In autumn of 1981, an ecumenical group of women, representing 45 churches in Blount County, were concerned about the number of women affected by domestic violence. Simultaneously, the Junior Chilhowee Club came to the same realization. Together, the groups formed a council of eight, including a social worker, two attorneys, a Junior Service League member, an Overlook mental health staffer, a law enforcement officer, and an emergency physician.
Governor Lamar Alexander and his wife, Honey, became involved in spring, 1982, and with their help a walkathon raised $17,000 for raised to lease the first shelter on Old Niles Ferry. Badly in need of renovation, the Governor participated in painting and repairs along with men from the Academy of Military Sciences at McGhee Tyson.
On June 7, 1982, Haven House received its nonprofit status and organized with a ten-member board of directors, seven of whom were members of the Junior Chilhowee Club. The first shelter opened on April 11, 1983 from Thursday mornings through Monday evenings, using 35 volunteers. There were no funds to hire staff until June of that year, when the house finally remained open full-time with a resident coordinator and a staff of volunteers.
The search for a new shelter location led to 903 Broyles Avenue, where the shelter moved in February, 1984. Operating funds were totally dependent upon the generosity of churches, civic groups, and local businesses. Many fundraisers were also held.
The first grant received from the TN Department of Human Services arrived July 1, 1985 and from that point forward funding became more stable. In 1986 Haven House became a United Way member agency, further solidifying its future.
As awareness of domestic violence grew within the community, so did the need for shelter space and programs. September, 1985, saw the shelter move again to a larger leased house. The first Executive Director, Beryl Gardner, was hired in 1989 and shortly afterwards a permanent location was found with the purchase and two subsequent additions to a large older home. The shelter has a maximum capacity of 17 women and children.
Currently Haven House has a 12-member board of directors, with Ken Cooper serving as President. The Chief Executive Officer is Valerie Day, who oversees a staff of 4 professionals in the main office and the shelter.
Domestic violence education has been offered to Blount County residents by the staff and board of Haven House since its inception. In addition to presentations at community and church events, staff also provides programs in the elementary schools for 4-5th grade children, with different courses for boys and girls. In addition, we offer the Safe Dates (8-10 grade) and Teens 4 Respect(11-12 grade) courses.
The organization is funded by United Way of Blount County, several grants through the Office of Criminal Justice Programs, and the generosity of corporations, individuals and churches in the community.