When Tia was born, doctors told Becky that her daughter would not live past 18 months and probably would never leave the hospital. Tia’s spinal canal was deformed, causing a buildup of fluids and permanent brain damage.
But Tia lived at home with her mother until she was seven years old, until Becky and her husband had their third child on the way. Eventually, Becky realized that she couldn’t give her daughter the 24-hour attention she needed, while also working and taking care of the rest of her family. The brain damage from birth had left Tia mentally disabled, deaf, and paralyzed from the waist down, and she had also lost her vision by the age of five.
Becky and her husband made the decision to place Tia in an institution, where she could receive around-the-clock care. In the 1960’s, the closest facility that could care for Tia was in Goldsboro, 170 miles away. But this long distance put a strain on the family, and when Tia had to have bladder bypass surgery nine years later, and her parents realized they couldn’t spend time with their daughter when she needed them the most, they wanted to find a way to bring Tia back home.
Becky formed a group of fellow parents of mentally handicapped children, mental health professionals, and others who were interested in finding a solution to her problem, and to the problem of the 67 other severely disabled children they found needing help in the surrounding area. Together, in early 1976, they formed a planning committee for the first residential center that could care for severely mentally disabled, multi-handicapped, and non-ambulatory children, from birth to eighteen years of age. By August of the same year, the committee had been incorporated as a non-profit organization.
With federal and state funding, local fundraising, grants, and land donated by St. Martin’s Lutheran Church, Piedmont Residential Development Center opened its very first home in April 1980 to much acceptance from the local community. This home would allow mentally disabled children to remain in their community, close to their families. And because of the smaller, more home-like size, the care the children would receive would be more personalized than that at large state institutions where many of the children had lived previously.
In March 1984, PRDC expanded their care to adults, opening another five-bedroom home in Kannapolis. Today, Piedmont Residential Development Center operates four homes in Cabarrus County. In addition to its first location off of Highway 200, between Concord and Monroe, now called the Children’s Center, PRDC also includes the Michigan Street location in Kannapolis, Christy Woods in Mt. Pleasant, and Wilhelm Place in Concord.
Residents range in age from five to fifty-five, and many have been with PRDC since childhood. Both children and adults come to PRDC from Cabarrus and surrounding counties, including Rowan, Union, Iredell, Davie, and Stanly.
Residents are cared for a professional group of staff, including a physical therapist, psychologist, doctor, dentist, social worker, dietician, and teacher. In addition, medical personnel are on-call 24 hours a day. Each resident undergoes physical and psychological evaluations to develop an individualized training program that suits his or her needs and abilities, and school-age children attend class at local public schools.
PRDC receives funding through Medicaid reimbursement, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, grants, and business and private donations. Grants have been awarded for start-up and other capital needs by Duke Endowment, The Cannon Foundation, and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.