TLC Town unveiled on Thursday

John Thompson • Jan 11, 2018 at 11:13 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A whole new town was unveiled Thursday at the TLC Community Center in the Watauga Industrial Park.

But the town looks quite familiar.

It includes a Veterans Monument, just like the city of Elizabethton. There is also a Covered Bridge, just like the the Covered Bridge spanning the Doe River near the Veterans Monument. The new town also features a church, a school, a pet hospital, a grocery store, and several other buildings.

The biggest difference between the TLC buildings and Elizabethton buildings is scale.

The Elizabethton Covered Bridge is 134 feet long, built that size because the bridge had to reach the other side of the river. In contrast, the TLC Covered Bridge is 17 feet long

That’s just long enough for children to crawl through without feeling they are entering a dark, scary tunnel.

The TLC structures are built for children: store shelves are built to their level, the church pews fit them and they are built sturdy to provide many hours of play without needing maintenance. But there is  more to them than just fun and games.

The base of the TLC Veterans Monument holds a sensory room, where over-stimulated children may calm down in a quiet, calm place.

The buildings that make up the TLC Town were the labor of love of Roger Dougherty, Danny Horne and Royi Moody. Dougherty said it took more than 400 hours to build the buildings in his basement, then take each one apart and transport everything to TLC and reassemble it.

In recognition of his work, Dougherty was proclaimed mayor of TLC Town on Thursday and presented the key to a city that has no locks.

Promoting the needs and rights of children has been what TLC has been about throughout its 18 years of existence. The organization led by Odom began the Abortion Alternatives and Women’s Center. Odom said TLC is still dedicated the pro-life goals of protecting the lives of babies in the womb, but she said pro-life extends beyond birth. The organization is dedicated to making the life of both baby and mom safe and healthy.

Odom said pro-life also means supporting the growing number of babies born addicted to drugs.

“We are standing in a town (Elizabethton) that has one of the highest drug addiction rates in the state,” Odom said.

Among the problems children born addicted to drugs often have is hypersensitivity to sounds, sights, smells, tastes and touch. While TLC Town can help preschool children, there is another new program just getting started in Elizabethton for school-age children. That program is called Kids Like Us, and Odom introduced the program founder, Lisa Lyons.

Odom said TLC is also trying to make the bigger world of Elizabethton more friendly to children with sensitivity difficulties. Her ally in that effort is Vanessa Odom (no relation) a student at Milligan College.

Vanessa Odom will be working with businesses in Elizabethton and Carter County to make them aware of the serious distractions some parts of their business may have on some of their smallest customers, such as loud sounds coming from kitchen machines, noisy hand dryers in restrooms and other noises most adults have learned to tune out.

For those businesses who work with the project and make their businesses “sensory friendly zones” special markers will be presented to place in front windows to let customers know the business will not be intimidating to their sensitive children.

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