Tammy Lynn Center supports families of children with developmental disabilities

Volunteers from Raleigh Charter High School take Tammy Lynn Center clients trick-or-treating last month. Here, TLC executive assistant Joyce Murphy gives candy to Riley Rushin.
Volunteers from Raleigh Charter High School take Tammy Lynn Center clients trick-or-treating last month. Here, TLC executive assistant Joyce Murphy gives candy to Riley Rushin. Photo by Michelle Pickett/Tammy Lynn Center

Families whose children had developmental disabilities had two choices in the 1960s: institutionalization or at-home care with no outside support. For the Tammy Lynn Center’s three founding families, that was unacceptable.

“Parents were the big push here,” said Holly Richard, president and CEO of the Tammy Lynn Center. “These families were frustrated and utterly at a loss at how to get services for their children. They fought with all the tenacity and all the love, and the Tammy Lynn Center was born.”

Among the founding families, one mother was a hairdresser, another her client and the other a friend in the community. All had children with developmental disabilities. The families raised money to incorporate the Tammy Lynn Center in 1969 by having a pig picking and selling plates for $1.50.

Their partnership became the basis for options and advocacy for children and adults with developmental disabilities in Wake County. In 1972, the Tammy Lynn Center, named for the daughter of one of the founding families, began providing day services to children with disabilities at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary.

Birth-to-heaven care

Today, Richard said, the center provides services from “birth to heaven” for families in residential, education, early childhood intervention and respite care.

For families like the Marrs, whose son Parker, 19, has autism and a seizure disorder, respite care changed their life. Parker’s parents spent the first few years of his life taking turns watching him 24/7 to ensure they could respond quickly if he had a seizure.

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“We didn’t even know what to do with our free time,” said Parker’s mom, Celeste.

For the past 16 years, every other Sunday and every Wednesday, a Tammy Lynn Center direct support professional spends time with Parker, helping him practice independent living skills and social interactions.

The center began a residential children’s home in 1979 at its current Chappell Drive location. But once the children aged out of the program, they would be discharged to an institution – a situation that many families had sought to avoid.

“We changed that,” Richard said. “These are forever homes so that they can age in place and parents can go to bed at night and not have to worry about what will happen to their loved ones when they aren’t there anymore.”

In addition to housing medically fragile individuals on its campus, the center has a number of group homes in the area. These homes blend into their neighborhoods and allow individuals to be part of community with support of direct support professionals from the center.

Serving a hidden population

According to Dan Daniel, the Tammy Lynn Center’s director of development and public relations, 75 percent of the people who receive services from the center never set foot on its campus, instead receiving services like physical and occupational therapy and respite care in their own home.

“The move to deinstitutionalize these individuals is absolutely the right way to move,” Daniel said. He pointed out that the center can serve people in the community for a fraction of the cost of institutions.

Funding for such a vast array of services comes from a combination of Medicaid, state dollars, philanthropy and contracts. The center’s 9-acre campus houses administrative offices, three group homes for medically fragile individuals, a 1st-12th grade Wake County contracted school, a fully integrated preschool and various therapies and day programs. But there are other needs as well.

“When you have 9 acres and 6 buildings, you always have something that needs to be painted, pounded or power washed,” Daniel said. In addition to monetary donations, lending talent and time to the organization is welcome, he said.

Richard also pointed to gaps that come up in funding. In the past 6 months, the center lost referrals, and therefore funding, for a social-emotional support group called Building Blocks that helps prepare children for preschool.

“Private donations could help fill the gap in funding for the Building Blocks program,” Richard said.

Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities

739 Chappell Drive

Raleigh, NC 27606


Contact: Catherine Lott, 919-755-2668

Description: Founded in 1969, Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities empowers families and enriches the lives of children and adults through education, community and support services. Serving 400 local families a year, TLC provides hope and opportunities for individuals to learn, live and grow to their fullest potential.

Donations needed: We are in the middle of our annual joyful giving campaign: Heart-to-Heart. We are locking arms with our community to hopefully raise $100,000 by Dec. 15 to fund 2018’s crucial programs and services!

Volunteer opportunities: Tammy Lynn Center hosts three large annual fundraising events (Toast to the Triangle, Rock ‘n Ride Raleigh and Tammy Lynn Golf Classic) in which approximately 300 volunteers are needed. Volunteers can serve on planning committees, or simply help the day of an event with everything from décor and logistics to setup and breakdown. Days of service are a great way for groups – social, civic or corporate – to make a big impact in just a few hours as well as have a meaningful bonding experience among themselves. Days of service can include time in the homes doing arts, crafts or music with our residents, completing a beautification project on the property, or whatever highlights the groups’ skills to enhance the quality of life for those served by Tammy Lynn Center. Individual volunteers connect with our residents one-on-one through a weekly schedule of quality time in our homes.

Minimum volunteer time commitment: Individual volunteers are asked to make a commitment of volunteering at least once a week for six months.

$10 would: A week’s worth of healthy snacks for one student.

$20 donation: One hour of respite care services.

$50 donation: Two hours of therapy services (OT/PT/speech) for local families.