Groundbreaking held this week for Isaiah 117 National Training Center in Elizabethton
Published 10:07 am Friday, November 3, 2023
BY ROZELLA HARDIN
At a groundbreaking ceremony in Elizabethton Wednesday, Eastman Credit Union announced a $300,000 contribution supporting the construction of a national Isaiah 117 House training center to prepare teams across the nation to change the way foster care begins everywhere.
Kelly Price, Eastman Credit Union’s president and CEO, applauded local communities for their spirit and drive that has so strongly impacted the success of Isaiah 117 House’s expansion across the country.
“Other communities see how successful you worked together for this great cause. They experience Ronda’s (Paulson) servant leadership and the great model put in place by the hard work and resourcefulness of so many wonderful volunteers. They realize they can do this, and that’s inspiring,” said Price.
Ronda Paulson, founder and executive director of Isaiah 117 House, said, “The growth we have experienced is a direct result of great community partners like Eastman Credit Union. Community partners that believe in our ministry, believe in the children of their community, and believe in being a part of the solution.”
Since 2018, Isaiah 117 House has grown from one house in Carter County to over 50 locations across 12 states in just five years.
“The growth we have experienced also tells us the problem of children waiting in child welfare offices for foster placement is huge, but we believe our God is bigger,” said Paulson. “This new space will allow us to continue to expand and support locations across the country by providing a training center for our growing team as well as more office space for additional support personnel.”
The new building will also allow the organization to host community training events at their resource center, including local volunteer training and foster care training classes.
The new resource center is being built on a parcel of land located next to the Elizabethton Isaiah 117 House on Stateline Road.
The Elizabethton Isaiah 117 House has approximately 40 volunteers, who take on a variety of roles as caregivers when displaced children arrive at the home. “They cook meals, provide clothing and toys, give baths, play with the children, read bedtime stories, and stay with the children, love them and care for them until they are placed in a foster home,” said Mariah Sybert, Elizabethton director. “Often they are tired, hungry, scared and unable to bring any personal possessions with them when they are taken from their home and come to us.
“We stay pretty busy,” she said.
Before the Isaiah 117 House, when a child was removed from a home, the child had to wait in the child welfare services office. The Isaiah 117 House allows for that same child to never go to an office, but rather a home with loving volunteers to care for them.
Paulson in her story about the founding of Isaiah 117 House related that when she and her husband became foster parents in 2015, they picked up their son at the backdoor of the DCS office. “He was dirty, in clothes that were too small, and literally had nothing in the world. We asked the question ‘What if there was a home where they could go when they are removed? What if there was a safe place with friendly, loving volunteers? What if there was an environment with clean clothes, bath, toys, snacks and a comfy bed. What if, instead of cubicles inside a DCS office, the traumatized child could see smiles, books, and snuggly blankets?
“Isaiah 1:17 says ‘defend the cause of the fatherless.’ I believe that is what God was calling me to do. I saw a home with an open living space, a fully stocked kitchen, bedrooms, places to play and fully stocked bathrooms. I saw a team of volunteers on call to greet ‘the least of these’ when they need love most. I saw a place always ready to take in children in their time of need and lavishly love on them on one of their worst days. This was the dream for the Isaiah 117 House,” said Paulson in her story of how the Isaiah 117 House came to be.
Sybert noted that the local Isaiah 117 House as most all other Isaiah 117 Houses are funded through donations and community events. “Donations and volunteers are what keep us going,” she said.
Isaiah 117 Houses are not only located in Tennessee, but in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
Preston Construction Co. is leading the almost 2,000 square-foot training center project. The training center is expected to open in the summer of 2024.