Actor Mike Rowe awards $40,000 check to Isaiah 117 House

Published 10:40 pm Monday, March 9, 2020

Isaiah 117 House Director Ronda Paulson was greeted with a surprise on January 21 as dozens of community members, under the direction of TV actor Mike Rowe, gathered at the new Isaiah 117 Resource Center to pay back Paulson for her work in the community with tens of thousands of dollars in donations, both money and supplies.

The event was part of an episode of Rowe’s “Returning the Favor” TV show that aired last night.

“We are here to honor Ronda,” Rowe said. “We have seen first-hand what’s possible in a small town that actually cares.”

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To honor Paulson’s work, the community and Rowe got together to donate towards their new resource center, which opened about three months ago. The donation included thousands of dollars in backpacks, each of which were filled with toiletries to help the children who will be using them, as well as a check for $40,000 and some new furniture to use in the new building.

“This resource center was a leap of faith,” Paulson said. “We are still looking at what it is like to have a home office.”

Isaiah 117 House is stationed in several counties, after the organization started in Carter County. Over the past few years, they have grown into an organization that works with the Department of Children’s Services across East Tennessee.

Rowe said everywhere he went as part of the episode, people were willing to help.

“Everywhere we dropped your name, they went ‘What can we do?’” Rowe said.

Paulson said she had been told they were filming a documentary about the Isaiah House, which is the impression she was operating with as they went around town throughout the day.

When Paulson and Rowe went to the back of the house, she met dozens of community members cheering for her and showing her love. She broke into tears quickly.

“It was overwhelming,” she said.

The donations, she said, opened many doors for where they can take the resource center next.

“It frees up resources for us to love our children,” Paulson said.

Throughout it all, she said she did not want the focus to be on her.

“This is a celebration of Carter County,” she said. “This is our flagship home. Carter County is what made this possible.”

The resource center is located at 1705 State Line Road in Elizabethton, behind the Betsytowne Shopping Center on Highway 19E.