Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Susan Shinn
Salisbury Post
Tom Smith remembers clearly the first significant gift he was able to make. It went to Catawba College, his alma mater.
“I grew up here in this area, and I received a lot of benefits from this area,” says Smith, a retired Food Lion CEO. “If you receive from the area, there’s a responsibility to give back to the area.”
That’s why he chose to give to Catawba first ó and why he’s continued his support over the years.
“Catawba helped me so much when I was there,” Smith says.
Smith’s path to philanthropy came not through his family but through his work with Food Lion.
He always had that foundation of giving.
“My dad always gave 10 percent to the church,” Smith says, “and he said he always got more than 10 percent back.”
Smith admits that he reached point in his career that he was uncertain about giving.
“You’re saving to build up to live the rest of your life, and you don’t know how long that’s going to be,” he says. “I finally reached the point where I said, ‘I should have enough.’ I gave away my earnings because I could replace those earnings.
“You come to a crossroads. You should give back.
“You sort of put your toe in the water and give some. You do get rewards back, a lot of self-satisfaction. Your assets grow and replenish and that allows you to give more.”
Smith says because he got so much support from the community, he has given to many community projects ó Salisbury Station and the Meroney Theatre bear the names of Tom and Martha Smith.
Smith hasn’t forgotten southern Rowan County, either, lending his support to the China Grove Roller Mill and the South Rowan YMCA.
“That was such a great thing,” Smith says of the roller mill restoration. “I thought the community could enjoy it.”
In retirement, Smith stays active by serving on numerous boards, among them the Salisbury Community Foundation, the Foundation for the Carolinas board and the Children’s Miracle Network national board.