Vicky Newman | News-Herald
The Rev. Walt Simmerman, pastor of Loudon United Methodist Church, looks over the pantry room and asks volunteer coordinator Walter Hamilton questions. The pantry is located in a house on Mulberry Street that belongs to LUMC.
Good Samaritan Center held an open house/brunch last week to showcase its improved Loudon pantry and office.
"This is really a re-open house to raise awareness about our presence here, for our clients in Loudon and Philadelphia who cannot get to Lenoir City," Paula Roach, GSC executive director, said. "We're open here 10 a.m. to (noon), Mondays and Wednesdays. And we have the same services here as in Lenoir City."
Located adjacent to Loudon United Methodist Church on Mulberry Street, the Loudon office will make it easier for clients in the southern part of the county to receive services. Clients may visit the Loudon office to get vouchers for backpacks or Thanksgiving dinners, Walter Hamilton, GSC volunteer manager, said.
"We've updated the facility to make sure it's top notch," he said. "The numbers are going up so quickly, year after year ..."
Two local ministers attended the event, as well as Loudon County Mayor Estelle Herron and several GSC workers and volunteers. They were told about services offered by GSC and how the organization operated.
Good Sam provides emergency assistance to help families in crisis avoid becoming homeless or lose utilities, Hamilton said.
"Intake workers listen and see how they can help and sometimes something builds up and they let go," he said. "We can spot things they don't ask for. Maybe their kids don't have a coat or shoes.
"We do a comprehensive income and expense report," Hamilton said. "If they are 200 bucks in the hole, we ask, 'do you see anything that could help?' Our approach is nonjudgmental. We don't lecture but we see if we can lead them to solutions."
Toni Hoffman, client services director, said clients who repeatedly ask for services are examined closely. Intake workers look for skills they lack or ways to help them change destructive patterns or behaviors.
However, even if a client smokes or has self-defeating behaviors, the children still need food, Hoffman said.
Roach said one reason for the open house was to stress the need for volunteers for the front desk, pantry and intake at both the Lenoir City and Loudon locations.
"The people that started this organization are going into their 80s and the baby boomers will write checks but they are not coming out to volunteer," Roach said. "We need to expand our volunteer base."
Hamilton said the numbers being served are presenting challenges and the organization is struggling to get the word out.
"We sent out 40 invitations," Hamilton said, looking at the mostly empty spaces around the table. "This is part of our communication challenge. There is a feeling we don't adequately serve half of our county. Is it right or wrong? We're trying to find out."
An annual project of the GSC, Thanksgiving dinner baskets was launched last week. Judy Howell, client services director, said applicants arrived in droves.
"We had 22 people who came in in 20 minutes, and in three days we saw 150," Howell said. A total of 800 baskets will be provided to the community.
To learn more about GSC, volunteer or to make referrals for Loudon countians in need, call 865-986-6581 or go by the GSC office at 119 A St., Lenoir City.