“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
These are the words of Isaiah 1:17. And to Renee Curry, business office director at Garden Plaza at Cleveland, Tennessee, they are a personal calling.
Curry is on a mission, besides serving the seniors at Garden Plaza, to remove some of the trauma that foster children experience. She is the expansion coordinator for nonprofit Isaiah 117 House Bradley County. The organization runs houses where children can go when they are pulled out of their situations for foster care.
Founder and director Ronda Paulson saw a need when she and her family started the journey of becoming foster parents and realized that the children are taken to the Department of Child Services offices until a foster home can take them. Often, that ends up being in the middle of the night, and the children are left to sleep on the floor. They can sometimes hear the DCS worker making phone call after phone call to find a placement and hear family after family turn them down. All these things just add to the children’s feelings of abandonment.
With the Isaiah 117 homes, the children are taken to an actual house where a volunteer can love on them and show them they matter. They can bathe, sleep in a real bed, receive toys and new clothes and eat meals. Case workers have a separate office where they can take care of the calls and paperwork.
“We also come alongside the foster parents,” Curry explained, adding that the organization helps equip the families. “We ask, ‘What do you need so that you can just come and love on these children?’”
So how did Curry get involved?
The project started in Elizabethton, Tennessee, where Curry’s sister lives.
“My sister saw what it was doing there and wanted it in her hometown, so she came to me and shared her heart, and I said, ‘Yes, I have to do this,’” said Curry.
Isaiah 117 House touched a passion Curry has had for a long time.
“I’ve always been involved with children,” Curry said. “My kids’ friends grew up at my house. When my husband passed away, they were all posting on Facebook the different things that our house meant to them in their growing up and their difficult times. Even in college, the kids came and hung out at our house.”
Curry’s daughter’s good friend was a recipient of help from a WinShape Home and knew the difference that a stable home made in her own life as a foster child. She still vividly remembers the experience of waiting in the DCS office with her siblings, looking at the tiles on the floor.
“What a difference it would have made in her life if she had had a house where someone was there to love on her and her siblings,” Curry said.
In her role with Isaiah 117 House Bradley County, Curry is currently helping raise funds and awareness in the community. For example, she shares that Bradley County is one of nine counties in the Southeast Region, but it accounts for 21.5 percent of children in foster homes in the region.
Isaiah 117 House is looking to expand into Bradley County but is in need of a house.
“We are looking for a house,” Curry said. “We are praying for a house. We are having a fundraising luncheon on Oct. 24 for that house [at First Baptist Church of Cleveland]. We just cannot wait to be loving on these kids. They’re seeing a real difference in these children.”
Eventually, the goal of Isaiah 117 House is to have a house in each county in Tennessee, and, further down the line, in each county in the country.
Curry is also excited that Life Care Centers of America’s corporate offices are dedicating a dress-down day to Isaiah 117 House on Friday, Oct. 4.
Curry summed up her call: “The children are what absolutely drive me, that these children would in some way just know that the Lord loves them, that the Lord is still watching out for them, that this is a scary and difficult time, but they are loved, and they are treasured, and they are a child of the King, who still has His hand on them, even though sometimes it may seem like they’re alone.”
For more information, visit Isaiah117house.com, search for Isaiah 117 House Bradley County on Facebook or call Curry at 423-715-3782.