Meet the Varnedoe Family
Robert and Layne Varnedoe
We support Autism Speaks because they exceeded our expectations to provide opportunities for those on the autism spectrum to thrive and contribute so much to our society
Autism Speaks’ commitments to helping people gain early access to support and to improving the transition to adulthood for people with autism hit close to home for Layne and Robert Varnedoe of Homerville, GA. As parents of two adult boys, one of whom is on the spectrum, and owners and operators of Lee Container, a national leader in manufacturing, the Varnedoes are dedicated to making a meaningful impact for the autism community through their foundation and their business.
In 2019, through the J. Donald Lee and Laurelle Lee Family Foundation, led by Layne Varnedoe, her sister Eve Murray, and family advisor Phil Alday, the family made a generous $3.7 million gift to advance Autism Speaks’ mission – fueling efforts such as ensuring early screening diagnosis, empowering access to ongoing, reliable services and support, and creating meaningful opportunities for employment for autistic people.
“We support Autism Speaks because they exceeded our expectations to provide opportunities for those on the autism spectrum to thrive and contribute so much to our society,” Robert Varnedoe, CEO of Lee Container, said. “We know the opportunities because we are raising John, an awesome 25-year-old young man on the spectrum, who touches so many lives each and every day. We hope that our support will empower other young people on the spectrum, like John, to reach their full potential through meaningful employment.”
Founded in 1989 by Donald Lee (Layne’s father), Lee Container was built on the principle that everyone associated with the company – customers, employees, suppliers and distributors – should treat each other as they would want to be treated. Today, this principle continues to guide their business. That’s why Lee has teamed up with Autism Speaks and Delivering Jobs create a more diverse, inclusive and accepting workforce in the U.S. This effort will start in Iowa, home of Lee Container, and expand to other markets nationwide. Together, they aim to create more employment opportunities for the hundreds of thousands of people with autism, intellectual and/or developmental differences who are ready, willing and able to work in their communities.
The family has also committed to supporting efforts to expanding access to care for individuals and families in rural areas. Living in a small town in rural Georgia, they recognize the challenges of accessing autism healthcare and clinical services outside of major metropolitan areas, so bridging the access gap has become a priority for them. By supporting expansion of Autism Learning Health Network (ALHN) and tele-health/mentoring, offered through ECHO Autism, a virtual learning network of providers offering real-time access to autism and behavioral experts, they aim to ensure better access and services for their community in Georgia and many others throughout the nation.
With the generosity and unwavering support of champions like the Varnedoe family and Lee Container, we look forward to shaping brighter futures for the millions of people with autism in the U.S. today.