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Shinn column: Wolpert just keeps on giving

By Susan Shinn
sshinn@salisburypost.com
Tom Wolpert and Debbie Elliott are co-chairing this year’s Patrons Ball sponsored by Rowan Regional Medical Center Foundation. They hope to raise $155,000 for the new Hospice House.
But Tom, 70, is also raising money for a meditation garden for the house, which will be built on land across from Isenberg Elementary on U.S. 601. He’s asking for donations from $1 to $20.
Tom likes this grassroots kind of effort, as he calls it.
“When people are given ownership in something, they appreciate it,” says Wolpert, who’s co-owner of A Step in Time with Joe Lancione.
Tom is a longtime supporter of Hospice, having been on its board when he lived in Massachusetts.
Tom’s brother and father were both under Hospice care.
“I just so believe in it,” Tom says of the organization. “It’s part of the community. We reach out to everyone.”
Since arriving in Salisbury in 2001, Tom has reached out to the community.
A Step in Time has raised funds for Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary ó again, with a grassroots effort. The organization is close to buying land for a no-kill animal shelter.
As with the Faithful Friends project, Tom is asking for nominal donations for the Hospice meditation garden.
“Almost everyone has given,” Tom says. “Any amount adds up.”
So far, Tom has raised $650 toward the garden. He hopes to present a check to the hospital foundation at the Patrons Ball. He’d like to raise at least $5,000 toward the effort, but he’d be happy with at least $1,000.
Tom has chosen the theme of “The Giving Tree,” the classic Shel Silverstein book, as part of the fundraising. When a donor makes a contribution, he or she may sign the book. No amounts are listed.
Tom envisions the garden as a place that patients or visitors can go to clear their minds ó to sit and read or whatever.”It will be a relaxing place to pull yourself together again,” he says.
Tom sees a reciprocal relationship between the business and the community. Even though he and Joe have been here seven years, it feels like they’ve always been here.
“Salisbury has embraced us,” Tom says. “It’s a two-way street. In return, anytime you have a gift and can give back, you try to do it. It’s the way we were brought up.”
And what are his gifts?
Ah, this is where Tom grows uncharacteristically quiet.
Fortunately, his friend, Karen Alexander, just happens to come by the shop for a cup of coffee. She’s more than happy to answer the question.
“He’s extremely artistic, highly intelligent, very creative, a gracious host and fabulous with flowers and food,” she says, sipping her coffee.
All of this translates well into fundraising.
“Giving! That’s the one word I’d use to describe myself,” Tom says, piping up.
He’s seen many people give to the garden.
“One little kid came and put change in and said, ‘This is for my aunt,’ ” Tom says.
A neighbor from Yadkin House put in $2.
Both signed their names in the book.
“It’s really heartwarming to see who’s been touched by Hospice,” Tom says.
For more information about the meditation garden fundraiser, contact Tom Wolpert at 704-642-1300.

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