Celebrating 75 years… ETCHA celebrates service to hurting children, families

Published 11:42 am Friday, May 21, 2021

This spring, the East Tennessee Christian Home and Academy reached three-quarters of a century of serving and providing care and respite to hurting children and families.

During that time, there have been hundreds and hundreds of children suffering from abandonment, neglect, or abuse, or simply in need of a fresh start that has come through the doors of the facility.

ETCHA was organized as a memorial to the men and women of World War II and was originally announced at the First Christian Church. Pastor Fred W. Smith made the announcement as the end of a banquet honoring the returning servicemen.

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S.M Morrell donated the five-acre tract where the home sits on Allen Avenue.

Pastor Smith at the time of the announcement on June 14, 1946, stated, “It is a memorial that is Christian. The home will be a guardian to the needy child. It will be a non-profit organization and as it merits support it will grow.”

The original board of directors was Ed Brown, Clarence Cameron, Hugh Chambers, J.E. Hayes, Luther Hayes, James Hunnicutt, Luther Hodge, J.C. Martin, S.M. Morrell, F.E. Riddell, Dana Riggs, W.H. Shelburn, Fred Snodgrass, with Pastor Fred W. Smith as chairman and L.L. Lumsden as secretary-treasurer.

Morrell donated the land in honor of his son, Lloyd, who had dreamed of building a beautiful home on the site when he returned from the war as it presented a magnificent view, looking down on the city.

Lloyd never came back from the war as he was killed in the defense of his country.

At the time, $50,000 was given to care for the unfortunate children and families of that time.

The former governor of Tennessee at that time, Gordon Browning, came to Elizabethton to speak on behalf of the home and to lay the cornerstone.

Fast forward 75 years and ETCHA continues to provide a place of stability and security as the programs of service have evolved from an original concept of an orphanage to its present-day residential and academic programs for adolescent girls who can benefit from enhancement in their life experience.

ETCHA stands strong on Jeremiah 29:11 which states, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

And that biblical scripture has never stood more true than in the recent COVID-19 pandemic as it has been a difficult time for ETCHA but not without resolve.

“Even though the pandemic has been difficult, our level of commitment has not changed in regard to the day-to-day activities of serving and caring for our residents and families in the community,” stated ETCHA Directors Ron and Melissa Marvel.

“We have a beautiful campus to provide the safe haven that we have been providing for 75 years. ETCHA also has been serving the community by giving out boxes to our BLOOM (aftercare) families in need.

“We had one of our past students tell us that we were a Godsend because they didn’t know how they were going to feed their family in the coming days.”

The benefit dinner has been canceled for now due to COVID-19 but the Marvels said that the financial need is still the same.

A 75th Anniversary fundraising goal of $75,000 has been set to help ETCHA continue with the services they have been providing. Donations can be sent to ETCHA PO Box 1147 Elizabethton, TN 37643.

For more information on the services provided, call 423-542-4423 or email at etchanews@gmail.com.