LCBA raising funds for playground

Teresa Wood, right, director of the Immanuel House, and Phil Holmes, director of the Loudon County Baptist Association, talk about plans to build a playground for children at the safe house.

Loudon County Baptist Association is raising money for a playground at a safe house for children removed from homes due to abuse and neglect.

The playground would be outside the Immanuel House, which is the only safe house in Loudon County, Teresa Wood, ministry director, said.

Wood and LCBA Director Phil Holmes want to have the playground installed before spring.

“During the winter months, we’d love to have that built,” Holmes said.

LCBA recently started the fundraiser and could need a new estimate for the playground expected to cost $5,000-$6,000. Hopes are to include equipment like a small fort, swings and monkey bars, along with rubber mulch and a 6-foot privacy fence.

Wood said the playground will suit children of all ages at Immanuel House, which has been open since Aug. 9, 2020, and already served about 160 children.

“We had a child the very first day we were open,” she said.

The house is a safe house for children that the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has removed from homes. Children can stay there for about 23 hours while waiting to be placed in foster homes by DCS. Volunteers come and sit with the children and an employee of DCS is always there, Holmes said.

“At the safe house, they can rest, eat and play,” Wood said.

The house — a former mission home — serves Loudon, Knox, Roane, McMinn and Monroe counties.

Children can be brought to the safe house while DCS works on their case rather than having them sit in an office cubicle for hours.

“It’s more of a calming atmosphere for children rather than sitting in a cubicle all day,” Wood said.

There are beds if children need to sleep or come in the middle of the night. A clothes closet provides all-new clothes, shoes and backpacks with toiletries — items the children will need to take when placed in a new home. Children can play games, watch movies, eat and rest.

“The children may not have had anything new,” Holmes said.

The outdoor playground will allow kids to play outside the home, which has had youth ages 10-17, Wood said. There are opportunities to play inside, but the house is rather small.

Wood and Holmes have both fostered and adopted children.

“This ministry was already dear to our hearts,” Wood said.

Before opening Immanuel House, the two had seen how many children came into the foster system and they had visited a safe house in Nashville.

“We just felt like God was calling us,” Wood said.

Churches approved a small budget for the project, money was raised and Wood designed and decorated the house. She and Holmes painted the house during the COVID-19 shutdown last year.

A homey atmosphere

The house has a volunteer coordinator, Holly Deford-Harris; clothes closet coordinator, Terra Caldwell; and about 60 state-certified volunteers.

Wood said a DCS employee is always present in the home when children are there and volunteers show them Jesus’ love.

“Really we are just showing them the love of Christ,” Wood said.

The home has an area for children, a kitchen, bathrooms, clothes closet, office and volunteer room and family visitation room, which can be used for supervised visits.

Children who come to the house have been through a traumatic experience.

“All the kids that come are scared and they’re sad,” Wood said. “The home provides a calm and uplifting space. ... It helps to reduce that stress level for the kids.”

To donate to the playground fundraiser, visit www.immanuelhouselc.com or mail a check payable to Loudon County Baptist Association, with “playground” written in the memo section, to LCBA, 814 Webb Circle, Lenoir City, TN 37771.

For more information, call 865-986-2232 or email Wood at teresalcba@gmail.com.