After coming to the Greene County Isaiah 117 House to await placement into foster care, a young man had begun putting together a puzzle with a volunteer as Program Coordinator Gwyn Southerland left for the evening.
When Southerland came back early in the morning expecting to relieve the volunteer in taking care of the young man, she discovered he had been placed in foster care during the night.
She also found the puzzle completed with a candy kiss placed on top. When Southerland looked closer at the puzzle, which was chosen from the organization’s ample supply, she discovered the word “Isaiah” was written on a rock in the illustration.
Visitors to the local Isaiah 117 House’s open house on Nov. 22 will have the opportunity to see the puzzle, which has been framed and is now hanging on a wall in the facility.
A “come and go” open house is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. on that date to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening of the facility that provides a comfortable, safe place for children to stay while awaiting placement into foster care after being removed from an unsafe or unhealthy home situation.
Since opening the day before Thanksgiving last year, the Greene County Isaiah House has served 102 children, according to Southerland. “Each one has a story, each one has a family and each one has a smile — either one we see right away or it may take a while,” she said.
Those 102 youngsters have been all ages and may have been a single child from a home, such as the young man who put together the puzzle, or in a large sibling group. Southerland said a sibling group of seven has stayed for 24 hours at the Isaiah House awaiting placement, and volunteers at the house have cared for children ranging from several newborns to many teens.
She recalled when a group of three children came to the house, all wearing nothing but diapers. As the volunteers played with them, smiles were not quick to come to their faces.
“They were all just precious children,” Southerland said. “We loved on them, gave them clothes, underclothing, shoes, socks, a Bible, books, toys and crafts. When they left, the 5-year-old said ‘Can I just live here?’ It really touched our heart.”
Stories of the children who come to the house are touching, loving and sometimes difficult to hear, she continued.
“Our volunteers at the Isaiah House do an amazing job loving on these children,” she said. “They love them, play with them, just sit with them, feed them and the most precious of all — pray for them. We are a blessed ministry, and we thank you, Greene County, for continuing to walk with us.”
Eighty-five trained volunteers serve at the Isaiah House, helping care for the children that often come with nothing but the clothes on their backs or less. Volunteers take care of the children’s immediate needs, which may be a hot meal or a warm bath and clean clothes, and then settle the children into the house as they await their placement.
Support from the community also continues to be strong, with people supplying resources for daily operations, Southerland said.
“We put out a monthly newsletter that includes what has gone on in the house for that month followed by our monthly needs list,” she said. “Many times, items come in the day that a child comes to the house that wears that exact size.”
That public support has included a successful recent golf tournament at Link Hills Country Club. A lemonade stand effort earlier this summer raised $7,000 for the local Isaiah House. Families, organizations and businesses had lemonade stands on a specified Saturday in July with their sales proceeds going to the Isaiah House.
During the open house, tours will be available and T-shirts will be sold with proceeds to benefit the house. The house features separate bedrooms for boys and girls, a spacious kitchen, a living room and a small seating area, all brightly decorated and inviting. A storage area contains dozens of different supplies, toys and books all neatly organized.
The Greeneville Isaiah House was constructed in less than 100 days last year through a coordinated construction effort by Idell Construction, Lynn Pitt Construction and Seaton Contracting.
The local location is one of four Isaiah Houses in East Tennessee, with the other three in Elizabethton, Sullivan County and Washington County. Now under construction are houses in Blount and Bradley County and one that will serve Coffee, Franklin and Grundy counties. Efforts toward establishment of homes are under way in seven other East Tennessee counties.
The Isaiah House organization has expanded into Indiana with a facility now in operation in Vanderburgh County. Another home is under construction in Indiana with efforts toward establishing homes underway in two other communities.