By AT News Team, Jan. 21, 2015: On Martin Luther King Day, approximately 50 Southern Adventist University students volunteered as shopping attendants in a “Street Store” for homeless residents of Chattanooga, TN. The students partnered with the Salvation Army to launch the area’s first Street Store. “Street Stores are sidewalk pop-up shops that offer free clothes to the homeless, providing them with a dignified shopping experience as they try on and select their own garments,” explained The Chattanoogan.
“We go out every year on Martin Luther King Day and serve the community,” Dora Desamour told WDEF 12, the local CBS affiliate. Desamour is director of Southern University’s Christian Service department. “We’re always looking for new and different ways to serve,” she stated.
University student and event planner Ana Fuentes said the Street Store “celebrated King’s spirit of service,” reported the Times Free Press. “They don’t really get a dignified shopping experience,” said Fuentes, “so I guess looking them in the face, asking them what their name is, shaking their hands, hugging them is a way of serving them and showing Christ’s love as well.”
Kimberly George of the Salvation Army was pleased to partner with the university. “Southern Adventist University came to us and asked if they could do a street store to serve the homeless clientele we have, and so we gladly accepted. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the homeless to shop for their items,” George told WDEF 12. She noted, “The homeless have been thrilled. They say they’ve not ever had an experience where they’re able to shop for sizes, colors of clothing, and someone else takes an interest in them.”
City officials say more than 4,000 individuals experience homelessness each year in Chattanooga and that each night an estimated 400 to 500 people either sleep on the street or in shelters, reported The Chattanoogan.
In addition to this one-day event, Southern Adventist University has an on-going relationship with The Samaritan Center in Ooltewah, TN.