Student volunteers help homeless shelter

Kristen Carter (left) and Iria Fazanes volunteered at Shepherd’s House several weeks ago. Iria is an international exchange student from Spain and a senior at Cascade High School in Bell Buckle. She is staying with Kristen’s family in Wartrace.

For years, the Shepherd’s House in Tullahoma has helped homeless individuals and families get back on their feet.

The nonprofit organization provides food, clothes and temporary shelter for the homeless and helps them find employment and become independent.

Tina Holman Owen, director of Shepherd’s House, said the organization wouldn’t be able to deliver on its mission if it weren’t for the volunteers and the help of the community.

“I love interacting with volunteers and getting them involved,” Owen said.

Compassion and caring for others has no limits and knows no borders.

Recently, Iria Fazanes and Kristen Carter helped the Shepherd’s House by organizing several cabinets and the food pantry.

Kristen is from Wartrace. She was homeschooled and completed her high school education in 2018.

Iria is an international exchange student from Spain. She has been in the United States for two months and stays with Kristen’s family in Wartrace. Iria is in 12th grade at Cascade High School in Bell Buckle and will be in the United States until the end of the school year.

“I came to Tennessee through the exchange student program,” Iria said.

Winning the scholarship for the program was tough, Iria said.

“It was really popular and everyone was saying it was impossible to get it; I thought I wouldn’t get it,” Iria said. “I applied in September 2017, and there were hundreds of kids taking the test.”

She was excited to find out she had won one of only 500 scholarships, she said.

“My experience here has been cool,” Iria said. “It’s different from Spain, but it’s really awesome. A really like football and all the sports in the school and the team spirit.”

While Iria has enjoyed every bit of the new experience, she wished to do more. She wanted to get involved with a local organization and to aid the community.

The idea to help the Shepherd’s House was born one day when Iria and Kristen’s family were attending Normandy United Methodist Church.

“Tina came to speak at our church,” Kristen said. “So we wanted to volunteer. We heard about Shepherd’s House and wanted to help.”

Several weeks ago, they went to the house and cleaned and organized the kitchen cabinets and the food pantry.

Iria said volunteering was a rewarding activity.

“We just sorted the cans,” Iria said. “I wanted to help; I just like helping people.”

Meeting those who live at the house was also a fun experience.

“We met the residents and they helped us,” Iria said.

It took two days for the job to be finished and Iria and Kristen said they want to go back and volunteer again.

Owen said she appreciates the help. She encouraged others to volunteer, as well.

“We welcome volunteers and we usually find something for them to do,” Owen said. “Or, sometimes, volunteers just call and say they would like to play games with the residents – the residents love having that interaction.”


Success stories

The mission of the Shepherd’s House is to give a home to the homeless.

“We are not your typical homeless shelter because, if someone comes in and just wants a place to sleep for a few nights, they still have to go by the same rules as the ones that might stay for three or four months,” Owen said.

Staying longer than two days requires going through the program, said Owen.

“That means you have to be out each day looking for a job, and once you get a job, you will be responsible for saving 75 percent of your income,” Owen said. “Each week, I will ask you to show me that you are saving your money and that’s going to go toward your housing when you move out.”

Currently two families are staying at Shepherd’s House. The two families are on their way to move to their own homes.

“One family has been here for almost four months.” Owen said. “They lost their house after the Hurricane Harvey.”

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in September 2017.

“So they have been displaced for over a year, and they finally are getting to move Monday to their apartment,” Owen said.

The other family has been at Shepherd’s House for two weeks, said Owen.

“And they are getting their place and are moving out Monday, too,” Owen said. “We actually have six people moving out Monday.”

Shepherd’s House is located at 712 1st Avenue in Tullahoma.

For more information, call 931-393-4818.