|Service to others, a vital component of the Christian faith, was embraced at a local level in Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) churches for many years through church-based Dorcas Societies.
Dorcas volunteers gathered regularly to mend donated clothing. They would then either use the clothing to minister to local needs or package it for shipment to places stricken by war, famine, or natural disaster.
For an extended period of time, the Collegedale SDA Church (located in Collegedale, Tennessee) maintained an active Dorcas Society that operated from the oldest building on the Southern Adventist University campus. This small society would eventually become the Samaritan Center we know today.
As time progressed, new approaches to helping local people in crisis were explored, efforts that could unite and magnify the endeavors of multiple churches. In 1981, five area SDA churches decided to combine their church-based community service programs in a centralized location. Construction of a building, located on Old Lee Highway in Ooltewah, Tennessee, began in 1983.
Prominent local businessmen Bill Hulsey, Chick Fleming, Harry Hulsey, and several others were pivotal in guiding this process. Kitty King, the leader of the Collegedale Church's Dorcas Society, also did much to further the cause. Finally, Adventist Community Services (ACS, later to be renamed the Samaritan Center) opened its doors to the public on October 22, 1986.
After nine years, ACS programs and services were prospering so heavily that they overflowed out of the present building and into a series of storage trailers. When the space occupied by a Red Food store in Ooltewah became available, ACS moved to the new location in 1996. The new facility was renamed the Samaritan Center to honor the many community Samaritans who make it possible for the Center to assist people in need by sharing time, money, and donations.
The Samaritan Center employs case workers to determine who is in need of how much assistance, helping people based on their financial situations, not their religious affiliations. The supplies that the Center uses to help others are sometimes purchased with donated funds, sometimes shared by people in the community, and other times collected in drives by area churches, schools, businesses, and other organizations.
The Samaritan Center operates in the spirit of the inn in the biblical story of the Good Samaritan. It is a community resource where individuals and families from more than 70 area agencies, businesses, civic organizations, schools, and churches of all denominations come together to minister to people in crisis.