Coronavirus: Tennessee kids start nonprofit, deliver food to first responders in Knoxville

A Tennessee woman and her two children are making sure front line workers helping out during the coronavirus pandemic are getting hot meals.

"Project Be Kind" is a nonprofit started by Knoxville resident Mary Kathryn Kennard and her children, 9-year-old Kathryn Durr and 7-year-old Fritz Durr, WBIR reported. Their first project, "Restaurants Feeding First Responders," was created when Kathyrn and Fritz worried about their favorite eateries and how first responders were managing during the pandemic, according to the Project Be Kind website.

The idea was spawned last month when Kennard and her children were walking through a near-empty Market Square in downtown Knoxville.

"We started to go to each little kiosk and restaurant and reading storefronts and reading the signs, 'We're gone,' and Kathyrn was just like, 'What is going to happen?' Kennard told WATE. "And Fritz was playing in the rain, and goes, 'Well we can just feed the firefighters.' "

Kathryn’s question sparked an idea.

The trio figured that by raising enough money, they could buy meals from local restaurants and deliver them to first responders who needed them most -- firefighters, police officers, sheriff's deputies, health care workers, bus drivers, mechanics and health department workers, WBIR reported.

Kennard and her children asked restaurants in Knoxville to make a meal for 25 first responders on a specific day of the week, according to the Project Be Kind website. The meals are picked up the designated first responders. The restaurant tells the nonprofit the cost of the meal, and the organization raises the money to pay for the food.

After six weeks, the nonprofit has raised more than $10,000 and has fed nearly 2,000 people, WBIR reported.

“It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” Kennard told the television station. “It’s beyond the kids’ dreams, I mean they literally were like ‘Wait a minute, our idea has exploded.’ And I’m like ‘Yes, your idea has exploded.’”

"I think it's a really good idea for people all over Knoxville to help feed their first responders," Kathryn Durr told WATE.

Sondra Richardson, general manager of the Oliver Royale restaurant, said she loves the idea.

"The biggest thing that is important to us in a time of crisis and everything that's happening right now shows community over competition," Richardson told WATE.

Kennard said she knew her children’s idea would resonate with the community.

“No matter what’s going on, Knoxville is taking care of Knoxville,” Kennard told WBIR. “Everyone in the community is pitching in and trying and working really hard to keep everyone going.

“Because there’s going to be another round of fires, another flooding event, or tornadoes where small businesses are going to need cash flow again."

Donations can be made to "Project Be Kind" by visiting

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