published Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Fireworks and faith

  • photo
    Ruth Cox and her great-grandson, Tyler Layman, shop for fireworks Tuesday at a tent on U.S. 27 in Rhea County, Tenn. The tent is run by volunteers from the Pentecostal Worship Center, which is located in Spring City, Tenn. The church funds programs with money raised in the fireworks tents.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

For Ruth Cox to buy fireworks, it almost takes an act of god.

You could argue that her purchases Tuesday were just that.

The Dayton Mountain, Tenn., resident's great-grandson insisted they stop by the red-and-white striped tent on U.S. Highway 27 just south of Dayton. Unable to recall ever purchasing the requisite Fourth of July centerpieces, she said, Cox found herself buying almost $30 worth of fireworks for her and her grandson.

Her money is just a portion of the funding that now will go toward sustaining programs at Pentecostal Worship Center in Spring City, Tenn., which is why Cox bought them.

"Lots of people in the church need help," she said. "I know it's going for a good cause."

For 20 years, Pentecostal Worship Center, located at 25000 Rhea County Highway, has sold TNT Fireworks from Florence, Ala., in a fundraiser that generates enough funding to keep the church afloat.

"It's our biggest fundraiser for the year," said Tom Baumer, the church member who manages the tents. "It's enough to fund our youth programs, feed the hungry, and fund some programs for the elderly."

What originally started as one tent has grown into four over the years because of popularity. This year, two are off U.S. 27 and one is located by the Piggly Wiggly in Spring City, all in Rhea County. The fourth tent is located in LaFollette in Campbell County, Tenn.

Pentecostal Worship Center must purchase its own fireworks, then turn around and sell them to generate funds for the church, Baumer said. Each tent displays hundreds of different types of fireworks, which are sold free of tax, he said.

"We have to go on a bit of faith that they'll sell, and we sell out almost every year," Baumer said.

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