Vicariously cycle 100 miles to help the hungry

Journey for Appalachian Outreach ministry
Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 10:23 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 4, 2020 at 11:30 PM EDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (WVLT) - Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, around 1,300 people depended on the food pantry at Appalachian Outreach each month. Now, Director Jean-Ann Washam said that number has surged to around 1,800.

One of those shoppers is Julia Dotson, who has survived cancer and depends on an oxygen machine to help her breathe. She looks forward to shopping for groceries and appreciates the help as both she and her personal shopper wear masks while choosing breads and fresh produce. “They are sweet, real sweet people,” Dotson said of the staff that helps her.

The ministry of Carson-Newman University also has other ways of helping the community in Jefferson, Grainger and Cocke Counties. “We have the Samaritan House which is our shelter for women and children. We have our home repair ministry which primarily serves during the summer, but this year we’re serving in the fall as well. And we have a kids’ club where we go into the local housing authority and just have a structured activity,” said Washam. Yet, the pandemic may prevent the ministry from holding its usual in-person fundraising events. So, the need is as great as ever for the community to help.

Assistant Professor Dr. Joshua Zink directs the music department at Carson-Newman, but his pastime is endurance athletics. So, he decided to add some grit when he heard about the community’s needs. “I know that Appalachian Outreach has been more overwhelmed with what they need as hundreds and hundreds of more people are coming to them. So I thought why don’t I organize with some great folks at Carson-Newman a charity ride to raise money?”

Zink is training to ride 100 miles from Johnson City to Knoxville to raise money for Appalachian Outreach.

Zink said he has never accomplished what he plans to on October 3. “I’ve never ridden a hundred miles, no. I’ve ridden 90,” said the cyclist after a 50-mile training ride.

“Whenever Josh called me and said, ’would you consider letting me do a century ride for you to raise funds?’ I truly felt like that was from God, a provision,” said Washam, who said she is excited about the event coming up in October. She also appreciates how the entirety of community support keeps the ministry work going. “I just want to say a thank you to the community, because without them there is not way that we could do this.”

Zink said people need to encourage one another at this time. He hopes that while raising funds for Appalachian Outreach and pushing himself to his physical limits, he can also inspire people to achieve. “It’s good for other people to see that if you’ve never done something before, you may have no idea what you’re capable of doing.”

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