Helping Foster Children Feel at Home


Ronda Paulson got more than a wake-up call the day she brought home her first foster child. She also got a calling. “I’d assumed that the transition for children going into foster care would be welcoming,” says Paulson. But she discovered that for most children, it’s a frustratingly long day spent alone in an office cubicle while adults complete the paperwork. Most wait hours with only a few belongings stuffed in a black garbage bag. None of that sat well with her.

Enter Isaiah 117, the non-profit Paulson founded with her husband, Corey, in 2017. The organization’s name is a tribute to both her first foster child, Isaiah, and the Bible verse: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Since it’s inception, the organization has established a network of “transition homes” where children entering the foster care system can relax while adults handle the logistics. “These houses are clean and cheerful, stocked with snacks and filled with smiling faces,” explains Paulson, who also makes sure there’s also an abundance of clothing and school supplies children can take with them.

From the beginning, the Paulsons have had a zero-debt policy, relying on donations from local individuals and groups to fund each new home. “Communities’ generosity has taken us far,” she says. “But in Cocke County, Tennessee, we found there simply wasn’t enough resources to see it through.”

That changes when Charlie Hemphill, a retired general manager at the nearby Clayton Bean Station, heard about the Paulsons’ fundraising stall-out. He immediately began to work with Clayton Bean Station, Clayton Homes of Strawberry Plains and the Clayton Homes Foundation, and partnered with Isaiah 117 and the local community to donate a full furnished home. “The ribbon-cutting was only in late 2021,” says Paulson. “But Clayton’s gift has already given dozens of children a soft place to land.”

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