The word ecumenical refers to Christian unity, people of faith cooperating. That's just what's happening in Oak Ridge at the Ecumenical Storehouse. It's a place filled with furniture and people of faith.
"We collect, store, and distribute used household goods to those in the need in the five county area that we serve. Basically everything you need to set up minimal housekeeping except food and clothes," Bill Wilson said.
Bill Wilson is a member of First Christian Church, one of almost a dozen churches that rotate volunteer staffing duties at the Ecumenical Storehouse in Oak Ridge.
"When we started it back in 1984 we recognized that there was no place where the people of Appalachia could go to get this kind of service. So we decided to focus simply on household goods and leave the food and clothes to other people as there were quite a few organizations doing that," he said.
They serve mostly the chronic poor, abused spouses, and those facing a disaster like a fire, flood, or tornado who live in Anderson, Roane, Morgan, Scott and Campbell Counties.
"I lived in the woods two years. I lost my job," Avery Wilson (no relation )said.
Now Avery Wilson lives in a apartment.
The Ecumenical Storehouse has provided pots and pans and linens and more. This time he needs a mattress and so do a lot of other people.
"Now the particular need is beds. Mattresses and springs. For many, many years Clinton Bedding basically provided our need for those. They went our of business and with them gone we're very short on beds," Bill Wilson said.
Volunteers escort clients through the Storehouse with a checklist of their needs. Each client has been referred by a government, social, or religious organization.
"My basic Christian belief is that we're to love God and serve others and to me this is a beautiful way to serve others," Bill Wilson said.
Avery Wilson said, "It's a blessing to me I really thank them."
Groups from out of state have asked about starting similar programs.
"We've had in fact inquiries from all over the country wanting to know how we set it up and how we operate it because they see the need in their communities," Bill Wilson said.
One inquiry came from a woman in Maine.
"She didn't know if she could get churches in her part of the country to cooperate to do this but she was going to try," he said.
Churches in Oak Ridge tried cooperating and it worked. They continue to work together to provide for those in need at the Ecumenical Storehouse.