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Julia's Story

Julia is a young lady living with cerebral palsy as a result of contracting meningitis as a very young infant. She is nonverbal, relies on a wheelchair, and requires total assistance for daily life.  She enjoys music, action movies, having someone read to her, and watching the Carolina Panthers play. Having a sense of adventure, she enjoys going fast in whatever she is riding as well as being in, on, and around water, and strolling through the city. Her gifts are having keen discernment and a wonderful sense of humor! Julia is truly a gift. She is easygoing, oh so tolerant, tenacious, non-discriminating, and very forgiving.

Julia enjoys living at home in Belmont, NC with her parents and two of her three brothers. Some of her favorite people are Meika, who has been her caregiver and second mother for over a decade, her friend Kayla (who is really considered Julia’s big sister), her brothers, and her extended family. 

After recognizing the deficiencies in the community for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD), Julia's parents, Bob and Lori Spence, embarked on a journey to address the challenges faced by these individuals and their families. Their profound understanding of the "cliff" experienced by families after high school graduation, coupled with the realization of the lack of inclusion and integration in mainstream communities, fueled their determination to make a difference.

As Julia's parents delved deeper into the issues surrounding IDD individuals, they explored various approaches and possibilities to create a more inclusive and supportive environment. They created the idea of Julia's Community into a tangible and groundbreaking model of using the resources on a college campus to empower and uplift IDD individuals. This is an empowering and supportive community where people with IDD can live, learn, and earn.

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Julia's Community

Julia's Community is a transformative comprehensive concept for the approximately 12 million "silent minority" living in the United States with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). Persons with an I/DD are usually diagnosed at birth and the resulting challenges affect the trajectory of an individual’s physical, intellectual, and/or emotional development.

The families and caregivers of children with I/DD independently seek out social and educational options for their preschoolers. For dependent adults (age 21+) the options for living, learning, and working are limited, often lacking cohesion and functionality. Julia's Community concept is a true 360-degree model that supports and enhances multiple functions and developments, each of which will provide meaning to persons with I/DD and their families.

Operating under a separate nonprofit structure and led by an executive director, Julia's Community collaborates with private, public, and other nonprofit agencies to fund, administer, grow, and assess the program. 

Julia's Community exists to merge social, educational, medical, mental health, and developmental activities that increase self-determination and self-worth and lead to greater autonomy for persons with I/DD.

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Community at Wingate

Wingate University is conveniently located just 30 minutes from Charlotte, NC, and is nestled in the Piedmont on over 500 acres. A beautiful campus of historical significance, founded in 1896, Wingate provides both a small-town environment coupled with the drive and innovation of 38 undergraduate programs and nine graduate programs. With an emphasis in the health sciences, Wingate has accredited programs, including occupational therapy, physical therapy and public health, that train healthcare professionals to serve the IDD community in a variety of ways. 

With multiple campus dining options, a robust library, state-of-the-art gym facilities, 25 NCAA Division II teams and a thriving performing arts program - there is always something to do, to see, to explore. A campus lake, faith-based opportunities, an art museum, a Starbucks, the list goes on and on.

Imagine having your loved one living, working, and learning alongside and absorbed in an established community at Wingate University. This vibrant, diverse, and bright community has a place for IDD individuals to thrive.

Meet the Board

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Bob Spence


Chairman, CEO, Aeromed Group


Lori Spence


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Dr. Rhett Brown

Board Member

President, Wingate Unviersity

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Board Member

Dr. Jeff Frederick

Provost, Wingate University


Dr. Jen Poirier

Board Secretary

Owner & Physical Therapist, Energize Therapy


Rev. Ken Fuquay

Board Member

President/CEO, Lifespan Services


Lori Chriscoe

Board Member

Area VP of  Sales, Oracle


Michelle Lancaster

Board Member

Director of I/DD Programs, Wingate University


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