Ted Goins, always going

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 1, 2015

SALISBURY – Growing up as a Lutheran pastor’s son, Ted Goins Jr. hated it.

“Now I can’t imagine it any other way,” he says.

The Rev. Ted Goins Sr. always served country congregations, and he believed in moving to his next flock every six years or so, much to his oldest son’s discomfort at having to change schools and make new friends..

“The Holy Spirit decides these things,” the senior Goins told the junior Goins with each move.

So Ted Goins Jr. and the rest of the family were uprooted when he was 4, 10 and 16. Every place he lived — Statesville, Hickory, Tyro and Mount Pleasant — Ted Jr. realized that as the preacher’s son, he couldn’t do anything without a church member knowing it  and telling his parents.

Living in parsonages also could be a drawback. Ted Jr. became obsessed once in having a horse, but Ted Sr. explained how the parsonage property could never accommodate the steed. His father also had a way of volunteering his sons to help members of the congregation.

Ted Jr. recalls his father looking out the kitchen window and seeing the Safrit men hauling hay from their fields to the barn. “When it’s time to haul hay,” his father told them, “you help out.”

Or if a farmer needed someone to drive the tractor between rows of field corn, Ted Jr. was likely to be the boy drafted for the job.

“That’s just how I was raised,” he says.

And his mother, Frances, was as much preacher as her husband was — so much so the kids called her The Reverend Mother.

But somehow this upbringing, which included plenty of hunting and fishing with his dad, made a deep impression with Ted Goins Jr. and led him into a Holy Spirit calling of his own. Today, he’s president and chief executive officer of Lutheran Services Carolinas, a faith-based, not-for-profit ministry sponsored by the N.C. and S.C. Synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

From his Salisbury office on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Goins oversees an organization of 1,663 employees and an annual budget of $115 million.

Few people here realize the scope of Goins’ work, and it’s probably true that more locals know his creative wife, Cheryl, owner of Pottery 101, than they do him.

“In Salisbury, I’m Mr. Cheryl Goins,” he says, “and that suits me fine.”

Goins disarms you with niceness. He seems to be forever in flight, in the car, on the telephone or in meetings, which makes this niceness harder to understand.

He constantly deflects credit to  countless teams making up the LSC brand, which includes Lutheran Services for the Aging and Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas.  It again goes back to his father, who reminded his children not to “get above your raisin’.”

Goins laughs, remembering another one of his dad’s sayings: “He who tooteth his own horn has nothing to toot.”

This past week, Ted and Cheryl Goins flew to Reno, Nev., where Ted received recognition as the Outstanding Executive of the Year from the Association of Lutheran Development Executives. Goins had no clue he had even be nominated by his staff, until he received the congratulatory letter in the mail in December.

“He’s genuine,” says Elizabeth “Betty” Kuhn, chief development officer for Lutheran Services Carolinas. “He creates an environment where you feel valued and appreciated.”

Mary Ann Johnson,, director of community relations for Lutheran Services Carolinas, says her boss is smart, confident “and incredibly hardworking — all the things you would expect in a leader of a multi-million-dollar corporation.”

“But I think it is his incredible kindness that might set him apart from some others,” Johnson says.


Think of the old Lutheran homes in places such as Salisbury and Hickory and you start with the roots of what is now Lutheran Services Carolinas. But today the ministry reaches from the mountains to the coast and serves people from the cradle to the grave.

It combines retirement and independent living communities with short-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing, assisted living and even memory care units. Trinity Oaks is the example here, and other LSC “Trinity” senior living communities are in Arden, Clemmons, Winston-Salem, Wilmington, Albemarle and Hickory.

Beyond services for the aging in North Carolina — where the 57-year-old Goins had his start long ago — LSC now takes in child and family services in North and South Carolina.

These programs include special needs adoption; foster care and therapeutic foster care; disaster relief; refugee resettlement;  help for unaccompanied alien children; aid for the homeless; resources for veterans; training and residential services for adults with developmental disabilities; programs for mental illness or traumatic brain injury; housing for the poor; and counseling.

Kuhn says in all of Goins’ dealings, he puts residents and clients first, never seeking praise or accolades for himself. Johnson says Goins is committed to the LSC values of compassion, faith, integrity, respect, excellence and collaboration.

“So much so,” Johnson adds, “that they are a part of the evaluation process for all members of LSC leadership, including Ted.”

Goins keeps himself on task a lot. He maintains both his license as a nursing home administrator and his certified nursing assistant’s registration, which goes back to his college days at Lenoir-Rhyne University. To stay active as a CNA, Goins does a shift per year at one of the Lutheran Services for the Aging nursing homes.

The nursing home staffs make those shifts like a fraternity initiation for Goins.

“They work me pretty hard,” he says.

Goins also holds himself accountable in the charitable and faith-based aspects of his job.

For a successful $5 million capital campaign, Goins contributed $27,500 of his own money. Though uncomfortable talking about his personal pledge at first, Goins made it part of the impassioned message to his own staff. Some 600 employees ended up giving more than $275,000 total to the campaign.

Goins says he used to be uneasy about asking anybody for money. He thought he just couldn’t be a salesman.

“But then I realized I’m a salesman every day,” he says. “That’s all I do, is sell.”

Goins found acknowledging that fact to be a freeing experience.

He was never uneasy or uncomfortable about the faith part of Lutheran Services Carolinas’ mission, even though it might have been tempting, in a politically correct environment, to hide the “Lutheran” or religious aspect.

“We had that discussion for about two minutes,” Goins says. “We didn’t want to turn our back on  a very valuable brand.”

Goins and his leadership team made sure, in fact, to include “Christ” at the start of their mission statement for the organization. “Empowered by Christ,” it says, “we walk together with all we serve.”


Goins’ connection to Lutheran Services goes back to when he was 4 and accompanying his father on the pastor’s visits to the Lutheran Home in Hickory.

Two brothers, whose last name was Herman, each had electric-powered wheelchairs, Goins recalls, and he loved to see them race down the nursing home’s hallways.

The young Ted Jr. also played with the nursing home’s pet rabbits.

The Lutheran Home in Hickory is the nursing home behind the creation of Lutheran Services for the Aging in 1960. It’s also the place where Ted Jr. would become a young nursing home administrator in 1990.

After graduating from Mount Pleasant High School, Goins attended Lenoir-Rhyne College and graduated in three years. Ted Sr. had been a star football player there, a walk-on off the farm who ended up on scholarship because of his  blocking ability as a pulling tackle in the single-wing formation.

“When he hit that hole, whoever was standing there would be blindsided,” Ted Jr. says.

Today, Ted Sr. is a member of the Lenoir-Rhyne Sports Hall of Fame. Truth be known, Goins wanted to attend the University of North Carolina.

“My dad said, ‘You can go anywhere in the country, but I’ll only pay for Lenoir-Rhyne,”‘ Ted Jr. says. He came around to his father’s way of thinking.

In college, Goins majored in political science, but he says he was just looking for a good liberal arts education. After graduation, he obtained his nursing home administrator’s license and worked for a time as an assistant to the Lutheran Services for the Aging’s executive director and in the LSA’s development department.

The small, four-employee LSA office operated out of a little house on Klumac Road.

Wanting to head a nursing home and seeing no openings with LSA,, Goins left after three years for a nursing home administrator’s job in the for-profit sector. He considers his tutelage under Donald Beaver as invaluable, because Beaver taught him how to balance business and ministry.

“Then I came home,” Goins says.

When he became administrator of the Lutheran Home in Hickory, it was 28 years after it had opened and when he first visited as a child. It still had the same furniture.

Goins guided the home through construction of a new building, expansion of services to include assisted living and memory care and the addition of an adult day services program.

“I assumed that’s what I would do, until this opportunity came up,” Goins says.


Lutheran Services for the Aging launched a nationwide search for a new president in 1999, looking for a “collaborative leadership style,” and it ended up choosing Goins, who became LSA president in 2000.

Looking back, Goins says he really had no desire to build anything with LSA other than to serve more people.

But he’s credited with a visionary approach to expanding the ministry by acquiring two nursing homes — one in Winston-Salem and one in Hickory. The caveat was that both nursing homes, owned by the same person, were in dire straits on regulatory and financial ends.

The N.C. Division of Facility Services was ready to close one of the homes. Kuhn reports that the Winston-Salem site was in such terrible condition the back half of the home had to be closed to staff and residents. It served a high minority population — virtually 100 percent were Medicaid residents. The western Hickory home as well had an unappealing institutional design, few private rooms and bad plumbing and wiring, according to Kuhn.

“We were the right place at the right time,” Goins says. “It was a match made in heaven.”

By 2010, the two old structures were gone, replaced by three new buildings serving 250 residents, many of whom are indigent.

Goins also oversaw the LSA’s merger with and rescue of Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas in 2011. It had to happen, Goins says, because LFS was near the end. It wasn’t making payroll and “upside down with the banks,” he adds.

Goins  believed strongly in the services Lutheran Family Services was providing.  “I wanted to keep going — I was in love with that,” he says.

He and his leadership team went about reducing the costs of Lutheran Family Services by consolidating policies, procedures, benefit technology, support staff and development

“Things were overlapping,” Goins says, adding the question understandably came up, “Why are we not doing more together?”

Lutheran Family Services returned to “a break-even place, and that’s all I can ask of them,” Goins says.


 In his Salisbury office, Goins has a computer station at which he can stand and work. He does it for his health — sitting is the new smoking, you know — but it also reflects the demands on his time.

He served as chairman of the Board of Lutheran Services in America from 2010 to 2012, a period in which the organization hired a new executive director. He’s also on the Washington,D.C.-based organization’s committee that is planning the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

On the synod level, Goins belongs to the N.C. Synod’s African Descent Strategy Task Force. In the state arena, he has belonged to the boards of both the N.C. Health Care Facilities Association and the N.C. Association of Nonprofit Homes for the Aging. He’s a former chairman for the N.C. State Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators and has been appointed to legislative commissions and task forces.

On the local front, Goins has actively participated in the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Salisbury Inc. and Catawba College. He’s on the advisory board of Salisbury’s Branch Banking and Trust and has served on a call committee at St. John’s Lutheran Church.

He recently gave up mentoring first- and third-grade students at Elizabeth Hanford Dole Elementary School — one of the more rewarding things he has ever done, Goins says.

Beyond the meetings Goins has to attend, he writes a quarterly newsletter column titled “Goins On.” He’s in demand as a speaker at Synod assemblies and church groups. He’s constantly on the telephone or writing personal notes of thanks to contributors and staff members. He also tries to keep LSC’s story in front of people by posting on Facebook and Twitter.

Johnson, the community relations director, says Goins’ management style fosters an atmosphere of trust and cooperation so that employees are comfortable sharing their views, and it makes them want to be part of the organization’s success.

“He is just a kind, down-to-earth guy, with no pretense or air of self-importance,” Johnson says.

Ted and Cheryl Goins live on the Square, smack in the middle of Salisbury, in the restored building that includes Pottery 101. Goins, who much preferred country living, was skeptical about residing there at first.

“Now you could not blast me out of that building for love nor money,” he says.

For recreation, the couple often go kayaking on nearby lakes and rivers, and they are devoted to daughters Sara and Meggie and grandchildren Addy and Landon.

Just recently, Ted’s parents moved to Trinity Oaks in Salisbury.

It means someone is still nearby to remind him never to get above his raisin’.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.