Unsung Heroes

They deliver meals. They read books. They rock babies to sleep. They make boo-boos better. The dole out thousands of hugs. These are the unsung heroes of the Early Learning Center – our Foster Grandparents.

Every day this small army of assistants bring smiles and laughter to the children at ELC as well as the staff. Working through the Land of the Sky Agency, they log 15-40 hours a week each, for only a small stipend which amounts to about $2.65 per hour. But as Grandma Diane Clark says, “We’re not here for the money, that’s for sure. What keeps us here – we love the children.”

They come from a variety of backgrounds. Many have previous experience working with children, or working with people with special needs. According to Aimee Spooner, ELC coordinator, “They help with everything, and the kids really look forward to seeing them come in to the classroom. They run and give them hugs when they see them. I enjoy having them here.”

The teachers enjoy having them here as well. Classroom G teacher Michelle Buckner tells this story about Grandma Diane. “I was going to school full-time and working part-time at the Asheville Day Nursery in the four-year-old class and Ms. Diane was the lead teacher. When I graduated college, I took over as lead teacher, and Diane was my assistant. She taught me everything I know.” When Asheville Day Nursery closed in 2005, Michelle came to ELC, and eventually was reunited with Diane, who had retired and joined the Land of Sky program. Michelle says, “We couldn’t do without them. They are a 2nd pair of hands and eyes and ears. They help with the food and the dishes. If I’m needing to change a diaper or talk with a therapist, they are there to keep an eye on things. And if someone is crying, or they have a boo-boo, Grandma Diane is right there with hugs to make it all better.” The relationships they form with children are important, but they support the teachers as well. “She’s like a grandmother to me, too,” says Michelle.

And the benefits of volunteering are not only for the children and teachers. “Papaw” Kenneth Wise moved to Asheville from New York City, where he once worked with Wilt Chamberlain at his Big Wilt’s Small Paradise nightclub. He had a cousin here who had been through the Land of Sky program and recommended it to him. “It was somewhat of an accident that I ended up here. They gave me a list of choices and one of them was Irene Wortham. The name rang a bell with me. When I asked my wife about it, I realized it would be a direct shot from my house to here.” Little did he know that working at ELC would be much more than a convenient place to volunteer. “When I realized that I would be working with kids with special needs, I knew it was an opportunity for me to give back,” he says. You see, he had a son who was paralyzed from the neck down and lived at Givens Estates. This became his way to give back to those that care for children like his with special needs. And now he has been here almost 14 years.

If you are interested in joining the program, contact Stacy Friesland at Land of Sky at (828)251-6622 ext. 132 or through email at

Your Click Could Mean Some Love for IWC

Hope you are having a great summer!  Each month Harmony Motors/Volkswagen of Asheville spreads some local love by donating $1000 to a local charity. All you have to do to help us win is to click on the link below and vote for Irene Wortham Center. Scroll down to our logo and click on the “VOTE” button underneath.  Then all you have to do is enter your email address to confirm your vote; they promise they will not use your address for any marketing.

You may vote once per day. In the meantime, go to our Facebook Page and share the post about the contest with your friends.

Click every day until Aug 31. One click could make the difference!

Live @ Aloft on The Road


In July, our friends at the Aloft Hotel in Downtown Asheville brought their Live @ Aloft party to the Early Learning Center. They created a summer carnival on our playground, complete with an ice cream bar, face painting, music, carnival games with prizes, and some famous guests. SafeKids WNC was here to share some important summer safety information with the parents and guardians. The children enjoyed the party immensely, and their families enjoyed getting to know one another, and cooling off on a very hot day.

We are so grateful to the Aloft Asheville Downtown Hotel staff, especially Dexter Hazel and David McCartney, who have supported us in so many ways — adopting children through our Irene’s Elves program, playing in our golf tournament, and, now, this wonderful party!

Knights of Columbus Support IWC

Over the years we have been blessed to receive support from several local Knights of Columbus chapters. Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest lay Catholic family service organization. In North Carolina, each local council collects funds specifically to help institutions that care for people with intellectual disabilities as part of Operation LAMB, which is an acronym derived from the Biblical phrase in Matthew to serve the “Least Among My Brethren.” Through Tootsie Roll sales and other fundraisers, the Knights of St. Barnabas raised enough funds to make substantial donations in February to Irene Wortham Center, ARC-Buncombe, and Mountain Area Residential Facilities, which, like Irene Wortham, operates group homes for persons with disabilities. The Knights of St. Eugene’s also made a nice contribution to IWC this summer. That’s a lot of Tootsie Rolls! Thank you, dear Knights!

ARC-Buncombe accepting their Knights donation in February.

Book Drive a Great Success

Our Spring Book Drive was a great success!  Our little ones love books, but sometimes they love them to pieces. So it was high time to restock our classroom libraries. The teachers especially loved the Indestructibles books from Dancing Bear Toys-they are 100% percent baby-proof — chew-proof, rip-proof, drool-proof — and can be cleaned in a washing machine or dishwasher. They also liked that they are printed on nontoxic material.

We want to thank these local businesses for their support: Dancing Bear Toys, Barnes & Noble @ Biltmore Park, Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe, and Carolina Day School Friends of the Library.

Even though summer is here, our school operates year-round, so if you missed this effort, you can still contribute to our Books and Basics supply drive. We will be looking for school supplies as well as books all summer. Non-commercial books are preferred. Just drop them off at the school at 916 West Chapel Road. Thanks!

IWC to Host Chamber Event

Business After Hours

Adult Day Activity Center
18 Azalea St.
Asheville, NC 28803

It’s time for March Madness, and what better way to kick off a season of competition than by bringing your team to meet fellow Chamber members at this sports-themed networking event? This month’s host is Irene Wortham Center, and the madness will begin at 5:30 pm at their Adult Day Activity Center.

Irene Wortham Center provides comprehensive, quality services in a caring atmosphere for individuals with intellectual and developmental challenges. Their large campus in the Shiloh community in South Asheville houses a child care center, adult day services, employment services, as well as three group homes. While at this Chamber event, you will learn about how they help adults with disabilities achieve their full potential through productivity, academic coursework, learning daily living skills, socialization and community integration. Guests will also learn how the IWC Supported Employment program is putting persons with disabilities to work in businesses like yours every day.

There will be a sports-themed menu with hot dogs, popcorn, beer, sodas, and more. Drawings for sports tickets and other sports-themed items will be featured. You do not have to be a Chamber Member to attend; but an interest in Chamber membership is recommended.

Special thanks to Blossman Propane Gas, Appliance and Service for providing a brand new gas grill for use at this event and to Travinia Restaurant for donating side dishes.


Take US 25 S/Hendersonville Rd. toward South Asheville

Just past Juicy Lucy’s, turn left at light onto West Chapel Rd.

Pass Irene Wortham Early Learning Center (on right) and turn right onto Rose Street.

Take immediate left onto Azalea Street.

The ADA Building is the last building on the left.

Look for Chamber Event signs.

Overflow parking is available at the Early Learning Center at 916 West Chapel Road. It’s an easy walk from there to the ADA building, or staff with golf carts may take you there and back.

INCLEMENT WEATHER POLICY: If Asheville City Schools are CLOSED, this Chamber event will be cancelled. If they are delayed, this event will take place at the scheduled time. those planning to attend are encouraged to use their best judgment concerning travel safety.

Be a Dear-Donate Books Here!


Our Early Learning Center is desperately in need of books, especially board books for younger children. Be a dear this Valentine’s Day and consider donating a book as a Valentine’s gift to our teachers and students.

Books can be dropped off at the Early Learning Center or the Administration Building between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM between now and Feb 28th.

Books can also be ordered through (Details below.) You may have the books shipped directly to Irene Wortham at 916 West Chapel Road, Asheville, NC 28803. Not only do we receive new books for our classrooms, but Amazon also donates a percent of sales to the Center!

Not sure what books a little one might like? Click here for our wish list at

Thank you for being a dear this year!

Get Gifts and Give Back with Amazon Smile

AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support Irene Wortham Center every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. On your first visit, select Irene Wortham Center from thecharity list. Then either set up a new account, or use your existing Amazon or Amazon Prime account information to log in. They send the proceeds directly to our bank!

The Elves Are Coming!

elfThe holidays are right around the corner and Irene Wortham Center needs your help to make this special season merry and bright for the families we serve.  For many of us, the holiday season means cherished memories with family and friends, gift-giving, and festive food.  However, for families who are economically challenged, the holidays can be especially tough. Many of our parents and guardians are faced with unemployment, uncertain living situations, and mounting medical bills. Working together, we can make sure this upcoming yuletide season is filled with love and hope for our Early Learning Center families.

At the Irene Wortham Early Learning Center, children ages six-weeks to five-years-old, with and without developmental challenges, learn, play and grow in a multicultural setting. The Center currently serves more than 90 children, with 95% living at or below the poverty level.  About half of the children are also coping with significant disabilities.

To assist their families, we partner with local businesses and individuals to provide each child clothes and gifts during the holiday season. Elves help by hosting a clothing or toy drive at their school, church, or club, or donating individual items. Gifts are due by December 14, to be distributed to the families in time for Christmas. Items can be dropped off at our Administrative Offices on Rose Street from 8:00-4:30, or anytime at

M & D Tire and Automotive Repair 
300 Edbar St (off Sweeten Creek Road)
Asheville, North Carolina 28803
(828) 274-7418

Some of the items our children especially cherish include:

Toys and books
Warm Clothes and Coats (sizes 0-6x)
Shoes or boots

You may also help by donating money to help purchase toys for special needs children. Thank you in advance for your generosity this holiday season.

Eleanor Campbell
828-274-7518, ext 155


Aloft and AC Hotels
Appalachian Landslide Consulting
Asheville Family Fitness
Asheville Home Builders Association
Asheville Savings Bank
Blue Ridge Pharmacy
Colton Groome and Company
Great Beginnings Pediatric Dentistry
Grigg Electric
Harry’s on the Hill
Insurance Services of Avl
Kay Jewelers – Asheville Outlets
M+D Tire and Auto Repair
Mountain Ultrasound & Imaging
Stuart Nye Jewelry
Teague Dentistry
Thermo Fisher
TJ Maxx and Home Goods – Overlook Village

All About IWC in New Video from GoodWorks WNC

Local video producer Crunch Media is lending its time and talent to a website called “Good Works WNC” which creates videos for local WNC nonprofits to help them raise awareness, gain support, and do what they do best. Serve! Each week 4 different nonprofits get to tell their story on video. Irene Wortham Center was lucky enough to be one of the ones chosen, and our video was shot this week at Travinia Restaurant. Click below to watch it on YouTube and be sure to like the video and share with friends. Thanks to Rainbow International Restoration for sponsoring our segment!