Barnes Family Foundation donates $2 million to the Museum of Life and Science

The Barnes Family Foundation’s generous donation will support renovations and maintenance to the new Barnes Welcome Hall and help the Museum continue to deliver high-quality educational experiences for visitors. It will also create a permanent endowment that will support the Museum’s ongoing growth and improvement, summer camp scholarships, and expand its outreach to underserved families in the Triangle

“The Museum is more than a place to learn, it’s also a place to find belonging and collaboration, especially among young people,” said Lee Barnes. “The Museum inspires creativity in toddlers, kindergarteners, and elementary school kids. And hopefully, that can turn into innovation in high school and beyond. As adults, they can expand our collective knowledge and conduct original research that may change the world for the better.”

“Encouraging people to go into STEM fields is so important today,” Barnes said. “And it can start right here at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science.”

Barnes, a longtime Durham community member and business owner who frequently brought his children to the Museum, made the donation on behalf of the Barnes Family Foundation.

“We thank the Barnes Family Foundation for their historic gift,” said Carrie Heinonen, CEO of the Museum of Life and Science. “This gift will fuel our ability to ensure that the Museum remains a vital cultural resource for the Triangle community that educates and inspires families from across the state.”

To celebrate the donation and thank the Barnes Family Foundation, the Museum of Life and Science hosted a special reception on Friday, February 24, to unveil the new “Barnes Welcome Hall” at the Museum.

The Museum has made a deliberate effort to enhance its fundraising efforts in recent years, and this leadership gift reflects the Museum’s focus on philanthropy. We continue to look for new ways to partner with individuals and businesses who share the Museum’s commitment to science, education, and outdoor learning.

“We are deeply grateful for the Barnes Family Foundation’s support,” said Heinonen. “Their gift will make a lasting impact on the Museum and the communities we serve. We hope that it ushers in a new era of philanthropy at the Museum of Life and Science.”

About the Museum of Life and Science

Located less than five miles from downtown Durham, the Museum of Life and Science is one of North Carolina’s top family destinations. Our 84-acre campus includes a two-story science center, one of the largest butterfly conservatories on the East Coast, and beautifully landscaped outdoor exhibits. Our interactive experiences include Dinosaur Trail, Ellerbe Creek Railway, Hideaway Woods, Into the Mist, Earth Moves, and Aerospace, which features one of the largest collections of Apollo-era NASA artifacts in the state. The Museum is also an AZA-accredited zoo, home to rescued black bears, lemurs, endangered red wolves, and more than 60 species of live animals. Last year, the Museum celebrated its 75th anniversary and its ongoing commitment to the communities of Durham, the Triangle, and North Carolina. To learn more, visit

Led by Treasurer Folwell, NC ABLE Awareness Gives Rise to Transformative Donation

(Raleigh, N.C.) – State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, is celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month by promoting NC ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) and recognizing a transformative donation made to The Arc of North Carolina by The Barnes Family Foundation.

Treasurer Folwell officially launched The POWER of FIVE campaign, which highlights NC ABLE’s growth and what the community at large can do together to reach the eligible population.

Organically and through the building of relationships with The Arc of North Carolina and the broader community, the NC ABLE program has accumulated more than $15.6 million in assets for nearly 1,700 account holders. The average funded account balance is over $10,000.  The Arc of North Carolina and other partner organizations have seen firsthand how people with disabilities across the state can save money for the first time in their lives.

“This is what The POWER of FIVE is all about — the community helping to spread awareness of the NC ABLE Program,” said Treasurer Folwell. “We are thankful for our partners. They help us promote NC ABLE across the state, emphasize the importance of being able to save, and pair account holders and others with employment opportunities.”

On a recent visit to UNC-Wilmington, home of the Seahawks, Treasurer Folwell encouraged all employers to consider hiring people with disabilities as part- and full-time employees. He was accompanied by a young man who works on campus in food services and who has found both personal and financial independence by utilizing Supported Employment services through The Arc of North Carolina. Through his own dedication to work, and by utilizing minimal supports to be successful, this young man began saving money for the first time in his life.

“One of the best outcomes for a person with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) is a real job in his or her community, earning a paycheck, and connecting with non-disabled co-workers and supervisors in a natural and supportive environment,” said Melinda Plue of The Arc of North Carolina. “To then be able to save that earned income for the future is a game-changer for people with IDD, as up until just a few years ago it was impossible to do while utilizing needed services.”

Coverage of the UNC-Wilmington event was well received. Notably, the treasurer had picked up replacement reading glasses from a dollar store on his way, a stunning pair of turquoise ‘Seahawk-colored’ glasses, which made the story more eye-catching for locals, including Dr. Lee Barnes and his wife, a UNC-Wilmington alumna.

Hearing about the event and being drawn in by Treasurer Folwell’s serendipitous selection of eyewear, The Barnes Family Foundation gave a generous gift to The Arc of North Carolina in honor of the treasurer. “I saw Mr. Folwell speak about the initiative regarding UNC-Wilmington and The Arc of North Carolina. My wife and I were very moved by his reflections on what The Arc of North Carolina had accomplished,” said Lee Barnes, President of The Barnes Family Foundation.

ABOUT The Arc of North Carolina

The Arc of North Carolina is committed to securing for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) the opportunity to choose and realize their goals of where and how they learn, live, work and play. Our organization offers many services for people with IDD including advocacy, housing, supported employment, provider services, community navigation and guardianship.