When children are first taken into protective custody by the Department of Children’s Services, they must wait several hours or even days for workers to find them a suitable foster home. During …
When children are first taken into protective custody by the Department of Children’s Services, they must wait several hours or even days for workers to find them a suitable foster home. During that time, the environment they find themselves in can be a truly scary, or even sad place. To remedy this and ensure that no child feels like they’ve been abandoned, an organization was formed called Isaiah 117 House, which provides a colorful, warm and fun location for these kids to wait for placement. It was founded in Elizabethton, but now an Isaiah House is coming to Cleveland.
Renee Curry learned about the program from her sister, Rochelle James, who lives in Elizabethton. Since living there, James’s friend, Ronda Paulson, started Isaiah 117 House. After seeing the positive impact the house has on children about to enter foster care, James knew that Cleveland needed one.
“She approached me in October, then came back in December, and that’s when we started looking into it and really got the ball rolling to get one here,” Curry said.
Curry went before the Cleveland City Council and County Commission both, and presented the case of Isaiah 117 House. She says Mayor Kevin Brooks told her that the Isaiah 117 House had the full support of his family, as many of his wife’s family has been involved in emergency placement of countless children over the years.
Gov. Bill Lee actually toured the Elizabethton chapter along with his wife and Curry says he claimed he wanted to see an Isaiah 117 House in every county in Tennessee. At the moment, there are two more houses going up near Elizabethton, along with the Cleveland house and one in Evansville, Indiana.
Curry says she’s excited to visit other counties and spread the word about the positive reach of the houses, which aren’t affiliated with Garden Plaza where she works, but are a labor of love that Curry performs in her time off.
She explained how Ronda Paulson, founder of Isaiah 117 House, was a foster parent along with her husband, and one day while sitting in an office, thought of a burning question.
“She asked, ‘While these kids are waiting to get placed or to go to court, where do they stay? If it takes too long, where do they sleep?’ And that’s when she found out that sometimes they may have to sleep in the DCS offices,” Curry said.
Unfortunately, some children only have a trash bag to carry their personal belongings, and Paulson felt that children should feel more valued than that. The Paulsons founded Isaiah 117 House after adopting their first child, named Isaiah.
The name for the house comes from the Bible verse, Isaiah 1:17, which reads, “Learn to do right, seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless. Plead the case of the widow.” Since Curry is a widow herself, she feels personally connected to the cause of Isaiah 117 House.
Despite Elizabethton having a very high poverty rate, its residents managed to raise the money for the house in just 30 days through a variety of generous means.
“It was astounding how these communities have raised the funds needed. Some have donated a house. Others have come forward saying they felt God leading them to sell a house for a particularly low amount or or perform work for absolutely free!” Curry explained.
The fire department in Elizabethton even offered to perform necessary construction on the one condition that they get to design one of the rooms. Sure enough, after all construction was completed, the boys’ room was decorated like a fire house by actual firemen.
In building these houses, Isaiah 117 House is hoping for its model to become the standard for Tennessee and other states.
Curry says that many people are unaware of these children’s needs, but once they discover them, are immediately on board.
Children will stay in Isaiah 117 Houses for hours or days, depending on how long of a wait is needed. When founding the house, Paulson initially wanted to only serve healthy foods, but decided that if there was ever a time to have an ice cream sundae, this would be it. Pizza, chicken or any other food requested will be given to the kids in their short stay, as well.
Paulson is also a firm believer in giving the children new clothing and shoes, with all items provided being brand new, and some even still having the tags attached.
“Anything we can do that says, ‘You are loved. You are important. You matter. This is happening to you, not because of you,’ we want to do,” Curry said.
The key goal at the moment is spreading awareness, and Curry has been doing just that by talking to various groups including the Bradley County Foster Association and any other organization or church that will hear their story.
Isaiah 117 House is even presenting itself on March 23 at Cleveland High School to the people of Cleveland to spread the word about the organization’s positive community impact. The event begins at 11 a.m. and is open to the public. Curry encourages everyone in the community to come learn about the program and see how it can help Cleveland’s youth during such a traumatic moment in their lives.
For more information, visit the organization’s website at www.isaiah117house.com or find them on Facebook under “Isaiah 117 House.”
Organizers hope generous folks will help make this difficult time a little less tough.
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE