explained.
The commission hopes to encourage their community to check on neighbors.
“We just want to inspire people to rather than maybe call code enforcement with an address maybe knock on their door, or reach out maybe a note in the mailbox and just ask, ask if there’s something that you could do to help, because sometimes it’s just as simple as getting them connected with a good yard service. That’s our plan in the future with Miss Wanda she does plan and is able to pay for yard service she just needs something to be consistent. So we’re going to get her connected with some good yard work, companies and make sure that they show up,” Jackson said.
Burns added that people should not be inconsiderate of those who cannot physically keep up with their yard work on their own, and urged them to reach out to their neighbors when such a situation is spotted.
“Be considerate of these neighbors of theirs, that it’s not their choice, they’re not being lazy. They’re not, you know, it’s about their inability to do it themselves, or they would absolutely,” she said.
As a commission, this initiative seemed like the only way Jackson and Burns felt they could really make a difference.
“Our hands were a little tied last year, as so many people felt, it was hard to figure out how to help neighbors, other than staying at home and being sensitive. But to this year we were just ready to really help people because we knew there was going to be a lot of people that had lost their jobs, retirement had changed and, and things were going to be really difficult so the conversation started in January, the article went out in the Times-News requesting nominations…and then, so we just kind of grew from there,” Jackson explained.
The commission hopes to use some grant funds to keep offering assistance to Montgomery in the coming months.
“We’ve also got some opportunities with Lowe’s or some grant money and the community block grant so this one, I think, is going to get some ongoing help from the City of Kingsport,” she added.