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Faith in God led couple to start special needs home

January 27, 2001

Faith in God led couple to start special needs home



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer


CEARFOSS - Many lives have been enriched because Richard and Audrey Tebbs took a leap of faith more than 30 years ago.

The Tebbs wanted only to provide a safe, nurturing environment for their severely disabled 12-year-old daughter, Anita, when they put their faith in God and started Anita Lynne Home in 1970, they said.

They never dreamed that Anita Lynne Home would grow to have more than 60 staff members and 35 adults with developmental disabilities, many of whom contribute to their community through the facility's work programs.

Thirty years ago, the Tebbses didn't envision the Anita Lynne Home on 162 acres near Cearfoss with four living centers, on-site medical services, a greenhouse, indoor pool, state-of-the art equestrian center and a full slate of recreational and therapeutic programs.

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"I just wanted Anita to be safe," said Audrey Tebbs, 74. "She has been taken care of."

The Tebbses are now retired and living at Fahrney-Keedy Home & Village in Boonsboro, but Audrey Tebbs and her husband, 75, recently joined their daughter, now 41, at the Anita Lynne Home to discuss the facility's 30-year history.

Sharon Landis, the home's executive director, then looked to the facility's future.

Anita was 6 years old when her parents moved her from their Catonsville, Md., home to a Washington County group facility for people with developmental disabilities. The Tebbses soon moved to Smithsburg to be closer to Anita, and Audrey Tebbs spent much of her time at the facility while her husband worked full time to support the family.

Tebbs said she knew her daughter was receiving adequate care but didn't think she was getting the personalized attention she needed to reach her potential.

As they had done so many times since Anita was born with multiple disabilities, the Tebbses turned to God for answers, they said.

After much prayer, Audrey Tebbs felt called to provide Anita and other special needs children with a home that would offer intensive training and the closeness of Christian family life, she said.

She found a magazine article about just such a place near Philadelphia, Pa., and the Tebbses traveled to the Melmark Home to meet with founders Mildred and Paul Krentel.

"You could just feel the love there," Audrey Tebbs said. "There's always a difference when it's run by Christians."

Encouraged by the Krentels, the Tebbses began planning their own facility.

They soon found a century-old, 14-room house in Williamsport. They named the mansion, "Anita Lynne Home," in honor of their daughter.

"It was just perfect," Audrey Tebbs said. "I just knew this was the place the Lord wanted us to start."

Anita Lynne Home took in three more special needs children because the Tebbses wanted Anita to have friends, they said.

Audrey Tebbs worked to improve the girls' mobility, small motor skills and ability to communicate. She taught them such self-help skills as how to dress and feed themselves. Tebbs eventually hired a cook, housekeeper and part-time secretary to help with the work load.

In the early years, Anita Lynne Home was solely supported by donations from area churches and generous individuals, said the Tebbses, who were never paid for their work.

"Not a bill ever came due without God providing the money to pay it," Audrey Tebbs said. "God always comes through."

Anita Lynne Home's reputation spread quickly, and the Tebbses soon needed more space to care for other children with developmental disabilities, Audrey Tebbs said.

A generous donation from a local contractor enabled the Tebbses to buy land in Cearfoss, and the new Anita Lynne Home opened on Broadfording Church Road in 1974. Eight more children joined the facility within a year and there were a total of 16 young residents by 1976.

The number of staff members grew and a gym, new residential cottages and a therapeutic indoor swimming pool had been added by 1983.

Richard and Audrey Tebbs remained on the grounds 24 hours a day until Audrey's heart problems forced the couple to begin thinking about retirement. In 1985, they handed the reins of Anita Lynne Home to Melmark.

Longtime Melmark employee Sharon Landis was chosen to run the facility, now a CO-ministry of Melmark Home Inc.

It was a wise but difficult decision, the Tebbses said.

"I hated to drive out of the driveway," said Richard Tebbs, who relished landscaping the property with evergreens. "Everything I put here, I loved."

The Tebbses had built a strong, nurturing foundation from which Landis launched programs that would make the now-adult residents at Anita Lynne Home even more independent, she said.

A work skills day program was developed using five crews - recycling, cleaning, kitchen, grounds maintenance and on campus - with each crew doing as much work as possible in the community, Landis said.

Crew members, who were assigned to tasks based on their preferences and abilities, "really rose to the challenge," Landis said.

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