Rita moved to Rome in 1979 with her husband, Dr. Peter Lawler. She has a BA in Government from Centre College, and an MA in Government from the University of Virginia, 1977. Rita was the Executive Director of Network from 1980-1994. She was especially proud of the work the Board did to promote and advocate for community inclusion of members. She developed the Network supported employment program for individuals and groups. Rita was the Executive Director of Mercy Care Rome from 1994-2015. In both agencies, she was responsible for program development, budget and quality compliance, personnel and community relations. Rita’s life and that of her family was profoundly impacted when her sister Sara was born with Down’s syndrome in 1964. She promised her family she would always help protect and care for Sara. Sara has lived with the Lawler’s since 1996 and has attended Network and been an original participant in the Just as I am Choir and other wonderful community activities of the DIGS group. She is very concerned about Sara’s long term future as she is the sole provider of care. She values the work of DIGS as a primary way to assist Sara and others with similar needs. Rita and Peter had one daughter, Catherine Lawler Jackson who lives in Decatur with her husband Patrick and grandchildren Henry and Molly.