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Otis Thornton named new Branch House executive director

J. H. Osborne • Updated Jul 18, 2019 at 1:19 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Andy Wampler, chair of the Branch House board of directors, has announced that Otis Thornton has been named executive director of the Blountville-based organization. Thornton will lead the family justice center following the departure of Karen Boyd, who served as the site coordinator under a three-year grant through Sullivan County that established the organization and opened the center.

Thornton will assume leadership of the nonprofit organization in the coming weeks and is excited to be a part of a growing collaboration.

“I am impressed with the community’s resolve to address interpersonal violence in a pragmatic, cooperative, and unflinching way,” Thornton said. “I am eager to meet the many partners in this important work and see how Branch House might strengthen their impact.”

After graduating from Texas Tech University, Thornton moved to Lee County, where he led the Appalachia Service Project’s work in Southwest Virginia into the mid-’90s.

“I fell in love with the region,” Thornton said.

And after completing graduate studies in Nashville, Thornton returned to the Tri-Cities in 2000 as a housing specialist with the Eastern Eight Community Development Corporation.

For more than a decade, Thornton worked on the issue of homelessness in Fort Worth, Texas. Most recently he led a coalition that helped to coordinate the work of organizations providing shelter, housing, and street outreach services. According to Wampler, Thornton’s “passion and creative leadership in Fort Worth really convinced the board he was a great follow-up to the early success Branch House enjoyed under Karen’s leadership.”

Family justice centers bring together under one roof the things that victims of violence, abuse, and sexual assault need to live in safety and without fear: counseling, legal help, and support for moving on after violence. In Sullivan County, Branch House hosts and helps to coordinate these services.

The organization’s officials stress that no one — absolutely no one — should be shoved, slapped, hit, kicked or worse. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you have been a victim of interpersonal violence (domestic abuse, child abuse, sexual assault, elder abuse, or human trafficking) and need to talk to someone who will listen and believe you, call Branch House at (423) 574-7233.

On-site services include representatives from local agencies that have been specially trained to provide assistance to people who have experienced domestic or sexual violence and include members of the law enforcement community, legal counselors, and advocates. Staff can also provide information about other community resources such as child protective services, shelters, and public assistance programs.

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