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By Staff Writer Melanie Lloyd
Printed by The Mountain Press
Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Center Caters to Needs of Widows

James 1:27 says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this; To care for the fatherless and the widows in their affliction.”

Sevier County already has a home for the fatherless, but until recently, widows were left to fend for themselves with minor help from churches and other organizations.

An idea that started eight years ago has now brought forth the Iris B. Vest Widows Home and Ministry Center, a $4 million facility that has 42 living suites. The suites include one bedroom, a private bath, a mini-kitchenette with cabinetry, a sink, apartment size refrigerator and stove, living room and balcony.

“This whole building is paid for by donations and we continue to receive donations, such as the piano that is in the main lobby as well as the chandelier,” said Judi Moore, administrative director of the center.

The center, although sponsored by the Church of God, is available to any widow of a minister or lay person that has a desire to continue ministering to others.

“The women that live here minister to each other, the kids at the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home, the city of Sevierville and anywhere else that there is a need,” Moore said. “When a woman’s husband dies, they often lose their sense of purpose and through the center we give them back that purpose, which is renewed.”

Open in May, the center is currently also housing the office of the International Ministry to Widows for the Church of God.

Through networking and a database, both widow’s ministries and widows are able to share information and coordinate activities such as fellowships and retreats.

“There are 11.5 million widows in the United States and they are in the same predicament as orphans but for some reason, we don’t hear them or see them and they often suffer in silence,” said Moore.

Women at the center are frequently called on to volunteer at the Children’s Home or help out wherever they feel God has given them a gift, mentioned Moore.

“One of our women is a prayer warrior, she loves to pray for others and become an intercessor for them,” Moore said. “Another woman enjoys cooking and is always making special treats for people to enjoy.”

Moore was quick to point out that the center is not an assisted living facility that lets women come and essentially live the last years of their lives in a cocoon.

“We have so much going on around here for the women to participate in,” Moore said. “While participation is not mandatory to live at the center, we find that the women are excited to get out and enjoy things going on around them.”

Aside from the private living facility that each woman has, the center also provides a free laundry facility, a distress call system in each apartment, 24-hour security, a wellness room that will have exercise equipment, postal services, a dining facility, a chapel and a salon and utilities.

“We recently had someone donate a computer to us and we will be teaching the women computer skills that will allow them to e-mail their family and friends,” Moore said.

With all of these amenities, it seems like the price might be more than a widow can handle.

“We have never turned anyone away due to finances,” Moore said. “We make a way for them to be here, whether they pay 10 percent of the price or 100 percent,” Moore said.

According to the operating budget, most widows pay an average of $300 a month and scholarships are available.

There are currently six women living at the center and Moore mentioned there are 15 more women that are potential residents.

“I would be more than happy to go to churches and present practical ways to minister to widows,” said Moore about her efforts to gain awareness about the center.

Moore also mentioned the center is open for tours during regular business hours and welcomes people who would like to get involved in the ministry.

“God has blessed this home by allowing it to be located in Sevierville and we just want to give back to the community,” Moore said.

For more information about the center or to receive an application for occupancy, contact Moore at 1-800-453-9844.

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