Isaiah 117 House begins mission of helping children entering foster system

John Thompson • Updated Jun 19, 2018 at 8:12 PM

ELIZABETHTON — After many months of organizing and networking, carpentry work and landscaping, the Isaiah 117 House began performing its mission on Tuesday.

That mission is to provide a temporary home and safe and comfortable place for children who are just entering the foster placement system. The Isaiah 117 House provides bedrooms with comfortable beds, a yard with swings and slides, all watched over by volunteers who are only interested in providing a loving environment for children who have just been removed from their parents.

Before Tuesday, children who had been taken from their parents because of abuse or other criminal activity were kept with workers from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. Most of the time, these children had to spend hours at the sterile office environment where the DCS workers watched over them until a foster home could be found.

That uncomfortable environment was the first reason behind the creation of the Isaiah 117 House. These children had just gone through the trauma of being separated from their parents. Ronda Paulson saw that these children very badly needed some place to feel safe and comfortable. She saw they also needed someplace where they could feel love.

“When these children are taken away from their parents, they are frightened. Sometimes they think they have done something bad and they are being punished,” Paulson said. “We want to create a place where they know they are not being punished but are loved. We want them to feel like they are kings and queens while they are here.”

She went on to say: “These children are innocent, they did nothing wrong. Their parents may not have been very good for them, but they still love their mother and father and want to be with them.”

The House provides the children with loving volunteers and much more, including tasty meals while they are in the house. Paulson said when the children are separated from their families, there is not time to pack the children’s items. That means the children need additional clothing and even toys. Older children will need school supplies. Isaiah 117 House will provide those items.

Paulson said some of these children may have been evacuated from unsanitary or unhealthy environments, such as homes with methamphetamine labs, or lice-ridden homes, so these children may require some personal hygiene help.

It will take a lot of community support to help the home fulfill its mission. Paulson said the community has already shown itself to be extremely generous. She said that help has included $75,000 from Mitch Cox Realty: while Keller Williams Realty provided over $13,000 plus many hours of volunteer labor from its agents; and many thousands of dollars from others in the community.

Paulson said the Elizabethton Fire Department was especially kind to the Isaiah 117 House. That began when it was realized the upstairs floor needed some support. They asked for volunteers to provide some labor.

The fire department’s Green Shift lieutenant, Dennis Erwin, said he saw the request for help on the Isaiah 117 Facebook site. He decided to talk to the other members of the shift to help during their long break. He said Shift Sgt. Rick Riddle, Engineer Jerry Smith and Firefighter Jeremiah Tolley decided to go with him to help.

It soon became apparent the interior would have to gutted and rebuilt. He said 11 firefighters from the Johnson City Fire Department joined with them to do the demo work.

Once the house was ready for furnishing, the firefighters returned. They donated funds to decorate the boys’ room in a fire department motif, with fire department bunk beds, including toy fire truck, book cases, fire department logo, a framed copy of Isaiah 43:2, which says “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not harm you.”

The room even has a lamp made from a firefighter’s air pack as a base and a shade made from Erwin’s fire helmet, which he wore for many years before his promotion required him to wear a different color helmet.

Paulson said the girls’ room was decorated with donated furniture from Cannon’s Fine Home Furnishings. The tiny beds were made up and ready to receive their first users.

It was a big effort to have the home ready to start its mission on Tuesday, but Paulson said she is not planning to stop now that it is in service.

“We want to put an Isaiah 117 House every place in Tennessee whee there is a Department of Children’s Services office.”

That would mean a total of at least 95 Isaiah 117 houses across 500 miles of the state. But where there are tiny, frightened children separated from their parents in a strange place, there should be plenty of willing volunteers to help Paulson answer the need.

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