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Gerry, Brenda Wood donate parcel for new Partners in Learning facility

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Gerry and Brenda Wood of Gerry Wood Auto Group have donated an 8-acre piece of land to Partners in Learning to house the nonprofit’s new facility.

The new facility is planned to be built in a two- to three-year window, and the land is just one piece of the puzzle for the $3-4 million project. Partners in Education Executive Director Norma Honeycutt is optimistic about raising the funds the agency needs to build the facility quickly.

Gerry Wood said he bought the land on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in 2016 and was proceeding with designs to build warehouses, but when he heard about Partners in Learning’s services, the Woods visited the Catawba College campus location.

Gerry Wood. photo by Wayne Hinshaw, for the Salisbury Post

Honeycutt said the organization has outgrown the Catawba facility. The Woods learned about the nonprofit’s search for a piece of land for a building during their visit. Honeycutt said the nonprofit had looked at other land, but the Woods’ location is perfect. Some important criteria for the property were easy accessibility and space to develop outside learning spaces.

The new facility will have three more classrooms than the Catawba College location.

Partners in Learning has another facility near Novant Health’s Rowan Medical Center that is staying open.

Partners in Learning is accredited by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs, and provides junior pre-K, pre-K, childcare and more services for children as well as a holistic approach to meeting the needs of children and families, including parenting classes.

For each dollar invested in early-childhood education, Honeycutt said, there is a $7 return on investment when kids grow up to better contribute to society. Early childhood programs reduce prison populations and crime.

Last year, Partners in Learning worked with 299 families in parent workshops and support groups, provided 328 visits for classroom support in child care centers, coached and trained 500 professionals, provided therapy for 220 children and had 183 college students volunteer with the organization.

According to the organization, early childhood education can close reading competency and vocabulary gaps by 28%, save taxpayers $7,500 per child by reducing the costs of special education and students being retained in previous grade level. The programs can even reduce the number of services someone needs in their lifetime. Kids who do not receive education in early childhood are more likely to drop out of school, become a teenage parent and be arrested for committing a violent crime.

Brenda Wood . Photo by JON C. LAKEY/SALISBURY POST

The Woods participate in other charitable endeavors, including distributing bicycles to children as part of the Salisbury Police Department’s community outreach. Gerry said donating the land will help with the important work being done by Partners in Learning and he is glad they could start the ball rolling.

“It’s giving Brenda and I an awful lot of pleasure to be involved,” Gerry said.

The Woods’ dealership was the only local one to close during the COVID-19 pandemic and all employees were paid while they stayed home.

“Doing the right thing is never a difficult decision,” Gerry said. “I’ve had that philosophy all my life.”

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