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A Friendship House Fundraiser Makes Its Debut


By Catherine Pritchard

Fans of a certain Educated Debutante will be in abundance at a February 6th fundraiser at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre.

So will fans of Friendship House.

And most attendees will likely love both Adrian Wood, who authors the hilarious, touching, very-real blog called Tales of an Educated Debutante, and Fayetteville’s Friendship House, which plans to provide safe, shared low-cost housing for healthcare students and people with intellectual or developmental delays who are transitioning to more independent lives.

There’s plenty of overlap between Wood and Friendship House. Wood, a North Carolina native who lives in Edenton, focuses her writing on family life, with special emphasis on the joys, struggles, worries and delights associated with the youngest of her four children, the increasingly famous Amos, who has been diagnosed with autism. As is well-known to her 34,000-plus followers, Amos is a 4-year-old towhead with a sweet smile, round glasses and his own set of important accomplishments, like recently climbing all five porch steps at their house without reaching down for a hand check.

“Before him,” Wood wrote that day, “I didn’t know a handful of steps could make my heart skip a beat.” She included a picture of Amos beaming atop the porch.
Wood said she didn’t know about the Friendship House concept before she was contacted last year by some of the people involved with the Fayetteville project. But she immediately loved the idea and offered to help however she could. That’s how the February event got scheduled.

“I just think it’s such a great program,” she said. “And it’s a real need. Obviously, there’s a high chance that Amos will need something like that.”

Fayetteville’s Friendship House, expected to open this summer, will actually include three separate houses on the same property on Arsenal Avenue between Highland and Broadfoot avenues. Each 2-story house will have eight residents – six students and two “friends” with disabilities. Everyone will have their own room while dining and gathering areas will be communal. “At its core,” according to Friendship House literature, “this faith-based community is rooted in table fellowship expressed through a daily rhythm of eating, praying and celebrating together.”

Friendship House aims to give its delayed residents a chance to improve their independent and interdependent living skills. It aims to provide the students – drawn from local university and college healthcare programs – with experiences that help them become more compassionate in their dealings with patients, other people and themselves. Scott Cameron, a local neonatal physician and minister, has said he was deeply affected by living in a Friendship House in Durham, when he was at Duke University. Cameron and his wife, Avery, will live on the Friendship House campus as resident directors.

ServiceSource of North Carolina, a nonprofit organization that provides services to disabled people, will own Friendship House and lease its site from Highland Presbyterian Church, a partner in the project along with Duggins/Smith Companies.

The student residents of Friendship House will be able to live there for two years before having to rotate out. The residents with delays will be able to stay for up to ten years, depending on their progress, said Tara Brisson of ServiceSource.

Wood, the blogger, said the 10-year transitional span is a blessing. She has learned that people with developmental disabilities can receive special education services until age 21. After that, “there’s no great system. What do you do?” she said. Though Amos is only four, she already worries about that day. Friendship House, or something like it, may provide an answer.

This is one of the many topics that Wood deals with on her blog. She has a master’s degree and a doctorate in education-related subjects and doesn’t hesitate to call out people, companies or institutions that she believes are shirking their duties on issues concerning children, education and the like.

But she’s even quicker to present herself as less than perfect in posts that are often hilarious, usually thought-provoking and always bluntly honest:

*In her “Ten Tips for Christmas Decorating with Children”: “1. Do not allow children to help with the decorating.”

*In her “Thanksgiving Mom Wishes”: “I wish I was the Mom who looked fashionable while stirring gravy and wearing an apron. I am the mom who resembles the Pillsbury Dough Man dressed like Miss Hannigan.”

*In a post about “sloppy motherhood”: “It best describes me in the role I’ve coveted since childhood.”

“If we censor your thoughts or photos or feelings, we’re not really telling the truth,” Wood said.

She said she wants to tell the truth and live the truth and connect with people on the truth and not get sidetracked into “things that are so silly,” like making sure she looks just so in photos. (She often deliberately doesn’t.)

Wood has found an audience – a big one. In just two years, her blog’s Facebook page has amassed more than 34,000 followers. Commenters make it clear they relate to and appreciate her honesty, humor and lack of pretension.

“I’m just in a place where I’m along for the ride and I’m trying to do the best I can and hopefully leave a mark on the earth that’s a good one,” Wood said.

Tickets for her talk in Fayetteville can be purchased by calling 910-826-4699, ext. 249. VIP tickets, which include time after the talk to meet Wood, are $55. General tickets are $35. The 7 p.m. event is being sponsored by the theater and attorney Victoria Hardin.