BRISTOL, Tenn. — Land has been donated for Isaiah 117 House’s newest expansion into Sullivan County, and a groundbreaking ceremony will be held Oct. 1.
The nonprofit organization provides safe temporary housing for children who have been taken from their homes into Tennessee Department of Children’s Services custody until caseworkers can find foster homes. Isaiah 117 House also provides children with needed supplies like clothing.
Discovery Church off of Bethel Drive in Bristol donated about an acre of land next to the church for the house to be built on. Julie Dixon, Isaiah 117 House Sullivan County’s program coordinator, said the 1,600-square-foot house, like the nonprofit’s other houses, will have a bedroom for girls and a bedroom for boys, a full bathroom and laundry room, living room, kitchen, office and storage space for supplies. The opening date is set for March 17, 2020.
The first house opened in Elizabethton last June, and work to open houses to serve 12 other counties across Tennessee, including Sullivan, and in Evansville, Indiana, is underway. Washington County’s opened earlier this week, and Greene County’s will open by late October or early November.
“It’s not the nonprofit going out and saying, ‘Hey, do you want this?’ They’re coming to us because when they hear that kids are in need and sitting in the DCS office, they want to step up and help,” Dixon said.
So far, $115,000 has been raised for Sullivan County’s house with $75,000 of it coming during a one-hour luncheon at Discovery Church last week. But contractors and others stepped up to offer their services for free, according to Lisa Lundberg, chairwoman of Isaiah 117 House’s Sullivan County Expansion Committee.
Jeff Begley, owner of Begley Development in Kingsport, said he will head up the work and he has found subcontractors and suppliers to help build the house for free, Lundberg said. A.R.T. Furniture in High Point, North Carolina has already offered to fully furnish the house after it opens.
“It’s been the most unbelievable project I’ve ever had the honor of working on [because of] just the willingness of people to say, ‘Absolutely, absolutely. Tell me what we can do,’” Lundberg said.
Children in Sullivan County also raised money for the new house this summer. Isaiah 117 House asked kids to participate in a one-day lemonade stand challenge. Around 10 stands, with a number of children participating at each one, went up across the county, and $2,500 was raised. Vacation Bible schools, churches and organizations also donated.
The goal is to open the house with $150,000 to fully fund the first year’s budget.
“Every county that we’ve went into so far … it’s really been a community project that the community’s just wrapped their arms around the house and letting these kids know that they’re not alone and they’ve not been forgotten has been really neat to be a part of and to see,” Dixon said.
Discovery Church’s pastor, Matt Korell, and his wife, Sarah, wanted to donate the land for the house in Bristol because they realize the importance of having a place for foster children to go before they’re placed with a family, Dixon said. She is a member of the church and has worked with the development of the project since the beginning a couple of years ago.
“Matt and Sarah actually ended up adopting a little girl through foster care and so it’s something that the church is very passionate about,” Dixon said.
Dixon and her husband have two adopted children as does Isaiah 117 House founder Ronda Paulson and her husband.