5 young children in capes and masks playing at superheroes

 Empowerment and inclusion for families and individuals with disabilities

From the moment visitors land on its website, FIRSTwnc’s commitment to empowerment and community participation shines through. As the trusted cornerstone for families and individuals with disabilities in Western North Carolina, their recent renaming reflects their deep dedication to the region. FIRSTwnc stands ready to provide unparalleled support and resources to those who need it most.

The core belief behind FIRSTwnc is that every person with a disability has the potential to succeed and contribute to their community. Their dedicated team, including many parents of children with special needs, goes above and beyond to guide individuals through the often daunting maze of complex systems. As Executive Director Janet Price-Ferrell emphasizes, “Our firsthand experiences equip us to recognize challenges and find solutions where others may falter.”

Programs and Initiatives

FIRSTwnc’s programs are designed to support individuals at every stage of life:

  • The Sunshine Project: With new funding, this initiative aims to make childcare centers more inclusive, fostering diversity and connection.
  • Community Parent Resource Center: FIRSTwnc offers comprehensive services including identifying and accessing community resources, understanding educational systems, and providing specialized training for families.
  • Abilities FIRST: This microenterprise coaching program helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) start and run their own businesses. Products from this program are featured at local shops like Madame Clutterbuckets in Asheville and The Emporium on Main in Hendersonville.
  • My FIRST Key: Supports adults in living independently, with real-life success stories. This program, now seven years old, supports twelve individuals in multiple counties.
  • Clinical Services: FIRSTwnc’s clinical team includes members from various disciplines who offer specialized consultations designed to enhance the capabilities of support teams, ultimately improving outcomes for persons with disabilities. The approach ensures culturally competent care and tailored support, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of services.
  • Outpatient Therapy: Services are delivered by a culturally competent team, including a native Spanish-speaking therapist. Specializing in trauma-informed care, Theraplay and various play therapies, clinicians cater to individuals with disabilities and their families across all age groups. Committed to providing personalized, effective care, they respect the unique needs and backgrounds of each client, empowering them and their support teams to achieve improved mental wellness outcomes.
Photo on the left of a group of people in a circle, clasping hands, seen from below. Photo on the right of a father, mother and 3 small children smiling, laughing.

Community Impact

Founded in 2002 by a group of parents striving for change, FIRSTwnc has grown into a vital network that bridges families, schools, and government agencies. The team is trained in special education law, community resources, and early intervention, staying abreast of policy changes so families don’t have to worry.

In sharing her personal story, Price-Ferrell observes: “I wanted different things for our son, and as he grew, our programs at FIRSTwnc grew. My goal was for his life to be different from those with disabilities before him. The organization helped us navigate the systems through his school-aged years. As an adult, he thrives, living in his own apartment supported by our My FIRST Key program and running his own business with help from Abilities FIRST.”

Join FIRSTwnc in Making a Difference

FIRSTwnc is dedicated to connecting the dots to ensure that every individual with disabilities leads a healthy, inclusive, and self-determined life.

Says Price-Ferrell, “Together, we can build a thriving community where everyone’s needs are met, and voices are heard. If you’d like to learn more about how you can be a part of our mission, please don’t hesitate to reach out! You can connect with our team through various channels: email us atinfo@firstwnc.org, call 828.277.1315, or visit our website. Support and donations are not only appreciated but also tax-deductible.

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