Tennessee thrift store helps those who dream of college — go.
TOWNSEND, TENNESSEE — More than 20 years ago, Dorothy Storey wanted to help more young people from this little town at the entrance to Smoky Mountain National Park attend college.
She and her friends Grace Jones and Mary Ann Ashworth hosted a rummage sale at Dorothy's house. Community members brought things to sell, and other neighbors bought them.
They gave two small scholarships that year, 1994. It was a pittance, really, says Deb Huber, but they did it. Then, the women crocheted, compiled recipe booklets and created Hearts and Hands Scholarship Fund. There are a lot of families and adults for whom college costs are a far reach.
"They did everything they could think of to make money. They were innovative," says Deb, who has volunteered with Hearts and Hands since 2001. "Dorothy was my buddy. I adored her."
Story has since passed away, but her dream realized lives on, including the one to open a brick and mortar shop.
In May, Hearts and Hands Thrift Shoppe opened on Tiger Drive in Townsend. People from the area bring donations daily, and help out daily. The entire outfit is volunteer run. All proceeds go to the scholarship fund. Throughout the year, they hold raffles for artist-made quilts, prints and other items, keeping that innovation going to get the dream done.
This year, the fund raised $10,700 for scholarships. Through the years, volunteers have raised more than $230,000 total.
Often, recipients are the first in their family to attend college. The rules are pretty simple: The scholarship is for an accredited two- or four-year institution, and they must maintain a C average. The first year is $600, going up $100 each year until graduation. Most are teens, but anyone can go, even part time, or if you're 80, says Deb. There's also a scholarship named for Dorothy, given for community service.
Recipients have gone on to become engineers, owner of a fitness gym, a zookeeper and other careers. One is studying music.
"They find their interests; they find their way," says Deb. "They get out there. They find out."
The shoppe can always use more volunteers.
"It's not politics. It's not religious," says Deb on why she supports it and why many others do, too. "It's totally for the community. This reaches out to everybody."