Remarkable Women: Nonprofit director continues mission to help others

As Seen On WATE

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Congratulations to Knoxville Pays it Forward Founder Kim Cantrell on being named the winner of our Remarkable Women of East Tennessee contest! She’ll now travel to New York City as a national finalist.

Cantrell was the fourth finalist in our “Remarkable Women” contest.

We’ve seen how she makes a difference through the nonprofit she founded, “Knoxville Pays It Forward.” Cantrell has been on the go collecting water, blankets and other necessities for victims of Tuesday’s tornadoes.

RELATED: See our Knoxville Remarkable Women for 2020

Several people nominated her for our Remarkable Women contest; one saying she is, “Truly a one of a kind angel,” for all she does for others.

Flooding, fire, and the latest… the Nashville tornado.

Disasters that can destroy everything people have worked for. So many who have lost so much have found an instant benefactor in Kim Cantrell.

She runs her nonprofit “Knoxville Pays It Forward” out of 6,000 feet of donated space at Midsouth Trucking on Rutledge Pike; filled with just about every necessity needed to help people falling on hard times.

Thousands of items large and small are packed into the warehouse, but it’s organized to fit specific needs that are often overlooked.

“There’s resources for other people like this in town for the homeless and things, but for you and I who might get in a bind, and it wasn’t our fault at all, we have this in resources so our goal is to help right here in these resources.”

Kim Cantrell

There’s a wall of diapers for babies and adults.

“We have one of the largest diaper banks in East Tennessee.”

Kim Cantrell

Cantrell has answered the call to create an entire nursery in 24-hours for a baby born drug-dependent that’s headed to a relative’s home.

There’s a closet full of feminine hygiene products that go directly to Knox County Middle and High Schools after a single father asked Cantrell to help his teenage daughter.

“She went to her nurse, she had an accident. The nurse said, ‘can’t your parents help you?’ and she laughed and said, ‘my dad paid for gas with quarters this morning.’ So with that being the case, we want to make sure that no child goes without what they need in the Knox County School System.”

Kim Cantrell

Looking around the warehouse you see just about every basic item a home needs.

“We have our household section so we can literally set up a kitchen within a matter of minutes.”

Kim Cantrell

Hours after January’s apartment fire that left 20 in Fort Sanders without a home, Cantrell was there with her small band of volunteers.

“They call us and they say hey Kim, we’ve got a guy here who is standing outside, and it was freezing, he’s standing outside with no shoes on, so we jump in a car, we run over, grab shoes for him and get him warm. So, it’s an honor to be able to do that.”

Kim Cantrell

Cantrell created Knoxville pays it forward in 2011, after someone talked her into feeding the homeless under the bridge in North Knoxville. She says she was a different person back then.

“I’m telling you I was the most selfish person ever. I’m telling you, I was the most selfish, greedy person.”

Kim Cantrell

Today, Cantrell continues to give back, no matter what, even after suffering some big losses in her own life just this past year.

“We had a flood, in three weeks I was in two car wrecks, then I feel and hurt myself, then my mother died, then my mother-in-law died, then I hurt my other leg and was on a nice little scooter for weeks, but I found the best way for me to deal with it was to continue going. Just keep going, keep helping others, and it pulled me through.”

Kim Cantrell

Kim Cantrell is the definition of a Remarkable Woman.

She is one of the four women we are featuring each Tuesday on WATE 6 On Your Side News at 5:30 p.m. The local winner will move on to the national level where a “Woman of the Year” will be selected.


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