ROGERSVILLE — The nonprofit Somebody Loves Me Inc. organization, which was known for hosting free item giveaways at a Surgoinsville barn a few years back, has substantially improved the quality of its venue and the quality of its free items.
Gone are the days of giving away rummage sale rejects from a dirt floor barn.
SLM now operates a large warehouse near Rogersville where it receives contributions from multiple Walmart stores in the region of almost new items that customers have returned to the store.
The only condition attached to those Walmart contributions is that SLM must give those items to the needy.
That means no more free-for-all giveaways at the barn — where it was first come, first served, take what you want and as much as you can carry.
Due to the higher quality of its merchandise, these days SLM only provides free items to the needy by referral, usually from Neighborhood Service Centers, Head Start, public schools, community organizations and churches.
For example, this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday SLM will host about 70 pre-registered families for a free clothing giveaway.
Each person gets to pick out seven pairs of socks, a pair of shoes, seven underwear items, three shirts or hoodies, three pairs of pants or skirts, one coat — and for women, three bras and three dresses.
SLM Assistant Director Joni Iley was among several volunteers working at SLM’s warehouse Saturday on Route 70-S near the Route 66-S intersection, sorting through clothing in preparation for this week's giveaways.
Iley told the Times News that SLM has come a long way since its Surgoinsville barn giveaways.
“Originally I went to yard sales and shopped before we started getting donations,” Iley said. “Now we partner with Good360 and we get all of Walmart's returns from four or five stores. Everything in (the current warehouse) is accumulated from five years. I would say 80 percent is Walmart returns — almost new or worn one time. A lot of it that comes in is still new with tags.”
Although there’s a scheduled giveaway event this week, SLM’s programs are ongoing, and they open the doors to the warehouse as needed.
SLM has three referral programs operating year-round including Clothing Our Children, which provides clothing for underprivileged juveniles ages 3-17. Referrals for this program are usually made by a school teacher, principals or a member of the community.
Another SLM program is Christmas for the Children, which was the original mission of the organization and is operated by referral as well. Christmas for the Children provides Christmas gifts to underprivileged children ages 3-17.
The SLM warehouse currently has three stacks of drones about six feet high each, which bodes well for some lucky youngster this Christmas who was wanting a drone from Santa.
The third program provides appliances and housewares for free to families in need, such as house fire victims.
The warehouse currently has a wide variety of mattresses, microwaves, toaster ovens, coffee pots, bedding and other household items.
For more information on how to submit a referral, email Iley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call program co-founder Norma Tremblay at (423) 384-8578.