Roger Cunningham was watching the news of the horrific fires in and around Gatlinburg just a year ago. Something inside of him told him that he had to do something. He listened to that inner self and did something.
Roger, who for 25 years has owned The Bed Store, got in touch with the Rotarians in Pigeon Forge who ran the relief shelter known as Boyd’s Bear and donated more than 250 brand new mattresses to those homeless families.
On Wednesday, the Rotary Club of Farragut honored Roger with its most prestigious award – the Shining Light Award, presented annually to a non-Rotarian who exhibits the ideals of Rotary and its Four-Way Test and also serves the community.
Roger, nominated for this honor by Rotarian Bill Nichols, went above and beyond in reaching out to help. The presentation was made by past District 6780 Gov. Jerry Wear, a member of the Rotary Club of Pigeon Forge. Wear coordinated the relief shelter that accepted the mattresses from Roger.
“(Roger) approached us and simply said ‘I have mattresses for these people to sleep on,’” Jerry said. “We didn’t go and ask him. What Roger did was amazing and meant so much to so many of these families that lost everything … and I mean everything.”
Seeing the reality on TV is what triggered all of this.
“I was watching the news and it was so devastating and you could see that these people needed so much help,” Roger said. “I called my leadership team together and we got it done. We like to work behind the scenes and I never expected to be honored for what we did. And I’m sure we didn’t begin to touch the need that was there. But we helped some and I’m very happy we could.”
His company’s philosophy mirrors the requirements for the Shining Light Award. The Bed Store uses TUCK as its operating mantra – Thoughtful, Understanding, Compassionate and Kind. The original Bed Store has grown today to 10 locations spread through Knox, Blount and Loudon counties and a store in Athens.
“I went back to Gatlinburg and just rode around and looked at what happened,” Roger said. “It is absolutely amazing how the fire jumped homes and it’s almost like God would put his hand on one place and then on another to protect it and then in between the houses would be gone, just gone.”
Wear added this to the story: “We received two major shipments of mattresses to provide to our fire families. When one loses everything, their homes, their furniture, all personal property, their job, it is devastating. The quality of the mattresses is excellent,” Wear said. “It is people like Roger who gave our families hope that they will get back on their feet.”