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9 Reasons to Be a Friend of UMAR

9 Reasons to Be a Friend of UMAR


On Tuesday, more than 500 UMAR friends and family gathered together for the 22nd Annual Friends of UMAR Luncheon in Charlotte and raised over $196,000 to support UMAR participants as they live, work and thrive. For an event founded on such rich tradition and an organization so lovingly supported for decades, one must wonder what the hype is all about. We’ve compiled 9 of the countless reasons to be a friend of UMAR.


9. To empower and to be empowered…

The tagline you will see on UMAR’s logo says it all: “Live, Work, Thrive.” UMAR participants are empowered to live full and complete lives through residential living communities, arts and day programs, and vocational services. UMAR staff and volunteers work hard to empower participants in daily life, and participants inspire and empower their friends right back.

UMAR artists work with clay

UMAR artists work with clay

8. To get your hands dirty…

UMAR participants and volunteers live, work and thrive together in all kinds of fun and messy environments. Whether at one of the three UMAR Arts Centers, McGill Rose Garden, Baucom’s Nursery, a cooking class, or any other opportunity for community involvement, UMAR friends can find themselves with innumerable chances for creativity and fun alongside uniquely talented UMAR participants.


7. To join a diverse community…

UMAR is friends with various and diverse church congregations and organizations throughout Western North Carolina. From Hayesville to Reidsville, UMAR participants have made friendships spanning thousands of miles and all ages and races. Why wouldn’t you want to join in on such a uniquely diverse community of people?


Sean's peacock topiary looks on as Sean assists Charlotte Green

Sean’s peacock topiary looks on as Sean assists Charlotte Green

6. The Gardens

We already mentioned McGill Rose Garden and Baucom’s Nursery. Did we mention, though, that UMAR artists work hard every day in these remarkable gardens to sow and maintain beautiful plants? UMAR even partners with many garden clubs and organizations, like Charlotte Green, to bring more viridescent colors to the world.


Consider Sean Reilly, for instance, who has been hard at work forming topiaries out of ivies and rosemary. Sean has created swans, ducks, poodles, etc., and is currently maintaining a beautiful peacock of ivy. Where else could you find such meticulously loved garden creations than with UMAR and friends?


5. The Art

Maybe you’re thinking UMAR art pieces are standard, unremarkable sundries, but this is hardly true. Art created at the UMAR Arts Centers in Charlotte, Lincolnton and Reidsville is impressive and moving, and often makes for a magnificent keepsake.


The Charlotte Observer’s Lawrence Toppman participates every year in the Friends of UMAR Luncheon in Charlotte and wrote about his experience this week on his Blog. He refers to UMAR artists as “some of [Mecklenburg County’s] most fearless craftspeople.” Toppman’s praise stands up when you visit the Arts Centers, pop-up shows, and galleries, throughout the year where UMAR artists’ creations shine.



UMAR artist Mary Gray with Residential Manager Angela

4. To experience true friendship…

When you walk into an Annual Friends of UMAR Luncheon, you will immediately hear the warm sounds of laughter and see happiness personified in greetings and conversation. If you ask UMAR’s friends why they are so dedicated, they will likely share stories imprinted with affection, kindness, growth and love. True friendship is the thread that weaves together UMAR’s many years and each of the thousands of stories that can be shared. When you are a friend of UMAR, you will find friendship in its purest and and most authentic form.


3. To join a movement…

More than 500 friends attended Tuesday’s luncheon in Charlotte which is just one of many regions UMAR serves. Friends at that one Luncheon raised over $196,000 to support UMAR participants as they live, work and thrive. The community surrounding UMAR is immeasurable and incredible, and becoming a friend of UMAR brings you into a big and bold body of people working for a common cause.


Keynote Speaker at Friends of UMAR Luncheon, Alex Cruz

Keynote Speaker at Friends of UMAR Luncheon, Alex Cruz

2. To learn a little something…

Misconceptions follow UMAR participants and all adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout their lives. Taking time to be a friend of UMAR offers the space and experience to learn treasured lessons to fight these misconceptions.


In his Blog post, Lawrence Toppman wrote about a lesson he learned when he became involved with UMAR:
“I stopped judging long ago what any person could or could not do or might or might not be. And each time I end up at a UMAR art sale, I come away a little poorer in the checkbook and richer in understanding.”
In her keynote speech at Tuesday’s Luncheon, Alex Cruz, Manager of the Charlotte Arts Center spoke passionately of her own lesson learned about UMAR participants:
“Their minds are young but their souls have lived. They have experienced death and disappointment. Practiced forgiveness and demonstrated grace. They have experienced rebirth and change, yet still offer love and acceptance to all people they have encountered.”


Sal and Russell were all smiles at the 22nd Annual Luncheon

Sal and Russell were all smiles at the 22nd Annual Luncheon

1. The Smiles

When you are in the company of UMAR participants, you probably won’t be able to contain the smile that will inevitably take up lasting residence on your face. It is truly our favorite UMAR hazard, and beware: it is contagious.


Have we convinced you? Click here to donate or contact Cameron Hunter to volunteer and get involved! Live in Greensboro and want to be a Friend of UMAR? Contact Cameron Hunter to join in on our Friends of UMAR Luncheon Greensboro at Christ United Methodist Church on Thursday, April 28th!