A special house for special people

When Joey Beatty was 2, doctors told his parents he had mental handicaps and probably would never speak much or do many things for himself.

Beatty is now 30, and last week he moved into a new house in Cornelius built for special-needs adults who can learn to live on their own. He works at Harris Teeter and rides his scooter to his job.

"You just don't ever tell a parent you should set limits on a child," said Linda Gift, Beatty's mother.

The three-bedroom house is called Disciple Home, and was built as a collaboration between Mount Zion United Methodist Church and UMAR, a nonprofit organization that promotes community inclusion, independence and growth for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

UMAR supports more than 300 special-needs adults, and Disciple Home will be UMAR's most independent residential setting. Three men, including Beatty, who don't require a live-in staff member or constant supervision, will live there.

The residents were chosen based on their compatibility and personalities, to ensure they would be a good fit as housemates. All three are from the Lake Norman area, are in their late 20s and early 30s and are high functioning with a developmental or intellectual disability.

UMAR and Mount Zion UMC planned to hold a housewarming and home-blessing celebration today for the home.

Holding the event on Father's Day is significant, as the home is named in honor of William C. "Bill" Lackey, a longtime member of Mount Zion UMC who loved teaching Disciple Bible Study, a nine-month program he and his wife created in which students read and discuss the Bible.

"He did it because of his love of God and that's what we're taught to do - give back to the community and give to those who are less fortunate than us," said Lackey's wife, Barbara Broadway Lackey.

Lackey, who was a real estate executive for Allen Tate and who worked with affordable housing initiatives, died in December at age 65. A plaque in his honor will be mounted on a brick post in front of Disciple Home.