MADISONVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Counties all over East Tennessee with an Isaiah 117 House chapter will be participating in a lemonade stand challenge to help raise awareness about the need for more foster homes.
There will be 17 lemonade stands across Monroe County alone on Saturday.
Isaiah 117 House is a nonprofit organization that serves as a safe haven for children who have been removed from their homes, and are waiting to be placed in a foster home, instead of waiting at the Department of Children’s Services offices.
“With the Isaiah House, we hope not only to support the children, but to raise awareness for the community and to show them you know what being a foster parent is and why it’s so needed in our county,” Jennifer Collins, with the Isaiah 117 House of Monroe County, said.
Collins said she knows how important Isaiah House is because, as a former teacher, she saw first-hand how kids were impacted by being taken from their home.
“I’ve seen children broken, I’ve seen children who were pulled away from their home, you know, and have nothing with them. So this home would just be somewhere where they can go and be loved,” Collins said.
She said that between May and June, nine children in Monroe County needed foster homes, but only two of those children were able to stay in foster care in the county.
The original Isaiah 117 House Resource Center is in Carter County – with two other locations open in North East Tennessee.
Collins said the organization first started because the founder, Ronda Paulson, wanted to foster. While filling out paperwork at DCS, she learned that when children were removed from their homes, they would often have to wait at the DCS office for placement.
Collins said Monroe County only has about 9 foster homes (she later corrected that number to 12), and sometimes children have to wait several hours to nearly a full day at the DCS office before a placement is found.
She also said that sometimes, children may be taken out of their homes in the middle of the night, then brought to DCS to await placement.
However, DCS said that Monroe County currently has 32 foster homes, and that “while there is a definite need for foster parents for sibling groups and teenagers, there are not children waiting overnight in DCS offices due to a lack of foster homes.”
Isaiah 117 House works closely with DCS to provide comfort to those children while they are in limbo during such a scary time in their life.
“They come into a home that is full of volunteers who are there to support them and to love them. There’s bedrooms so in the evening, they can sleep. There’s a bathroom so they can be showered, have fresh food,” Collins said.
Monroe County does not have a physical house for the children to go to, but the volunteers do what they can otherwise to make children feel a little more comfortable.
Collins said the ultimate goal of the lemonade challenge is to raise awareness, not necessarily funds.
The lemonade stands will be taking precautions in light of COVID-19, with some even offering water bottles and lemonade mix on the side if patrons don’t want premixed lemonade.
For a list of all the lemonade stand locations, and businesses partaking in the event, in Monroe County, visit the Isaiah 117 House Facebook page here.
Isaiah 117 House of Knox, Sevier, Blount, Cocke counties, and a few others, are also participating in the lemonade stand challenge.
To learn more about becoming a foster parent, visit the DCS website here.
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