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New Samaritan House to continue to “share love of Christ” with families in need

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Carson-Newman President Randall O’Brien congratulates Jean-Ann Washam, director of Appalachian Outreach, at the dedication of a new Samaritan House Family Ministries facility. A number of community supporters, donors and volunteers from churches across the state attended the December event.

Story by Stephen Marion

Hundreds of volunteers, dozens of donors, and thrift store funds raised a dime and a quarter at a time.

The opening of a new Samaritan House Family Ministries building in Jefferson City is about all that. But it’s also about an eight-year-old girl.

She’s the one Appalachian Outreach Director Jean-Ann Washam remembered whenever she was knee deep in responsibilities associated with construction.

“I remember it was about this time of year, with Christmas on the way,” Washam said at the dedication of the new building. “She was so worried about where she was going to live. I remember looking at her face, and I was broken at that moment. At eight years old, you shouldn’t be worrying about where you’re going to live.”

The little girl, like hundreds of other like her, had a place at Samaritan House.

Ten years later, she returned. She was graduating high school and entering Carson-Newman College, where she graduated.

“She’s a reminder of the work we’re doing,” said Washam.

After 25 years, Samaritan House Ministries, an auxiliary ministry of Carson-Newman, is moving from its little white house in downtown Jefferson City to a new facility four times bigger, complete with a community room for gatherings, trails, a prayer garden, and the only geothermal heating and cooling unit in the nation that makes use of an abandoned mine shaft.

Volunteers, donors, and community members toured the building during its dedication, Saturday afternoon, December 1. Some included volunteers from churches across the state — and out of state — who had worked on the project.

“I cannot say thank you enough,” Washam told the gathering. She also reminded them that there’s still plenty of work to do. “We have four times the space, so now there will be four times the work to do,” she said. “We’d love to have more volunteers.”

Carson-Newman President Randall O’Brien said the new house is the work of God — “but isn’t it wonderful how God uses people to accomplish His means?”

Located on 10.2 acres that was donated, the new two-story building has four family suites, a bunk room for single women, a handicapped unit, two small efficiency apartments for overnight staff, a commercial kitchen, a large activity room, and other features. It cost about $950,000 to build, but without all the donations and volunteer labor the price tag could easily have topped $2 million.

“Our purpose is to reach out to families in crisis,” said Washam. “We share the love and caring of Christ by helping them meet their physical needs — a place to stay and hot meals. And we offer classes in life skills to help them get back on their feet to stay.”

The 12,600 square foot structure isn’t all new. It also includes the old oak mantels from the original location. They will “remind us of where we started and why we started,” said Washam. The mantels represent 25 years of evening talks and devotionals, 25 years of families working together on new beginnings.

Appalachian Outreach gets all its support from local churches, individuals, and Carson-Newman students. It started as a home repair ministry for poor families, but has grown to include Samaritan House, Second Source thrift store, and other activities.

Sonny Strange, chair of the thrift store board, and pastor of Jefferson City’s Emmanuel Baptist Church, reports that about $750,000 of the cost of the new house was generated by Second Source, which also donates $5,000 per month to Appalachian Outreach operations.

“From the beginning, it was our goal to help build a new Samaritan House,” he said. “It’s just a phenomenal story of community involvement on every level. The community really built this house — for the community.”

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