In any given month, the Beacon of Hope Sharing Shop distributes 50 or more toiletry bags to the Vestal community of South Knoxville. 

The need of this community rapidly increased as the COVID-19 pandemic caused food shortages and personal hygiene and toiletry items became more expensive. Beacon of Hope Director Dona McConnell says she’s gotten calls daily, all for items that most of us have in our pantries. 

“‘I don’t know what I’m going to do if you don’t have this stuff,’” McConnell remembers hearing from a community member. “I think (the shortage) made us all appreciate the little things.” 

Those little things make a big impact in the community Beacon of Hope serves. COVID-19 has limited the use of the Sharing Shop; in the past, visitors could come into the building to collect toiletries. Now, McConnell has served the community on a needs basis, and her volunteers have included a toiletry bag in each Food Co-Op box as supplies allow. 

“It has been a lifesaver,” McConnell says. “It means a lot to people. Much more than clothing.” 

In the Vestal community, most residents work minimum wage jobs, and once rent, utilities, gas and other large monthly expenses are covered, it can be hard to feed yourself or a family. Some, McConnell says, can’t afford to pay the $3 to join the Food Co-Op. 

“If you don’t have $3, you’re not going to spend the last of it on toiletries like laundry detergent,” McConnell says.

Each toiletry bag includes personal hygiene staples: shampoo, deodorant, toilet paper, laundry detergent, dishwashing soap and tampons and pads (upon request). In addition to toiletry bags, McConnell has shared paper towels, wipes and other cleaning supplies as they come available. 

McConnell says that toilet paper is one of the most requested items, a demand that has only increased since shortages began earlier this year. Laundry detergent is an underrecognized need. In the past, Beacon of Hope volunteers have partnered with Church Street’s youth and children’s ministries to make large quantities of laundry detergent at a lower cost. With the pandemic, gathering to make detergent has not been possible, causing a further shortage of supplies. 

“It’s something most people have in the closet,” McConnell says. “It’s just something you don’t think about.” 

If you’d like to donate toiletries or food items to Beacon of Hope, please contact Dona McConnell at 599-5047 or by email at To give financially to Beacon of Hope, click here

Upcoming Project Volunteers Needed for:
  • Provide Lunch for Getting Ahead Class: Lunches are needed for our next Beacon of Hope Getting Ahead Class, which begins on Monday, 9/30. If you’re able to provide a dinner for about 10 people, please contact Dona McConnell (865-599-5047). 12 volunteers are needed.
  • Youth Mission BlitzJoin our Youth during Fall Break (October 10-11) for three different mission opportunities. See the front page of this week’s Messenger for more info. Lunch provided, and construction expertise valued (though not necessary for every volunteer opportunity on those days). Contact Jenny Cross at if you would like to volunteer.
  • Provide Dinner for Family Promise: If you are able to provide a dinner October 7 or 8, please contact Susan Fowlkes to help at

  • Trunk or Treat Trunks: Children’s Ministry is gearing up for a great Trunk or Treat on October 27 at 5 pm. We are looking to pack the Magnolia Parking Lot for our kiddos with at least 30 cars. Please contact Katryn Bancroft if you want to join in the fun and decorate your trunk for the festivities (

  • Halloween Carnival at Beacon of Hope: Help provide activities/games, candy for trick or treating, and support on October 29 at 4:00 at Vestal UMC for the kids Beacon of Hope serves in this South Knoxville neighborhood. Please contact Dona McConnell (865-599-5047) if you would like to help.
Ongoing Needs for Volunteers:
Beacon of Hope Sharing Shop — Second and Fourth Thursday of each month at Vestal UMC in South Knoxville (12 pm). Contact Dona McConnell if interested. 

Beacon of Hope Benevolence Volunteers — Meet every Tuesday at Vestal UMC in South Knoxville (12 pm) to provide assistance to our neighbors in South Knoxville. Contact Dona McConnell if interested.



Here’s how you can help at our Sharing Shops currently: 

Beacon of Hope, located at the former Vestal United Methodist Church in South Knoxville, serves Church Street’s neighbors in need through a variety of programs. This week, Beacon of Hope shared a new program with the area’s children: Vacation Bible School.

Along with parents and volunteers from Church Street, children ages 3 and up were engaged with Bible stories, songs, art projects, active lessons, and prayer as they learned more about “Life is Wild; God is Good”, this year’s theme. Enjoy the photo gallery below of kids (and adults!) taking part in this fun 3-day event.

sharing shop logo

Church Street’s Sharing Shops are in need of the following items for the summer months: women’s casual summer clothing and shoes, men’s casual summer clothing and shoes, toilet paper and shampoo. If you are able to share any of these items, please bring them to the Sharing Shops bins on the lower level of the church outside of Parish Hall. If you have questions, you may contact Dona McConnell at 599-5047. Please share these needs with your communities who may be able to contribute.