Isaiah 117 House Has a Home!

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Three years ago, operating on a wish, prayer, and a dream, Susan Johnson rallied volunteers to host lemonade stands and talked to anyone who would listen about the need for a safe, welcoming place for children awaiting foster care placement. Grundy County has no Department of Children’s Services office. Children removed from the home often waited for a foster care placement in the judge’s chambers or county jail. Johnson’s plan was to establish an Isaiah 117 House Coffee-Franklin-Grundy based on the national model, providing a transition place where children could receive food, comfort, and love.

Johnson’s prayers were answered, and her dream has come true in a grander fashion than she ever imagined. She hoped to raise enough money to buy or to receive a donation of a three-quarters acre of land, with or without a house. Christ Church in Monteagle donated 3 acres of land at the rear of their property on West Main. Thanks to their generosity and that of a multitude of other donors and volunteers, on Aug. 10, a beautiful home snuggled against the tree line opened its doors to welcome children in need.

Isaiah 117 House is staffed primarily by volunteers, with just two paid employees, Johnson who serves as program coordinator and an on-call assistant. Volunteers sign up to be on-call for six-hour shifts. When the Department of Children’s Services contacts Johnson, two volunteers join her at the house to welcome the DCS staff member and the children awaiting foster placement. The DSC staffer remains with the children the entire time supervising their care. “The volunteers are there to lend an extra hand and love on the kids,” Johnson said.

Children can wait for hours or days before foster placement is found for them. Isaiah 117 House Coffee-Franklin-Grundy has a bedroom for both boys and girls, each with two twin beds with trundles beneath them, a playroom, and an outdoor playground with slides and swings.

Johnson highlighted the generosity of three area furniture stores. Halls Furniture furnished the bedrooms, back porch and office. Factory Furniture furnished the front porch, living room, playroom, and visitors space, and Badcock Furniture provided appliances, a TV, weed eater, and mower. Generous contributions from churches and private donors, both in the form of cash and elbow grease, raised the roof on the house. With the doors officially open, Johnson intends to apply for grants to help with costs. Isaiah 117 House also sends children on their way with supplies to help out the foster families who take in the children.

Asked about security, Johnson said the house is equipped with an alarm system, three panic buttons, and cameras, and police regularly patrol the site. She stressed there had not been security breach issues at any of the other Isaiah 117 House locations.

“We’re so glad to be open and serving,” Johnson said.

How can people help? “We always need volunteers,” she acknowledged, adding, “I ask people to set an alarm for 1:17 p.m. each day and pray for the children, caseworkers, and foster families.”

To make a cash donation contact Johnson by phone (931) 570-2002, email <>, or visit the website <>;, being sure to select “Coffee/Franklin/Grundy County” in the dropdown menu.

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