CEO Message

Lori Bailey

My family and I relocated to the Walhalla area two and a half years ago when I accepted the position with the Tamassee DAR School.  I often tell people that living back in the mountains feels like I have “come home” as I grew up in these same mountains in Western North Carolina. While I have my primary home with my husband and son here, I also talk about “going home” whenever I go to see my mother and father who still live in the mountains of North Carolina.  While their home is no longer my primary home, it will always be a place I know of as “home” in my heart.  A place where people deeply care for me, where I can be myself, and where I find support and encouragement in whatever I am going through.   A place rich in memories and the comfort of long-standing loving relationships.  A place I am always welcome, and I know the people there are always happy to see me.  Do you have places like that?  Perhaps it is also your parent’s home, or your grandparent’s, maybe an aunt’s or a friend’s house that was a second home when you were growing up, or perhaps it was your hometown.

Last fall we began to create a video in celebration of Tamassee’s 100th birthday that we celebrate this year.  We brought people back to campus that had lived here throughout that century of service.  Some lived here as children seeking refuge and education, while others lived here as staff with a mission to serve those children.  The one continuing theme I heard over and over was the important sense of place people maintain in relation to this beautiful campus, the idea that when you visit you are “coming home.”

It was such a pleasure to meet Ms. Maxie who lived here with her sister in 1932.  While she only lived here for one year, she shared many fond memories of her time here.  She also expressed how wonderful it was for her to once again visit the South Carolina Cottage, the place she called home that year so long ago.

It was wonderful to hear from Debbie Cox and Cindy Smith.  They shared with us about their mother’s time living at Tamassee DAR School as a child, her fondness for the school, and the important role it played in her life.  They shared that their mother would often say that her “life began when she came through the gates of Tamassee DAR School.”

Beth Boss Dabney and Michelle LeBlanc also shared about their time at Tamassee and the important impact it has had on their lives.  These two sisters lived at Tamassee for several years, both graduated from our programs, and have gone on to be very successful in their careers and family life.  Both are still very involved with the life of our school including alumni activities and service on the Board of Trustees.   Michelle described her visits back to campus as follows:  “Coming back is almost timeless in what it means on a deep and visceral level …. It is Home.”

Just recently, we had a large family of brothers and sisters return to our care after a few months of living at home with their parents.  This situation doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen.  Sometimes family reunification happens within our child-welfare system before the parents are fully ready to care for their children for the long-term.  Additional family disruption may happen, and children return to care.  When children return, I am always cautious in what I say to them. While I am excited to continue to be part of the solution for children in crisis, especially those we already have a relationship with, I recognize that to those children it represents another time where they have been gravely disappointed by the adults in their lives.  In talking with two of the sisters, I simply said, “I am glad to see you.”  It was wonderful to see both of their faces break into a huge, genuine smile.  The older sister said, “It is good to be here.”  I am thrilled that in their time of additional family crisis they see us as a place of refuge and safety, a good place to be with people they know and love.  They see us as “home”….maybe not their primary home where mom and dad are, but nonetheless, still “HOME.”

We have a lot of celebration plans for this year…our 100th birthday year!  Make plans now to make your own journey “home” to the “Place of the Sunlight of God!”  We will be so glad to see you!

For the children,

Lori Bailey
Tamassee DAR School, CEO