Agencies help man in need

Johnny Parker pets Turtle while getting used to his new bicycle.

Mid-East Community Action Agency and the Department of Human Services recently partnered to help make a local man’s life a little easier.

Johnny Parker, with his best friend and dog, Turtle, on a leash, walked into the DHS office in Lenoir City to receive a three-wheeled bicycle.

Walker has been without a permanent residence for nearly two years. He recently found a temporary place to stay in Greenback, but will soon find himself back on the street in Lenoir City.

“We see a lot of people,” Elizabeth Jenkins, local DHS field supervisor, said. “Some need it, some think they need, some insist that they need it and some don’t ask for anything, and he doesn’t ask for anything. That’s one of the things that makes it a lot easier and want to do when they don’t expect it. He’s got some struggles and he’s not in very, very good health.

“... The little dog loves him and will not leave his side, and that’s the sweetest thing is you’ve got that relationship,” she added. “He would frequently come over here when it was getting hot because he was staying over in the park. He has some health problems and so he had come in one day and said he had a seizure and fallen off his bicycle. He said, ‘I’m really going to have to get something smaller because I’m afraid I’m really going to hurt myself and I’m going to hurt Turtle’.”

Jenkins asked Della Larson, MECAA community outreach coordinator, if she knew anybody who could help Parker. About two weeks later the agencies purchased the bicycle from Walmart for $288.

“What I hope from this other than helping someone that’s in need, I like the partnership that we have — a stronger partnership that we’ve established with DHS because through this we have talked about how our backgrounds are similar and how we can help with one aspect, they can help with the other,” Larson said. “Our job at Mid-East is to help those in need, bottom line, and if we can’t do it we find someone that can.

“In talking with her, I could feel and sense the need of this gentleman,” she added. “Once you’ve been in this business you can almost feel the people that are genuine and the ones that aren’t. We can’t discriminate but there definitely is a difference, and there is a need here to help him.”

For Parker, the bicycle makes a big difference.

“It means the world to me,” he said. “It makes it safe for Turtle, because I don’t worry about myself, I worry about Turtle.”

He took a moment to put Turtle in a dog bed in the back of his bicycle before giving it a try.

“Turtle, I don’t own him. He owns me basically,” Parker said.