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Volunteers spend days being good neighbors

Farragut resident Dee Steimer and Lenoir City resident Roberta Burwell may come from two different communities, but they are united by a common cause.

The Good Neighbors Shoppe Inc., an upscale resale store at 320 Leeper Park in Lenoir City, is the cause that unites these two women in spiritual sisterhood. The store will celebrate its four-year anniversary this month.

Burwell, founder of the Shoppe, said the store serves the needs of the community. The store holds a large quantity of items ranging from shoes for children, clothing, books, paintings and even a few antiques.

“We have fifty-percent off sales going on all the time,” Steimer said.

“What sets us apart from other resale stores is that we give away all that we make,” Burwell said. “God has really blessed us in our growth.”

Store statistics show the Good Neighbor Shoppe made almost $50,000 in 2002, its first year of business. In 2003, it made a little more than $65,000 and grew to almost $100,000 in 2004. This past year the store brought in a little under $140,000.

Steimer, president of the board that oversees the Shoppe, said a lot of the money remains in the local community. The store makes donations to local groups and even helps individuals.

“We sponsor two women right now who are going to Roane State Community College,” she said.

Steimer, who has a background in retail management, said the store is able to maintain such a low overhead due to the fact it is manned entirely by volunteers.

“We have about two-hundred volunteers,” she said. “They work in two shifts per day.”

“Dee has asked the board members to be responsible for organizing two of the departments in the store,” Burwell said. “That way we tend to stay ahead of the flow of goods.”

The items for the store come in from a variety of sources, Burwell said.

Some come from individuals while others come from churches after they have garage sales.

Steimer said not all the items that come into the store are put out for sale. They tend to use only the higher quality items.

“We only put out the best of what we have,” Steimer said. “We feel people are so kind enough to donate the items that we don’t get rid of anything. Anything we can’t use is donated to other groups that may have a use for it.”

Burwell said she and her husband, Gene, started the store when she was president of the Good Samaritan Center in Lenoir City.

“There were just so many needs that were not being met,” she said.

Burwell said the first store was on Broadway in Lenoir City in a 99-year-old building with very limited parking.

Steimer said she began working with them as a volunteer in that old store and decided to put her retail background to use to benefit the resale store.

“I really love this kind of work,” she said.

Burwell said the store gets a lot of referrals from area churches and the Good Samaritan Center.

These individuals come into the store and are allowed to get items at lower than normal prices.

“We want to help the people that normally fall through the cracks,” Burwell said.

Both women said they intend to continue to work with the store.

“It’s hard to put into words how working here makes you feel,” Steimer said. “It’s a great feeling knowing in your heart that you have helped people. God wants us to help others and that’s what we do.”


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