"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" - 1 Corinthians 1:18.
A large, elaborately-fashioned metal cross hung on the side of the downtown building where Oasis of Kingsport now resides long before volunteer and organizer Kermit Addington ever considered the space to house the women's ministry.
"We saw the cross and we said 'man, this is going to be our new home,'" said Oasis volunteer Dianne Scott.
The Oasis of Kingsport, which just opened at 1009 East Sullivan Street in Downtown Kingsport on June 16, is a gathering place for all women and children (including boys 10 and under), offering services to promote self-sufficiency and empowerment.
"The Oasis provides access to what many would consider a luxury - clean clothes and personal hygiene," Scott said.
The non-profit, volunteer-based organization is modeled after The River, a women's ministry in Johnson City. The Oasis is a safe haven for women to shower, do laundry, participate in daily devotions, send and receive mail, job search, read, pray, take self-sufficiency classes (like healthy cooking classes in the on-site kitchen), make crafts, have a cup of coffee or, as Oasis volunteer Dianne Blachowski put it, just "come and hang out."
The unique women's ministry also benefits other non-profit programs of its kind. The women of Oasis may wash up to two loads of laundry a day at 25 cents per load, Scott said. The money goes to local charities, so "they're paying it forward."
Scott and Blachowski said they were both involved with the project early on with Addington, whom they attributed as the driving force of the organization.
"We didn't have anything at the time except the desire to do something," Addington explained. "We wanted to bridge the gap between existing social services and local ministries for women with the services we offer."
The three volunteers have been instrumental in the evolution of Oasis since work began on the former hair salon three months ago. "It has come together rather quickly," Scott said.
At least 20 volunteers have joined the mission and rallied support from local businesses, like Lowe's and Home Depot, and at least 10 churches in the community (so far), who have donated items like laundry supplies, washers and dryers, furniture for the meeting area, toys for the children's play area and an old church pew for the prayer chapel in the corner of the building.
"We're truly blessed," Scott said. "It's just been an outpouring of interest in the community and support for this ministry."
The hope is to continue to gain volunteer assistance and donations (both monetary and material), and to partner with many more churches and local businesses in the future as Oasis of Kingsport continues to grow, Blachowski said. "We're encouraging all churches to be involved. It's a community involvement, not a specific church, a specific religion."
"What we're hoping is that this will be a place [women] will have a community," Scott said. "They'll be able to gain support... to learn from each other."
The Oasis of Kingsport is open 9 a.m. to 12 noon on weekdays and hours will increase as needed. Women can register for services at the front desk. For a list of items to donate or to volunteer, visit them on Facebook, online at www.theoasisofkingsport.com or call 423-967-8969.