Janette Kinard

CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The “Angel on the Block” is what people call Janette Kinard. Inside of a building nestled in the Sugar Creek corridor of Charlotte— a part of town that at one time made her feel uncomfortable— is where she’s made many people feel right at home.

Janette started Champion House of Care about eight years ago. It’s a non-profit day support program that provides care for people aged 13 and up with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

When asked how this idea came about, Janette refers to her previous 25 years as the Cafeteria Manager at Metro School in Charlotte. At the time, the school had nearly 300 kids with disabilities. Instead of pushing them to the back of the room, Janette thought—why can’t they have the same opportunities as everyone else?

“They should be able to have the same thing,” she says. “So everybody looked at me and they thought I was crazy because here I was talking about having cheerleaders and going to cheerleading competitions, and they’re on 2, 4, 6 and my kids are on 1 and think about what’s the next number. But my thing was, go out there and have fun. Have fun, and we brought back a trophy every single time.”

In 2016, Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools awarded Janette the “I Am CMS” award for going above and beyond CMS’ standards and duties.

Other parents noticed how she was helping the kids and asked for her help. So she started a summer camp out of her home, which she quickly outgrew. That led her to her current place off Reagan Drive in Charlotte.

One of those parents who noticed her work is Lakiva Blakeney-Nwogu. She’s known Janette since they were teenagers and has two sons with special needs.

Lakiva explains what she thinks makes Janette so remarkable.

“I can’t even put it into words, ‘cause it really touched me to see that somebody else has a heart as big as these children. These kids love unconditionally, they don’t see disability, they just see you as you are. Remarkable… to me… it doesn’t even describe it. You know I think there should be a different word ‘cause we all have our special… it’s a gift.”

‘They don’t see disability.’ That’s what Champion House of Care does. They remove the labels, teach them basic life skills, then put them out doing things in the community.

“They are able to go into the community, even with COVID,” explains Janette. “We’re able to feed and everything in the community to showcase that these individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can still be somebody.”

Lakiva Blakeney-Nwogu talks about the need for something like Champion House of Care in the community.

“It’s very important. There is a shortage of help for kids when they start getting over the age of 12. Even with the families—some families are not equipped to get services.”

Champion House of Care is so much more than a daycare center. As Janette says, it’s about challenge, change, and champion. “You come to us, you’re challenged, we change your life. Welcome to Champion House of Care.”

Janette’s help in the community goes beyond working with people with disabilities. She often works after hours with homeless families in the area. Her hope for the future is to expand into the building next door, to be used as a safe place for them to go.