The Lucy Daniels Center is a nonprofit organization that was founded 27 years ago in Cary, North Carolina. This center’s goal is to provide mental health services to children and families in the Triangle area so that each child can have the ability to grow and learn in an environment conducive to developing appropriately, both socially and academically. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Ellen Fort, who is the Director of Development & Communications for the Lucy Daniels Center. Ellen has been on board for over a year now and spends her time creating and developing outreach opportunities to increase prominence of the amazing things the Lucy Daniels Center is doing. Ellen says, “We help 700 families per year here at the Lucy Daniels Center. This includes not only programs on site at our school, but also through our workshops for parents and outreach programs in daycares and public schools. We help children from preschool age on up to eleven years old and their families. Our goal is to be proactive in teaching children mental health is just as important as physical, emotional and spiritual health.”
The Lucy Daniels Center is the largest center of its kind here in the Triangle. At the Lucy Daniels Center, Ellen says, “We work to build a nurturing and understanding environment for the children. We set our program up to be a seamless school day that flows from academic classes to therapy sessions and back to academics. We integrate all aspects together so that it is a comprehensive approach to keep everyone involved in the child’s care. This includes the teachers, therapists and parents.”
Ellen tells me outside of their school on campus, they have outreach services to assess and help with children’s behavior that is offered at no cost to any child needing assistance. This includes providing training to teachers after a therapist from the Lucy Daniels Center assesses the situation at hand. Ellen informs me children are referred to the center through their pediatricians, daycare centers and word of mouth. The Lucy Daniels Center is working on increasing their visibility through social media outlets, too.
The Lucy Daniels Center is a remarkable program for children that only helps to set them up for a brighter future. Ellen says, “If we don’t reach these children early on, that’s when we see the headlines. That’s when the community suffers.” The Lucy Daniels Center is proactively addressing a topic that many people shy away from and a topic that is undeniably becoming a louder issue in the news. Ellen also tells me no family is ever turned away from the Lucy Daniels Center based upon income. They accept most insurances for therapy and the funds raised by their events go directly into the Family Support Fund. This helps bridge the gap between what families can afford to pay and the cost of the center’s services.
Along with the center’s on-site and outreach programs, the Lucy Daniels Center is partnering up with a few major players this month to bring even more eyes on their cause. On September 25th, Marbles Museum will be hosting the Lucy Daniels Center with an IMAX screening of “For Grace.” This documentary follows prominent Chef Curtis Duffy on his journey to opening Grace, his Three Michelin Star restaurant, in Chicago. Without giving too much away, Ellen says, “The screening of ‘For Grace’ is such a strong and powerful film. It shows that Chef Curtis was able to stand on his own and create something great from a personal tragedy.” A reception will follow the screening with beverages and hors d’oeuvres generously donated by Raleigh Wine Shop and Catering Works.
The screening of “For Grace” is also a teaser to their spectacular October 23rd event at the Umstead in Cary. Expressions VI at The Umstead Hotel & Spa benefits the Lucy Daniels Center by featuring the art from North Carolina Master Potter Ben Owen III. The menu is inspired by his pottery and Chef Steven Greene (Executive Chef of Herons), Chef Mike Lata (Chef/Partner of FIG in Charleston) and Chef Curtis Duffy (aforementioned from the Three Michelin Star restaurant, Grace in Chicago) have crafted culinary creations to match. A special food-centric auction will also be held at the dinner. Head on over to their website for more information on how you can get involved and how to purchase tickets to their upcoming events.
Photos courtesy of Lucy Daniels Center.
Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @