In the place where orphaned children were once raised and senior citizens once spent their last days, the owners of Tipton County’s newest faith-based residential drug rehabilitation facility hope to help change lives.
Hosting a grand opening ceremony last Thursday, Kenny Lane and Brad Bowie told a crowd of community members their plans for Safe Harbor of Tipton County.
“Every one of our guys isn’t orphans, but most of them have been orphaned from life,” said Bowie, the organization’s president. “Most of them are hopeless when they walk into our gates. All of them have their heads down and life has just beat them up. And so this property is going to go back to what it was intended for: be a place that will shine a light, be a place that will provide hope for their future, remind them there’s a purpose that was given to them, that God thought about them when they were in their mother’s womb, that He hasn’t forgotten, He hasn’t changed his mind about what He created them to do and they’ll find that right here because of your involvement.
A decade ago, Lane and Bowie took a trip to Conway, Ark. to visit a treatment facility in a rural area, set on a lot of acreage. They were inspired to do the same thing.
“We are dreamers. We dream about everything,” Lane said at the ceremony Thursday morning. “Brad talked to our board of directors about moving to a rural communities and it took us a lot of years, but in 2018 we started that adventure.”
They left Clarksville for Erin, in rural Houston County, and in 2019 they moved from Nashville to the Bucksnort area.
“And then there was only one mission left: to get Memphis out of Memphis,” said Lane.
Converting the former Dunlap Orphanage and Dunlap Retirement Center is how it happened.
The 92-bed facility has the capacity to house 74 men and 18 women. The location will also house Safe Harbor’s administrative offices.
Bowie and Lane were approached by members of First Baptist Church about the possibility of opening a halfway house outside of the city. A difficult and costly endeavor, the church changed its mind, but helped pave the way for Safe Harbor to move into the community.
At that time the facility commonly called Dunlap Orphanage, which is at the corner of Beaver Creek and Dunlap Orphanage roads, was for sale.
“Once they paved the way our president, Brad Bowie, took over and finished that,” Lane said. “The funny thing about Sept. 16 is that on Sept. 16, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. And we’re here on Sept. 16 to set sail in Tipton County and see how many lives we can change, to se how much hope we can restore into men and women that are broken. And so that’s why we’re here today: We’re following the steps of the Mayflower for our final destination and I can’t wait to see our port.”
It’s not quite as impactful as the Mayflower’s journey, but a trip into The Covington Leader’s archives shows 100 years before its new beginning as a rehabilitation facility, Dunlap received a generous donation from the local community to help furnish the reception room as well as financial assistance from the Tipton County Farmer’s Union Bank to invest in tuition for two older boys who traveled to Knoxville to take a course in agriculture.
Those local investments, the writer reported, were profitable in not only the design of a beautiful room the children could be proud of and crops to help feed them, but also because they instilled other productive lessons in the children as well.
The hope, they said in the Sept. 15, 1921 issue, was that “the institution continue to grow and that its beneficient influence may be yet more largely felt.”
And while the population to which Dunlap ministered changed over the last several decades, that sentiment is similar to the mission is still the same. In fact, their goal is posted in several places: Know God, find freedom, discover purpose, and make a difference.
The community support is the same as was when the orphanage began, too.
In his speech, Bowie thanked donors, volunteers, and employees for pouring so much into the facility he’s proud to open in Tipton County.
“This means so much to me,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years now and this is probably our largest facility. It’s awesome to me. When I got the call and we got to walk on the property, I was just looking at it and felt the presence that was here and I was just in awe.”
Its history helped inspire him.
“The thing that struck me the most was this was one of Tennessee’s first orphanages that was built. Right here.”
The orphanage had its beginnings in South Carolina when the Rev. J.H. Simpson began caring for orphaned children in 1895. Simpson had little space and so in an effort to serve more children, he and those in his care moved to the current property which was donated by William Dunlap.
It housed several dozen children at a time for decades.
“So it closes down in the 1970s or ‘80s, but it was built to provide hope. For kids. It was built to be a place where somebody that felt hopeless could come, somebody that probably thought life had just turned its back on them … and they came right here, they met families and they met other children and they met leaders who said, ‘You know what? There’s still a purpose for your life. Your mom and dad may not be here with you but there’s somebody who is. He’s still has a plan for you. And so I’m excited today that this property is going to go back to that.”
To find out more about Safe Harbor, visit safeharbortiptoncounty.org.