​Isaiah 117 House: ‘That was me.’

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At a lemonade stand event held to raise awareness about Isaiah 117 House Coffee-Franklin-Grundy, a teen who had been in foster care told expansion coordinator Susan Johnson, “That was me.”

Grundy County has no Department of Children’s Services (DCS) office. Children removed from the home often wait for a foster care placement in the judge’s chambers or county jail, Johnson said. Other times children are transported to a DCS office to wait. The DCS recently approved Johnson’s plan to establish an Isaiah 117 House (IH) based on the national model, providing a transition place where children can receive food, comfort, and love.

“The children have done nothing wrong and they’ve lost everything—their home, their family, their school and most of their belongings. Typically, they’re allowed a grocery bag or garbage sack for what they bring with them.”

DCS favors a Pelham site for the building, given the central location and proximity to the interstate. IH is looking for three-quarters an acre with or without a house. Volunteers have offered to lend a hand building or renovating, whichever is needed.

Johnson welcomes opportunities to visit groups, “anything from sewing groups to church groups to Rotary. It’s not to get money,” Johnson stresses, “but to raise awareness about what happens when children are removed from the home.”

Johnson counts raising awareness about what DCS does as critically important, as well.

“DCS is trying to supervise kids, meet their needs, and place a child all at once, an impossible task in my eyes. There are not enough foster families.”

Once Isaiah 117 House Coffee-Franklin-Grundy has a house, DCS will contact the IH coordinator when a child needs a place to wait for foster family placement. The coordinator will, in turn, contact volunteers and tell them to come to the house. The DCS staff member will remain at the house to monitor care of and interaction with the child. The house will include an office where the DCS staff member can work and simultaneously observe the child and volunteers via video camera. In addition to providing the child with an environment where they can play and receive comfort and nourishment, the arrangement spares children from sitting in an office and overhearing their case described to a potential foster family, which may take them or may reject them.

When children leave IH, the IH volunteers will send them on their way with supplies to make it easier for the foster family to take in a child.

Youth and church groups who fundraise for the project sell T-shirts, and host lemonade and hot chocolate stands.

“It’s not about selling lemonade,” Johnson insisted, but raising awareness. “You’d be surprised in two hours to see how many people come out to support other families and children.”

On the 17th of each month, the local Isaiah 117 House effort sponsors Isaiah House T-shirt day at area schools where youth wear their Isaiah House t-shirts as a way of generating conversation and discussion.

Asked how people could help, Johnson said, “Come to our monthly expansion committee meetings.” Johnson stressed there were opportunities for people to become involved in whatever area suited them. The meeting date and location are posted on the Facebook page for Isaiah 117 House Coffee-Franklin-Grundy.

To donate to the nonprofit initiative, visit <isaiah117house.com>, and then select “support” and “Coffee/Franklin/Grundy County” in the dropdown box. To make a credit card donation by phone, call Johnson at (931) 808-7564.