KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Amid questions over who was getting what, Knox County has changed the rules for deciding which community groups and charities get grants offered from your tax dollars.
Citizens' panels have handled the first round of screening.
It hasn't made the choices any less controversial or painful, as the groups have brought everything from spreadsheets to children to Knox County Commission’s budget hearings in an effort to put a face on the money and a price on losing it.
Tom Von Berg with Second Harvest Food Bank says, “This year, we're going to pick up Three-and-a-half-million pounds of perishable food that otherwise would be thrown away.”
Driver Sarah Richardson's is the first gear in Second Harvest's drive to Feed East Tennessee's needy.
“Costs $120 to fill up, and I fill up approximately three times, four times a week.
Only to find, that what Richardson’s hauling “has dropped tremendously.”
She says, “You can't feed as many people, and it kind of makes you worry about ‘em.”
Von Berg says, “We're now spending $100,000 a month just to fill the needed items that were previously donated.”
Which is why, Sarah's bosses say, Second Harvest is asking Knox County Commission for that $100,000, which is three-and-a-half times what it got this budget year.
What makes divvying the dollars most difficult is that some, in order to feed the neediest, could lose their place at the table.
Big Brothers Big Sisters wants double this year's grant to keep a school mentor program going.
Myra Yeatman with Big Brothers-Big Sisters says, “The panel liked us, recommended us for 15 thousand dollars, but unfortunately ran out of money before they got to us.”
Dr. Tom Kim with Free Medical Clinic Of America says, “Just one dollar. If all our citizens donated, free clinic, one dollar, I'd have half a million.”
If it were that simple, Sarah, Second Harvest and the Love Kitchen could count on good hands to make up.
Richardson says, “I don't like to see people suffer… I know if I was in their shoes I would hope somebody would help me out.”
Interim Commissioner William Daniels has proposed shifting some industrial board money to the non-profits, and giving them some of commissioners’ money for expenses.
In raw dollars, the community grants are less than 1.5 percent of Knox County's total budget, but some groups use their Knox County grants as leverage to get other monies. So losing that cash, would, in effect, be a double or triple whammy.