First in Families of NC supports people with intellectual, developmental disabilities

3 Degree Guarantee

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – First in Families of North Carolina is the February 2020 3-Degree Guarantee charity. For 24 years, the program has given support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Raleigh native mark Brooks has Down syndrome. He plays basketball every Monday with his friends. He said he likes to shoot the ball. Some of his 3-pointers are NBA worthy.

“We never told him that he couldn’t do anything, you know,” said Mark’s mom, Debby Brooks. “We never held him back because he was diagnosed with Down syndrome. If he was able to do it, we let him run with it.”

The Brooks have relied on the Wake County chapter of First in Families of North Carolina to help. They first reached out when their air conditioner needed to be replaced. First in Families found the family a contractor to provide the work at minimal cost to the family. The organization then helped send Mark to summer camp on a scholarship.

“Their heart is with families and they will move mountains to help any family that is in need,” Brooks said.

Family support director Rachel Pack knows the importance of her organization. ​

“Sometimes, families are on waiting lists for formal services or sometimes they don’t have family support of any kind,” Pack said. “And there is just a need that they have not been able to get filled any other way and we are there.”​

First in Families of North Carolina, as the name implies, serves all counties in the state. It works not only for people with intellectual disabilities but also for people who have just suffered a traumatic brain injury.

“One day we’re fine, and the next our world is literally thrown upside down,” Pack said. “And we find that there are not a lot of resources out there.”​

No matter the reason, First in Families gives people help, hope, and connection in their community so that they can give back.​

“Because of the blessings in our lives, we are now able to give back to First in Families,” Brooks said. “We go to their pancake fundraiser. And, you know, anything that we can do to help them, to help other families, and that’s what it’s all about.”

For Mark, it’s all about trying new things while in high school. He said he likes to vacuum and hopes life will lead to a job in a hotel or a restaurant. Until then, he’ll continue to have fun with his friends on the basketball court.

First in Families started in 1995 at a parent-to-parent conference in Asheville. One mother was moved, saying, “North Carolina prides itself on being ‘First in Freedom. First in Flight.’ Now it’s time for First in Families.”

Thus, the name was born.​

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