CareCuts of Knoxville brings sleeping bags, personal care to homeless

Tracy Haun OwensFeature, West Knoxville

Janette Burgin, a vice-president in Regions’ Mortgage division, has been stacking sleeping bags at the bank’s Bearden Hill office since late October. That’s when she put out the call for 350 heavy-duty sleeping bags to be given to homeless people in our community. They’ll be distributed at the next CareCuts of Knoxville event on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Donations poured in from Realtor friends, lending and title companies, friends of friends and other area businesses. The initial goal of 350 was met around Black Friday, but the need is ongoing, Burgin says.

“We could use 500,” she says.

The not-for-profit CareCuts of Knoxville was established 32 months ago by hairstylist Martha LaRue Baker. Every month, volunteer barbers, stylists, manicurists and other personal-care professionals meet on West Fifth Avenue near downtown to donate haircuts, color, manicures and more to the area’s homeless. An army of volunteers serves meals, washes clothes and helps with other tasks. Burgin says one of the most valuable services the organization provides is the opportunity to get to know the people it serves on a one-on-one basis.

“The needs of the homeless community are so varied,” she says. “It takes several different approaches” to meet their needs. There are people trapped in bad circumstances and running into a lack of affordable housing; there are others struggling with problems of addiction, mental illness or PTSD. By hearing their stories, the volunteers can help match them into a helping service. Burgin says that of the people who have been served by the group in the past 32 months, more than three dozen are no longer homeless.

Burgin says the Shae Design Studio and the Volunteer Republican Women’s Club are strong supporters of the not-for-profit. Burgin says as word has spread about the sleeping-bag drive, many people have stepped up to help. Laura Slyman and other agents of Slyman Real Estate have been very generous, as have the agents of Coldwell Banker Wallace & Wallace, Realty Executives, Keller Williams and more. Pamela Bull of TN River Realty in Kingston donated 30 sleeping bags.

“We all work together to make this happen,” Burgin says.

The way each CareCuts gathering comes together, she says, “is a total God thing,” as resources materialize just as they are needed. She says CareCuts has a huge need for volunteer stylists, manicurists and other beauty professionals to volunteer each month. Financial donations are also always welcome.

You can drop off or send new, zero-degree sleeping bags to Janette Burgin, Regions Mortgage/Regions Bank, 151 Major Reynolds Place, Knoxville, TN 37919. To donate or get more info, visit the CareCuts website or the group’s Facebook page.



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