What’s happening at Irene Wortham Center? Click here to view our latest February, 2021 Newsletter!

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Thank you to everyone who supported our 20th Annual Golf Tournament!

The event raised $39,451 to support children with developmental and socioeconomic challenges.  We could not have done it without the following sponsors:




We have a garden in the Early Learning Center!

Thanks to a grant from the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), children in the Early Learning Center have been learning about farming and creating a functional garden in the playground.  The kids have enjoyed this hands-on activity and opportunity to get outside, while learning a new skill!  Buncombe County Partnership provided all of the seeds.  So far the kids have planted cucumbers, squash, kale, okra, collards, basil, cilantro, carrots, and Lima beans!


Renaissance Christmas Celebration for a special family!

We partnered with the Renaissance again this year to give back to a family in need.  A family of a child in our Early Learning Center was treated to two nights in a decorated suite at the downtown Renaissance.  Santa left gifts under the tree for the child and parents and all food was provided by the hotel.  We appreciate the support from the Renaissance to help us give back to a family in need.  Click here to see a WLOS newscast of the event!

Little Trees Project 2019

We partnered with the Bridge Foundation to participate in the 2019 Little Trees project.  Each classroom in our Early Learning Center as well as the people in our Adult Day Activity center decorated these unique trees.  They turned out great!  The festive trees will go home with our foster grandparents and families in need for a little holiday cheer!


Drums and Dragons

We had a blast competing at the annual Drums and Dragons race and won both of our races! Thank you to our participants and the WNC Bridge Foundation for including our organization in this event.

Drums and Dragons is Asheville’s premier Dragon Boat Race and raised over $40,000.00 to support the amazing services provided by local non-profits in our area.

For more information about the event visit


19th Annual Golf Tournament 

Our 19th Annual Golf Tournament was a huge success! We had 16 teams compete and everyone had a fun filled day of golf at Etowah Valley Golf & Resort.

We are so grateful for our sponsors, teams that participated and volunteers. Thank you to everyone that helped make this fundraiser successful and who support our mission of helping children and adults with disabilities succeed.

UPDATE: We are just $1,570 shy of our fundraising goal of $35,000. Please consider donating to our cause today and help us reach our goal! To Donate Click HERE





Our Tournament presented by our EAGLE Sponsor Blue Ridge Pharmacy: 


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.”

Unsung Heroes

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