With its thrift store reopening this month after COVID-19 interrupted business in early spring, Hearts and Hands Scholarship Fund is full speed ahead with its mission of financial support for students in Townsend.

The nonprofit, started by Dorothy Storey in 1993, has given away $300,000 in scholarships to residents in this small Blount County community nestled against Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was Storey who held a rummage sale at her own home those many years ago and donated the proceeds to the scholarship effort.

The Hearts and Hands Scholarship Fund Thrift Shoppe is at 120 Tiger Drive in Townsend. It opened in May 2018 with staffing by Hearts and Hands and volunteers. Its proceeds go to fund the scholarships. Last year, 20 students were selected.

Deb Huber is thrift store manager and also serves as volunteer training coordinator with Nancy Blachowski. President of Hearts and Hands is Sandy Headrick. Cindy Cutting is treasurer, while Deb Dickie is secretary. Susan Pasquini oversees the internet presence and financial responsibilities. Prints manager is Gayle Girard.

Storey was a retired teacher who saw a need to come alongside her fellow Townsend residents and provide assistance so more could afford college. Mary Ann Ashworth and Grace Jones were also instrumental in getting this scholarship effort started. Huber said there are only two requirements in order to be considered for a scholarship.

“You have to be a resident with the 37882 home address and go to an accredited school,” she said. That can include two-year institutions, vocational or technical schools and universities, she said. Huber added that individuals are eligible for up to six years of assistance.

“It now takes longer for some to get through school,” she said.

These scholarships aren’t just for 2020 high school graduates. Anyone who wants to go to college and lives in Townsend may apply.

“You can be 80 and going to college,” Huber said. “You can be 40. There is no age limit.”

Each student who is selected for the Hearts and Hands Scholarships will receive $1,500 for the academic year. Last year alone, that amounted to $31,000 that was dispersed by this organization. Each year there is a Dorothy Storey Scholarship awarded to a student who demonstrates community spirit through volunteering.

Storey passed away in 2015 at the age of 90. The scholarship is a way to pay tribute to the woman who had the vision to start the successful program.

Huber said she and the others on the board are grateful the thrift store will be able to reopen. They have definitely missed the revenue as well as those who donate items.

Ready for customers

“The locals are amazing,” Huber said. She said many come on a regular basis to shop but to also provide items to be sold. She said tourists have also found a great place to shop.

“People hear about us and come all the way from Knoxville, Sevierville, Gatlinburg and, of course, Maryville,” Huber said. “Once they come, they come back. It is just amazing. People comment it is the nicest shop they have been to.”

The store cleans and sanitizes everything, Huber said. The list of things found there can include anything from baby items to china, sports equipment and artwork.

The building is the former location of the Mary E. Tippitt Memorial Library. It is just off the main highway through town.

Lots of people in the community are aware of the generosity of Hearts and Hands. For years, it held rummage sales, white elephant sales, bake sales and the like. It even sold cookbooks.

In recent years, events like the Smoky Mountain Crawl have given some of its proceeds to the cause. Just recently, Hearts and Hands was the recipient of a generous donation by a veteran. Donation jars continue to be set up at Townsend businesses.

Huber said it’s teachers many times who stumble into the thrift store only to realize what the funds will go for.

“They are impressed with what we are able to do,” Huber said. “They donate items and also spend money with us. They buy stuff for their classrooms and clothes for their clothing closets.”

It’s hard to make your way around Townsend and not meet someone who has been the recipient of one of these scholarships, or at least someone in their family, Huber said. But, there are new families moving in and those who just haven’t gotten the word. It is those people Hearts and Hands wants to reach.

As of June 17, the 2020 scholarship recipients hadn’t been selected. The deadline for applying was moved to June 30 due to the pandemic. Huber said it’s always exciting to be able to give to those wanting to improve their lives through education.

Over the years, students have gone on to become nurses, educators, musicians and business leaders, Huber said. One is working on his medical degree.

“The students have become so successful,” she said. “They work hard.”

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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