Stages West reopens, employees spend year off full of Volunteer Spirit

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PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Often a time to start over, one local business saw their shop go up in flames. It was during their time of rebuilding that they took advantage of an opportunity.

"I'm a third generation owner of Stages West. My parents and grandparents opened up in 1975," said owner Stephen Houser.

More than 40 years after it opened, the shop and its history went up in flames.

"It's one of the most vivid memories that I have," said Houser.

He got a call from his mom at 4 a.m. with the news and then Houser watched the family business destroyed.

"We're just blessed that no one got hurt and that the damage wasn't any more significant than it was," he said.

Out of the ashes came rebirth. Thanks to the insurance policy, Houser rebuilt and is bringing a new, more up to date store for his customers.

His employees have been out of work for a year, but not out of their paychecks. That's thanks again to their insurance policy which allowed the company to keep paying them.

The right thing to do was to give back to the community. Houser instructed his employees to volunteer in their time off.

"It's not just a matter of could, we should. With our values there was no other option," says Houser.

Janniver Majors chose to give her time to the Sevier County Humane Society.

"I've been here for a couple of months since the store had been closed down and under construction, but I'm back at the store," says Majors.

Washing bowls, doing laundry, cleaning cages; all work happily done by this temporarily displaced worker.

"They don't usually do this kind of thing. Usually it's lay offs. This was a blessing because we got to learn things, do different things. I've worked here, the library, food ministries. It's been all a blessing," says Majors.

It's been about a year since the employees over at Stages West have been "out of work" and as they prepare and look forward to getting back into the store, there are some things they say they'll miss about volunteering.

"There's so much, but the loving on the animals is the best part. The animals just say it all," says Majors.

"The person that gets blessed the most from volunteering is you," says Houser.

It's off the job training for the soul.

"The feeling that you get inside from helping someone. The smile that it puts on someone's face is unmatched by anything else," says Houser.

Stages West is all ready for the grand opening on June 30. Houser will encourage employees to continue to volunteer when they can.