Isaiah 117 House holds fundraising luncheon

By Ken Lay

The Knoxville Isaiah 117 House held its fundraising luncheon early last week at Buffat Heights Baptist Church.

The event, hosted by WVLT anchor Casey Wheeless, was held to raise money and seek volunteers for the Isaiah 117 House, located just a few yards from Buffat Heights.

The house serves children who have been removed from their homes and are awaiting placement in foster care.

The Knoxville Isaiah 117 House is one of several houses in Tennessee, and is one of 40 across 17 states. The Knoxville house was conceived in 2019 by Kristi Whitehead and opened in 2023 with Whitehead serving as the program director.

Whitehead said she felt the need to open Knoxville’s Isaiah 117 House to serve the youth of Knoxville.

“Imagine when you are at school and they tell you that you need to go to the principal’s office,” she said. “It’s always scary to go to the principal’s office, and when you get there, they tell you that you can’t go home.”

Before the Isaiah 117 House, a non-profit organization that provides temporary housing to children awaiting placement, many of those removed from their homes spent days cooped up in a Department of Children’s Services office. Many had their belongings in trash bags.

The Isaiah 117 House has changed all that. Not only is the house staffed by volunteers, it provides temporary shelter, meals and other necessities while the children it serves are waiting for foster homes.

It also strives to provide children with normalcy by buying toys, backpacks, coloring books and other supplies.

While Whitehead painted a dismal portrait of DCS offices, she no way intended to disparage DCS workers.

“They have a hard job,” she said. “They have the hardest job in the world.”

Instead the two entities work together and Caren Broadnax of DCS said she relishes the assistance that the house provides for children, but also to DCS workers.

“They come in and say that they are going to feed dinner to the children,” Broadnax said. “And then, they say they’re going to feed you too.

“And you don’t know how much that means. There are times when you simply don’t take time to stop and eat. I’m fighting for our kids. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve clocked out for lunch and didn’t get a bite to eat.”