By Kendal Groner
Noell Farnor, a fifth grader at Temple Hill Elementary School, had met with her older brother in Johnson City to grab lunch one day. After eating, Farnor was deeply troubled when they witnessed a group of homeless individuals in the downtown area.
”You can go to any restaurant and in the alleys you can just see them laying there and sleeping and asking people for money and food,” Noell said. “It’s really sad.”
The event had such a profound impact on the 10-year-old that she took it upon herself to start the ‘Little Hands, Big Impact’ campaign with a mission to provide care packages to homeless individuals in the Tri-Cities area.
“She came home and sat in bed crying one night and said we can’t sit here in this warm house with food to eat and not do anything,” said Jennifer Farnor, Noell’s mother. “It’s all because she witnessed it first hand. She said she had seen it in big cities but didn’t know they had this issue here.”
About four months ago, Noell started spending hours filling bags with non-perishable food items and hygiene products that she would hand deliver to homeless individuals. She has even begun incorporating small entertainment items such as bubbles or playing cards.
“It’s the best feeling, to see them smile and be happy,” Noell Farnor said. “They’re really nice, and they’re actually nicer than other people.”
Farnor and her mother take 10 to 15 bags at a time, and hand them out in the area near the Johnson City Farmer’s Market.
She said she was nervous delivering the bags at first, but the nervousness quickly subsided after she started exchanging names and engaging in conversation with the people she encountered.
“She got in the car after the first time delivering the bags and said it was the best feeling,” Jennifer said.
Noell recalls a particularly touching moment she had with a homeless individual that was bound to a wheelchair.
“He basically hugged me several times thanking me for the bags,” she said. “That was pretty cool.”
“One man actually started brushing his teeth while she was there and said it had been a week since he had been able to brush his teeth,” her mother added.
Noel said once she has been able to deliver around 100 care package bags in Johnson City, she would like to try and take the idea to other nearby areas.
However, once she started filling the bags, she and her mother quickly realized how expensive of a task it could be to take on. Her brother helped establish a Facebook page for the campaign, which has lead to several donations of items that can be used in the care package bags.
“I didn’t think it would be this big but so far it is bigger than I ever thought,” Noell said. “People are trying to get involved. It’s amazing because people have ended up helping a lot.”
The Little Hands Big Impact Campaign attracted the attention of the Unicoi County Farm Bureau Women in Agriculture organization. The women’s committee will be sponsoring the campaign as a part of the their ‘Fill a Ford’ event.
“When we started our women’s committee one of the things the state encourages is a food drive and this years program is called fill a Ford with food,” said Renea-Jones Rogers, president of Unicoi County Farm Bureau. “We needed an outlet for what we collected to go to, and someone mentioned this group. We decided to collect things that she could use in her bags.”
From March 19-24, the Women in Agriculture organization will be collecting food donations to support the campaign. Those interested in assisting with the event can bring food donations to the Unicoi County Farm Bureau during normal business hours, or assist them to “Fill a Ford” on March 24.
Suggested food items include packs of nuts, crackers, dried fruit or trail mix, granola bars, breakfast bars, fruit cups, beef jerky, and bottled water.
“It’s all about putting yourself out there to help someone and give them what they need,” Noell said.
For more information on the Little Hands Big Impact Campaign, email [email protected], or visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LittleHandsBigImpact/.