Operation Sharing Tennessee warehouse in Oneida
A charity with a quarter-century track record in Appalachia is making a difference here in East Tennessee.
"I help load trucks and unload and paint and clean, whatever needs to be done," volunteer Donny Morrow explained.
He added flipping burgers to his duties Thursday at an open house for Operation Sharing Tennessee.
The Christian organization accepts donated goods from companies then distributes those free products to people in need.
"We cannot receive money for any of the goods or anything. What we receive out of it is a blessing," General Manager Bob Smith said.
The organization receives a lot of products from consistent donors. Those include MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) Gatorade, Powerade, and Propel.
But day to day, they never know what is going to show up at their warehouse in Oneida.
"It's like Christmas here every day. I get a truck, and I never know what's in there until I open the back end," Smith said with a laugh. "For instance, right now we have sinks out there, and they're cast iron, Kohler sinks."
He said Habitat for Humanity homes will get those.
"Our job here is to get those items out to the people who need it," Smith said.
All the donated products go to non-profit organizations like schools, law enforcement groups, and many churches.
Donny Morrow's church, Salem Baptist, accepts a truckload of goods once a month.
"A lot of it goes to the church members, they take it themselves." Morrow said. "Then if there's someone needy we know of, we give it to them. It gets to help a lot of people."
Operation Sharing opened the warehouse in Oneida 15 months ago, as the unemployment rate started to climb.
"Couldn't have been at a better time," Morrow said.
The timing is not lost on Bob Smith.
"We just recently had Hartco shut down, so my job now is to try to provide even more products and more food and water that I can get to them," Smith said.
Keeping Operation Sharing running is truly a community effort. Several banks pay the electric bill for the warehouse, Smith said. The warehouse itself belongs to food distributor H.T. Hackney Company, which rents it to the organization for a dollar.
The people who receive the free products are grateful. And those who volunteer to distribute them are thankful for the opportunity.
"A lot of blessings. A lot of people get a lot of good blessings out of this," Morrow said.
"Anybody that we can help, that's our goal. That's what we want to do," Smith said.
In the past 25 years, Operation Sharing has given away more than a billion dollars worth of stuff. It is part of the Christian Appalachian Project, a non-denominational service charity.
The Oneida location is at 200 Jellico. Donations and appointments can be arranged by calling 423-286-3300. Operation Sharing is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.