Craig Harris/Macon County Times Courtney Brown sets up product at one of the Lafayette-area fireworks tents operated by the Hartsville Church of God.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Courtney Brown sets up product at one of the Lafayette-area fireworks tents operated by the Hartsville Church of God.

The Hartsville Church of God has figured a way to avoid holding numerous fundraisers throughout the course of the year.

To do so, certain members of the church hang out in tents.

For the fourth consecutive year, the church has worked a fireworks stand in the vicinity of the Lafayette Walmart.

In years past, the organization's tent was actually located in the parking lot of Walmart. This year, they are located nearby, beside the parking lot of the Swifty gas station.

It's actually the 13th consecutive year that there has been a church-operated tent in Lafayette. It started out with the Lafayette Church of God, which current Hartsville Church of God Pastor Break Patterson was a part of at that time. Lafayette Church of God operated the tent for nine consecutive years.

"We've had customers come back every year that remember the first year," Patterson said.

The product is provided by TNT Fireworks.

Hartsville Church of God received its $32,000 supply of fireworks on June 22, opened for business at 8 a.m. the next day, and will sell through July 5.

Prior to operating a fireworks tent, the church attempted to raise money through bake sales, potluck dinners and donations from organizations.

"Instead of doing potlucks and bake sales where you make a couple of hundred dollars, TNT sent a mailer to non-profits in this area, and they saw it as a way to not nickel and dime it," Patterson explained.

This is actually the first year that the church has operated two fireworks tents, with the other being located near Macon Motorsports and Accessories (which is located at 757 Hwy 52 Bypass West in Lafayette).

"It's all volunteers from within the church," Patterson said. "We do a schedule like any business.

"You have to have two people here around the clock."

Patterson's wife, Sondra, and Renee Blackwell are the tent managers. They utilize the services of approximately 25 volunteers.

"You get call-ins like a regular job for sickness," Breck Patterson said. "But all of our schedules overlap.

"Just having the commitment to give of their free time… it's one of the biggest holidays of the year … people want to be at the lake, but they give of their time. I think that they just love the interaction with people. It's real people meeting real people. They love meeting new faces."

Last year's sales were the most profitable yet.

"We'll get the Uncle Sam's costume out, and we have the sign to flip," Patterson said.

While the church doesn't use the tents as witnessing tools, it has made an impact nonetheless.

"It seems crazy that you can do this for 12 years," Patterson said. "They love it. It's the people that they meet. We don't pass out any church literature. TNT is pretty strict. There's no add-on sales. We don't sell snow cones or anything like that.

"It's people seeing you out in the community and getting to know you. I've had people call me to officiate weddings or with prayer requests who don't know us from anywhere but the fireworks stand."

The church is located 50 Fort Blount Rd. in Hartsville, in the northeastern part of Trousdale County and only miles from the Trousdale County/Macon County line. Patterson says that the congregation is a 50-50 mix of individuals from Trousdale County and Macon County.

Because the church is a non-profit organization, the sales from their fireworks tents are tax-free.

In past years, the proceeds from the firework sales have helped to fund the church's food pantry, youth trips, mission trips to the Smoky Mountain Children's Home in Sevierville, and local outreach.

"Here, people are getting a product without having to make a donation," Patterson said. "By doing this, we don't constantly come before our congregation asking for donations to our food pantry or for mission trips."