Food 4 Tattoos benefits local food pantries



After being out in the cold for about six hours, Lonnie Paul Johnson walked through the front door of Beauty from Ashes Tattoo Parlor.

The Scottsburg man then went to the counter and filled out some paperwork, and a few minutes later, Kansas Yount called him back.

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Johnson sat in a chair and told Yount he wanted a tattoo with the word “life” under a palm tree.

About 15 minutes later, Johnson’s first tattoo was complete. The only thing he had to pay was a tip because all that was required to get a tattoo was donating a minimum of 50 nonperishable food items.

“I love these people. These people are so giving,” he said of business owner Kyle McIntosh and fellow tattoo artists Yount, Martha McCoskey, Lillie Jones and David Miller volunteering their time to do the tattoos.

“They don’t have to be doing this. They are going out of their way to help us as clients,” Johnson said.

When he learned about Food 4 Tattoos, Johnson was determined to get there early because he expected a lot of people to show up for the 12-hour event.

“I wanted to be first. I’d rather be first than last,” he said, smiling.

Once he arrived at the Crothersville shop Saturday, he checked out the selection of predrawn or flash designs. It was down to the palm tree and Marvin the Martian.

“I kept going back and looking at that table, and it kept staring at me,” he said of the palm tree tattoo. “I’ve always wanted a tattoo. My birthday is in a couple months. Now, I get to add to it when my birthday comes.”

McIntosh said 128 people received tattoos Saturday, and Farron Dyer, who runs the I Care Ministry Food Pantry at Seymour Harvest Church, said 19,500 nonperishable food items were collected.

“I’m overjoyed by it because not really for us but that this many people want to be involved in helping something like this,” McIntosh said. “That’s what’s so cool to me. It’s exciting.”

The first Food 4 Tattoos in 2018 resulted in more than 17,000 nonperishable food items being collected. Dyer had asked McIntosh if he could set up a box in the tattoo shop for people to drop off food donations, but McIntosh didn’t think that was enough and decided to do a whole day of tattooing for food.

At that time, there were just three tattoo artists who ended up doing more than $9,000 worth of free tattoos. McIntosh said they were still doing free tattoos a month or two after the event because they couldn’t get them all done that day.

So why do it again this year?

“There’s a huge need in our area, and I just couldn’t ignore it,” McIntosh said. “We have enough team members here to do it, so why not?”

He was happy to have three of his tattoo artists agree to do it and have Miller join as a guest artist.

“They are doing it just out of the kindness of their heart and they want to be a part of it, they want to help just like all of these people that are out here,” McIntosh said. “They want to be a part of helping.”

Before the event started, Dyer said they already had 6,242 items donated. People didn’t have to get a tattoo to support the cause and could drop off donations at the shop ahead of time.

“Not all of these canned goods are going to go to my food pantry,” he said. “A lot of times, I share with other food pantries. I’m not a hoarder by any means. Anybody else that needs anything … we give to a lot of food pantries around here.”

The pantry is open every Saturday from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. at the church, 414 N. Chestnut St., Seymour, and Dyer said he helps between 20 and 40 families each week.

Once a month, he receives food from the Southern Indiana Baptist Association, but he has to pay for it. Otherwise, the pantry operates on food and monetary donations.

Besides food, Dyer tries to stock items such as toilet paper, diapers, baby wipes, baby food and personal care items such as soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and feminine care products.

McIntosh said he’s glad to help the pantry.

“The last time we did it, it fed several families for several months all the way into the year,” he said.

He encourages people to think of ways to help the pantry or other worthy causes.

“Any kind of business, you’ve just got to think of ‘How can I provide my service where people will want to give back?’” McIntosh said.

“That’s what we’re hoping to do. That’s what I keep emphasizing,” he said. “All of these people that showed up, they wanted to help. Obviously, they wanted a tattoo, too, but they wanted to help, and that’s what it’s about is getting the community involved. It’s not just us. It’s not me. It’s everybody that’s doing it, and it’s cool to see them give back.”

Travis Huff of Crothersville and Anthony and Kayla Amburgey of Norman received their tattoos at the same time as Johnson.

Huff had the Batman logo tattooed on his right wrist to go along with the Batman characters he has tattooed on his back. He also has the Superman logo on his upper right arm.

“I just wanted to help because there are a lot of less-fortunate people,” he said. “Obviously, it’s more incentive to get the tattoo, but there are a lot of less-fortunate people who don’t have as much as what we do. I’ve been in that spot before where I needed help, and I know how grateful I felt, so you take and then you give. Everyone just needs to help each other.”

The Amburgeys received matching tattoos on their right wrists: An anchor and a treble clef intertwined.

“Music anchors your soul,” Kayla said of why they chose that design.

“We try to live the soundtrack of our life,” Anthony said. “We’re both recovering addicts who stepped away from the drug life and stepped away from everything. Me and my wife were separated for 10 years because of prison and because of other things that were going on in our lives. Love overcomes all, and for us to get matching tattoos, it’s a symbol of we can overcome anything. We’re each other’s anchor.”

Being able to be together Saturday to support a good cause was special for the couple.

“We always try to give back,” Kayla said. “Last week, we were in Madison hiking. We were down by the river seeing there was a bunch of trash where the river was flooded. We just had our kids help us pick up trash out of the river and throw it away. We want our kids to grow up in a community that’s clean and teach them to give back.”

Their kids were with them again Saturday. This time, they learned about supporting local food pantries.

“We’ve been on the receiving end of having to go to food banks, and now, we’re able to help. We want to help people because we’ve been in the same position,” Anthony said. “It isn’t much — some canned foods that we can donate — but it’s the meaning behind it. I told my wife and told everybody it’s just the chance to help. Even small, it means so much. The meaning is so much more than anything else.”

The couple and their kids also saw others and the tattoo artists giving back.

“It’s amazing. They don’t have to do it, but they are taking time to help our community and better it,” Kayla said.

“They are taking time out of their lives and money they could be making to help this community,” Anthony said. “Most of them are local and they know the struggle and have gone through the struggle. For them to be able to give back, it helps them, too.”

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