Blount County group provides housing for people with intellectual disabilities

Positively Tennessee

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A special group has been working hard to make a dream come true for families in Blount County by founding a non-profit called Open Hearts, Open Arms.

Their goal is to provide housing for people with intellectual disabilities like Robbie Ellis, 38, who currently lives with his parents, Rich and Wanda Ellis.

He hopes to move into a new home soon that already has a bedroom ready for him with his favorite Titans football theme.

Over the last three years, Robbie Ellis’s parents and volunteers have been making this house a home, adding a donated couch to the living room, and a basket of flowers to brighten the space.

They took WATE 6 On Your Side on a tour of the home they lovingly call “Sudderth House,” named for a quiet, humble man named James Sudderth. He’s Robbie Ellis’s longtime caregiver. He owns the home and the property around it.

Donating it to Open Hearts Open Arms gives him joy.

The dream is to turn the property into a community for people with intellectual disabilities complete with trained caregivers.

Wanda Ellis says the plan is to build more on the property.

“We want to build another house that will have four bedrooms with a common kitchen,” she said.

Sudderth didn’t hide his emotions when asked about his motivation for such a big gift. It’s all about providing care for the most vulnerable among us.

“I’ve seen a lot of stuff that shouldn’t be going on – mistreatment of people like Robbie – right. That’s not right,” he siad.

The group is one step away from getting the licensing they need to open the home for those who need it.

Open Hearts Open Arms is accepting donations. Call or text 865-724-6748 or email

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