It didn’t take long for Caroline Lamar and April Smith to figure out Blount County loves Halloween.

Last year, these two and their volunteers hosted the Family Promise of Blount County’s Spooktacular at the Parkway Drive-in in Maryville. It was a first, so they had no idea if two or 200 people would show up.

Turns out, the lot was full to capacity, at 400 cars. Parents brought their kids, churches loaded up vans full of youth and the fun began. There was trunkful treating, bounce houses, concessions and the showing of two great family movies, “Casper” and “The Goonies.”

Such a great time was held Lamar and Smith knew they wanted to repeat it again this year, only bigger.

So on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 11 and 12, the second annual Spooktacular will get underway, at 7 p.m. each day. The movies being shown are “Scooby-Doo” and “Gremlins.” Families, youth groups and those wanting to celebrate Halloween in a community setting are encouraged to attend. Cost is $30 per car or $100 for a van-load-full.

“It was born out of just wanting to do something as a fundraiser to help the families we serve,” said Smith, program coordinator for Family Promise. “We didn’t really have high expectations.”

But after seeing the turnout, they knew they were on to something. The planing this year included two nights instead of just one. They have also added a food truck and the drive-in has decided to open its concession stand on both nights. A face painter will be there along with the bounce houses and the opportunity to catch the two movies. Lots of candy will certainly be part of the festivities.

Lamar and Smith added that people are welcome to decorate their cars and hand out candy; Family Promise will have volunteers who will see to it that any sweet tooth is satisfied.

As interim executive director of Family Promise, Lamar said the ultimate goal is to continue the organization’s mission of serving homeless families in this community. Family Promise has programs for providing not only emergency shelter but also transitional housing as families prepare for a new life on their own. She said this Halloween event gets people involved that might not otherwise even know about Family Promise.

A caring network of churches

Families who come into emergency shelter stay at host churches. To date, there are 12 such partners, including Beech Grove Baptist, Fairview United Methodist, RIO Revolution, St. Andrew’s Episcopal and St. Paul Lutheran. There are also 15 support churches who volunteer alongside the hosts. They are churches like Blount Community, Faith Promise, Highland Presbyterian, New Providence Presbyterian, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic and Maryville Vineyard.

This nonprofit has been in operation in Blount County for 10 years. It has served more than 300 families since the doors first opened. Family Promise operated for years out of Green Meadow United Methodist Church, but two years ago, a new day center was opened at the former Bungalow United Methodist Church.

It takes community support to keep this mission alive and well, Lamar said. Everyone from Modern Woodmen who provided a donation to cover expenses for this event to the volunteers at each church who cook meals and provide a safe environment. Parkway Drive-in owner Doug Freeman was gracious to allow Family Promise to do this event on two nights this year, Smith and Lamar said.

As they look to the future, Family Promise is finding additional ways to raise money. A thrift store will be part of the program soon.

Roane County is getting ready to open its own Family Promise program. They called upon Family Promise of Blount County to show them how to be successful. Volunteers here have always been willing to do whatever it takes, Lamar said.

And in case anyone wants to know where their donation goes, Smith can tell them.

“It is important for them to know that the money they support us with stays here,” she said. In Blount County. It is not going outside. That makes a difference when we are able to say we are doing this for Blount County.”

Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.

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