At middle, from left, Susan Rule, Mary Lockett and Ellyn Lancaster shared the scissors to cut the ribbon on the Good Samaritan Ministries new center in Piney Flats. (Sue Guinn Legg/Johnson City Press)
A crowd of more than 70 Good Samaritan Ministries’ supporters gathered at the ministry’s new social services and veterans employment training center in Piney Flats Friday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, tours and a lunch to celebrate the facility’s launch.
Set to open Sept. 2, the new 8,750-square-foot center at 331 Industrial Park Road will provide low-income residents of the rural Piney Flats, Bluff City and western Carter County communities convenient access to a emergency food pantry and the broad range of social services Good Samaritan provides.
The Rev. Elizabeth Rudesill, director of social services for Good Samaritan Sullivan County, said the ministry’s hope is that the center will serve as gathering place for residents to come together to not only to meet individual needs to address the needs of community as a whole.
“This is a great community with a lot to offer,” she said.
In addition to Rudesill and receptionist Stephany Lattany, the center will be staffed by a team of full-time social workers, social work interns from East Tennessee State University and community volunteers.
By early fall the center will also house two nonprofit, online businesses through which veterans and others with barriers to employment will receive paid, on-the-job employment training and assistance moving into other permanent employment — the Good Samaritan Ministries eBay Store selling high end donations received by the ministry, and Gifts from Heaven, a custom-designed gift basket delivery service.
The new Veterans Assistance & Employment Alliance training program has been named in honor of the late W. Hanes Lancaster Jr. and his wife Barbara in recognition of financial support from their estate gifted to the ministry by their daughters, Susan Rule Black, Ellyn Lancaster and Mary Lockett, to make the program possible.
Surrounded by Good Samaritan’s board members, representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, the United Way and other nonprofit service agencies that regularly work in partnership with the ministry, the Lancaster sisters together cut a red ribbon to ceremonially open the center on Friday.
The building was provided to the ministry at no cost by the neighboring BIS (Business Information Systems) technology company whose owners, Garry Shipley and Chris Laisure, partnered with Good Samaritan to fulfill their long held desire to serve the community where their business is based.
In addition to a free lease, BIS will also provide utilities, internet and technical support for the center, including development of the computer programs on which its new businesses and social service office will operate.
“It’s a beautiful dream for us,” Good Samaritan Executive Director Sarah Wells.
Beginning Sept. 2, the center will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. - noon and 12:30 - 3:30 p.m. Those in need of its assistance may call 928-0288 for appointments or more information.
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