PIKEVILLE, Tenn. — You might call it the little church that could.
Lee Station Baptist Church was already providing its community with a clothes closet, a food pantry and an impromptu winter shelter. But the recent gift of a quaint Pikeville home pushed the 60-member congregation to go even further. Dubbed the Lee Station House of Hope, the four-bedroom brick house will serve as a home base for the church's ministry.
The home will house the church's food bank and clothes closet and serve as a shelter for the displaced as well as a place to serve free meals to children and the elderly. An anonymous community member donated the house to the congregation, which will staff the various ministries held there with its volunteers, make repairs to the home and maintain it.
"It feels big, but there's nothing too big for God to do," said church member Rebecca Daughtrey. "If [God] wants us to do it, he's going to make it happen."
And there's a need in Pikeville, in Bledsoe County and across the surrounding area, she said. Nearly one-fourth of the population lives below the poverty line. People are struggling and the church is constantly giving out clothes and food.
"There are days the preacher will call me three or four times to go to the church and get somebody food," Daughtrey said. "So it's obviously a need."
Church members continually hunt for grocery store bargains to stock the food bank -- last week, someone was delivering 300 pounds of chicken after coming across a big sale at the Piggly Wiggly. Members of other churches help stock the shelves, too.
Church members spent the past month or so cleaning the home and making small repairs. It has sat empty for several years. But its previous use as a foster home left it mostly furnished for use as a temporary shelter. The house has a massive yard, two living rooms, a master bedroom and three other bedrooms, each holding two twin beds.
For those seeking respite, the home will be more comfortable than an air mattress in the church's fellowship hall. In the past, the church has temporarily housed evicted families and those displaced by fire and natural disasters. Last winter, Daughtrey and her husband picked up a couple staying in a tent on Signal Mountain amid bitter-cold temperatures.
"There's no way they would have survived," she said.
Aside from the comfort factor, the new home will bring the church's services closer to the people of Pikeville. The town of Lee Station, including Lee Station Baptist Church's main building, sits a few miles south of Pikeville.
"It means we can come here and be part of the city of Pikeville," said Pastor Bill Wolfe. "They can actually come here. We're meeting the needs right here."
That will especially be helpful for the elderly needing pantry items, Wolfe says, and the meals the church will serve children during school breaks. The church's various ministries have served folks from across Bledsoe, Sequatchie and Rhea counties, even from as far away as Soddy-Daisy.
The pastor says he had been praying for a way to expand the church's ministries, a way to get closer to the people in Pikeville, which is about an hour's drive north of Chattanooga. And out of the blue, a woman he knew -- who didn't want to be identified -- decided to deed the home over to the church.
"The Lord has just done so much," Wolfe said.
Pikeville Mayor Phillip Cagle said serving others is just part of the town's culture. With only about 1,600 residents, "everybody knows everybody," he said.
Many of the town's congregations dish out food and clothes to those in need.
"These are big-hearted people around here," he said. "This is the kind of place you want to live."
Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249.
Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...