Ladies of Charity of Knoxville seeks to help those with emergency, that is immediate, needs: the under-served, unemployed, and underemployed, regardless of race, creed, color, or country of origin.
At Ladies of Charity, you will find the Emergency Assistance Center and Food Pantry, the Thrift Shop, and Furniture Warehouse Store all working smoothly under one roof. The daily duties are performed by a few employees and countless volunteers, and the organization operates under the direction of a Governing Board of Directors elected by the LOC Membership with committee appointments by the President of the Board.
LOC operates on revenue from Thrift Shop & Warehouse Store sales, United Way of Greater Knoxville and community grants, and private donations from churches, groups and individuals, as well as in-kind donations from local businesses, community groups, church clubs, and individuals. LOC also has several fundraisers throughout the year.
The Ladies of Charity was founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1617 in Lyons, France. Poverty, sickness, and great hardships were rampant among the general populace in the city and villages. St. Vincent, as parish priest, had heard of a family in desperate need and preached to his congregation about those needs. They responded with such multiple generosities that St. Vincent realized extensive charity must be organized so valuable donations not be wasted. St. Vincent’s friend and zealous “soldier of Christ,”, Louise de Marillac, led the “ladies of charity” to be approved and officially organized in 1629 to react to and respond to that poverty of health, wealth, and spiritual destitution (as they had been since 1617).
Louise and her “ladies” helped distribute what was donated with home visits to the needy. St. Vincent de Paul began the Ladies of Charity organization, and Louise de Marillac maintained it and recruited, caring for the poor and sick until her death in 1660.
The first association of the Ladies of Charity in the United States was established in 1857 in St. Louis, Missouri. By 1934 there were 2,500 associations throughout the world. Today, there are over 260,000 members worldwide. During World War II, Oak Ridge, TN became home to the atomic project, causing many to lose their homes to make room for the facilities. As these families came to Knoxville, many were unable to find employment or their men were serving in the armed forces. The Ladies of Charity was organized in Knoxville in 1942 with 175 members volunteering to provide necessities for the needy. During that time a close affiliation was formed with St. Mary’s Hospital, and Holy Ghost Church served as host for meetings, activities, dispersal of donations, and storage.
In 1957, the Knoxville association became affiliated with the National Ladies of Charity Association with the belief that to continue the mission there would be “great unity and strength in pooling their collective wisdom, inspiration and dedication.” The Knoxville association has undergone many changes over the decades, becoming a community partner of United Way in 1982. In 2009, the current location of Ladies of Charity was purchased, and it opened to the public on March 21, 2011. With over 400 members, Ladies of Charity Knoxville continues to grow and serve in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Plans are underway for the 75th anniversary of the Knoxville association, shared with the 400th anniversary of the Ladies of Charity worldwide in 2017!