Beginnings: Samaritans Gather in Hendersonville
by Jamie Clary
The revenue from the Thrift Store offered additional opportunities for the pastors, the means to do more for the truly needy people than give them food and clothing. With the money, the pastors created the Neighborhood Center, headed by Elizabeth Wallace, to handle the social work. Wallace, actually an employee of the Mid-Cumberland Community Action Agency, began coming to Hendersonville in 1972, working out of her car and later out of Kermit Clark's insurance office. She gradually became a full-time employee in Hendersonville, spending much of her time making home visits to determine the needs of people asking for help.
The concept for the center is to have a central location for people in need to turn. With guidance from a set of policies, the staff determines who gets assistance and keeps records of what help was given. That keeps the organization from developing long-term relationships with those who need help, and it protects churches and organizations from being taken advantage of by people asking each one for help.
Other people vital to the efforts of the pastors association were Urso Gonzales, Bill Hodde, Maureen Barrett and Dick Waggener. Gonzales, a retired director of a welfare office in Arkansas, volunteered her counseling skills in 1975 and gradually became a full-time employee. Hodde, as a volunteer, worked with Gonzales to begin HomeBound Meals, also know as Meals on Wheels, in 1982. During the first year, they delivered six meals weekly to twenty-five people who were unable to provide meals for themselves. Most were elderly. Six years later, with the help of regular volunteers like Lillian Fries, Dick Newton, Harold Martin and Ruth Faulkner, HomeBound Meals was delivering seven hundred meals during some months.
Waggoner's role was that of executive director of the Community Pastors. He took that paid role in 1983, administering the will of the member churches. Barrett began her involvement in 1974 as a volunteer at the Thrift Store. As the treasurer for the the store since that year, she witnessed the gifts the store was able to provide to the outreach of the community Pastors. Barrett says that during 1974, the Thrift Store gave $1,400 to the Neighborhood Center. In 1988 the amount was $14,000, generated from store revenues of $63,800. Between 1974 and 1996 the Thrift Store handed over $700,000 for the projects of the organization, allowing, among other deeds, for the Neighborhood Center to give away vouchers at local grocery stores, distribute commodities from the federal government, cover electric bills and pay rent, ever mindful not to develop long-term dependent relationships with those needing help.
All together the Community Pastors Association was Hendersonville's most comprehensive effort toward Christian service. "I think we did well with our influence," comments Wilson after noting that churches were the largest gathering spots except schools. But, he adds, "we never imagined what would happen." In addition to the efforts mentioned above, the Community Pastors also sponsored ecumenical Good Friday services since 1972 and community Thanksgiving services since 1970, emphasizing further the similarities of the community churches.
In the fall of 1994 the pastors handed over the administration of their efforts to a volunteer board of community leaders, taking the name Hendersonville Samaritan Association. Its purpose is to help families in need get through a crisis that is unusual to their lifestyle, and then to assist them in becoming self-sufficient. The Samaritan Thrift Store continues to be the primary contributor of income for HSA
The History of the Hendersonville Samaritan Association and the Community Pastors Association was used with permission as an excerpt from "The City by the Lake: A History of Hendersonville from 1968 to 1988." The book has been written and copyrighted by Jamie Clary.