The Thrift Store building began life as a food market. Significant renovations have turned it into a light-filled, spacious, pleasant place to shop. Store Managers Ingrid and Teri keep everything clean, well-kept, and contemporary - no dusty items languishing on the shelves for years. Get excellent bargains on up-to-date clothing, furniture, dishes and home décor, toys, and much more!
Our store is special! and is ran by a few part-time staff and lots of volunteers. In addition to serving customers at the cash register, they sort clothes, repair furniture, arrange displays, keep shelves and racks tidy, and help customers. Our Benevolence ministry offers people in crisis free clothing, a bed, or other family items when needed.
Goods for the Thrift Store are donated by the community, estates, churches, and various other sources. God has blessed us to be able to pay all overhead expenses so that donations can go 100% to our Benevolence ministries. We are grateful to God and very appreciative of our community for the success of SAM Thrift Store!
A Great Store ... and More!
A very important part of SAM is our soft job-skills program. We have partnered with True Purpose Ministries to help men in addiction recovery discover freedom in Jesus. Our goal for the program is to equip men with the skills they need to be prepared for continued success.
Under our supervision, they experience every part of the Thrift Store retail environment; sorting clothes and items, repairing small electrical appliances and furniture, performing routine maintenance, setting up displays, and handling customer service. They get knowledge of conflict resolution and how to dress and speak for success. They learn the important job-readiness skills of being on time and accepting supervision.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, passersby notice a crowd of happy people sitting around the tables in the front window. They are the Senior Bingo players. Many have come since the store first opened, and now there is an average of 35 people who attend. Miss Carol, the numbers caller, searches the Thrift Store shelves for the prizes earned.
This fun-loving group has become a caring community of people who appreciate and pray for one another. They celebrate birthdays, have pot-luck lunches, and invent ways to celebrate holidays – like the Easter Bonnet Exhibition. If you’re wanting some fun and fellowship, drop in to SAM Thrift Store at 10:00 a.m. on any Tuesday or Thursday. The game is free, and lots of fun!
How I Can
Crisis Benevolence is the reason SAM was first
formed, as Sweetwater churches saw that the
need could best be served collectively. Our
Benevolence Coordinator sees hundreds of
people every year, each one a precious and
unique creation of our loving God. Sometimes
the need is as minor as a pair of work pants -
which we provide from the Thrift Store.
Sometimes a jobless, homeless person cries
with uncertainty about what to try next. Some
who come are hopeful, but others are defeated
and in despair.
Our first priority is to ease a burden, an immediate crisis. Crisis Food is a family grocery box, and information about the Food Pantry programs. Crisis Utility payments to Sweetwater Utilities can keep the heat on. Crisis rent or medicine payments can be provided for families with children. And on occasion, we have been purchased a tire for a stranded motorist, kerosene heat for someone living in a camper, a bus ticket for a woman escaping a violent relationship ... even a GED test opportunity for a job-seeker.
Most importantly, our ministry is to show the love and mercy of Christ to everyone we see. We never forget that we are all in poverty of spirit without Jesus.
The Food Pantry is based on the recipient’s last
name and is available on the scheduled Monday
or Wednesday from 11-1. Produce is usually
available on Fridays at 10:00am.
SAM has a large food pantry that supports a
“you shop” distribution of food. Approximately
250 families a month come and shop in the pantry
for produce, staple items, meat, bread and baked
goods. Many seniors on fixed incomes are regular
recipients of the Food Pantry service each month.
For Upcoming Pantry Dates: Click Here
The food comes from several places, including our great giving neighbors:
* Sunday School classes, civic clubs and people who have extra garden vegetables
all give generously
* Every year, the USPS Mail Carriers collect canned and boxed food from customers.
"STAMP OUT HUNGER" delivers to SAM about 12,000 pounds of food.
* The Boy Scouts also have a food drive for us each year. SAM benefits by about 2,000
pounds of food from their efforts.
* Walmart, as part of FEED AMERICA and in partnership with the East Tennessee
Second Harvest Food Bank, donates produce, baked goods and bread, two
or three times a week.
* We purchase about 10,000 pounds of food each month from East Tennessee Second
Harvest Food Bank.
In an effort to better serve you we will adjust the time beginning in April. NEW TIME IS 10-12.
We have known "Carla" for quite some time. Her husband abandoned the family several months ago. She is struggling o care for her 2 small children on minimum wage. Now she is battling a serious illness, and must miss work for doctor appointments. And buying gas to travel to all those appointments is expensive. Carla comes to SAM for food when things get tight. And we recently paid her rent.
"Mack" shuffled slowly into the office, leaning heavily on his cane and beside himself with grief and fear. His wife of many years was in the hospital. She would be home soon but he was in jeopardy of losing his utilities. His fixed income disappeared quickly under the burden of extra trips to visit his wife and new expensive medications. SAM was able to pay the utility bill and keep his power on.
Ministerial Association's Concern
The Sweetwater Ministerial Association began, in the mid-1990s, to discuss how they might together meet the benevolence needs in our area. The members – local pastors – were concerned about transients and those living in our community who were facing crises they could not manage. The Association held a few public meetings at City Hall and received lots of input into how these needs could be addressed most efficiently.
Sweetwater Area Ministries (SAM) was birthed from the Association’s discussions. It became a separate organization on its own, with a 15-member board of directors. The bylaws, guidelines, 501(c)3 filing and Tennessee registration were completed and SAM became an official not-for-profit organization in 1997. SAM is a Christian faith-based ministry, and exercises that freedom in all aspects of its ministry. Today, the board still is comprised of several pastors, as well as community members.
From Idea to Reality
Director Judy Dover and many volunteers from the community brought the initial ministry into reality. A small block building whose purchase was financed by a benefactor, Carroll Brown, became the SAM Thrift Store, from which the needs of people in crisis were addressed. Primarily, those physical needs were clothing, household items, food, medicine, utility bill assistance, and overnight lodging for transients. This continues to be a central part of SAM’s benevolence ministry.
A Major Move to Expand
Karen Orr became Executive Director in 2007, and soon a new location was purchased. The former Newman’s Food Center was large enough for significant growth of the Thrift Store, but needed significant renovation. In 2009 the community came together to build. Under experienced leadership, over fifty volunteers worked for two months. New offices were built, storage areas were thoroughly scrubbed, and lots of paint was applied. Eventually, refrigeration units and storage spaces behind the Store were renovated to form the food pantry.
God has sent many people from our community to minister to one another at SAM. The Thrift Store draws many customers, and it successfully finances the overhead expenses of our Benevolence ministries. We began with monthly support from local churches and individuals, some of which continues. In recent years, we have also received funding for Benevolence programs from United Way, American Family, ETN Foundation, and others.
1. The Board
Roland Lange, Wayne Key, Grant Hickey, Martha Moree, Gaye Mozart (Chairperson), Perry Jackson, Bob Fugit, JoAnna Jinks, Collin Wilson, Charlie Price, Krista McMahan, Fred Seals and Greg Cleveland.
Sweetwater Area Ministries Board members serve without pay, from a desire to answer the call of Jesus Christ to "Feed My sheep."
2. Leadership Team
Nick Haas Executive Director
Connie Blomstrom Benevolence Coordinator & Food Pantry Coordinator
Eric Nelson Manager
3. Staff and Volunteers
The Pantry Volunteers
Many people volunteer their time at least once a month, to keep the shopping process going smoothly for up to 70 people in a week.
The Thrift Store Volunteers
Staff and volunteers sort and process donations, clean and repair things when necessary, keep the merchandise current, and maintain a clean, well-run store.
To help guide individuals and families toward a better life with freedom, dignity, and responsibility regardless of race, creed, or color.
Is driven by the mandate of the Gospel of Jesus Christ , to care for those in need to make disciples for Jesus Christ
Development, not Dependency
SAM is committed to charitable efforts that develop and empower, rather than merely provide and allow dependency. Having pioneered asset-mapping and needs self-assessment in our community, we are using the demographics collected to help us determine future plans and programs. Forsaking the "givers-and-takers" mentality, we are involving the people of our community at all economic levels in the process of planning how to alleviate the needs.