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10 to Watch: Hope Oliphant and Main Street Marketplace

SALISBURY — When Hope Oliphant found out that she was selected as a “10 to Watch” for 2021, she was humbled, but hesitant.

Oliphant, who has dedicated her career to helping others, didn’t want to draw too much attention to herself.

Oliphant would rather the spotlight focus on Main Street Market and Meeting Place, the nonprofit organization located in downtown China Grove where she’s served as executive director since 2019. Oliphant took the reins of the organization from Anne Corriher, who she met on a mission trip and immediately connected with.

“We shared the same passion for people, but even more than that we shared a frustration with the current traditional charity models,” Oliphant told the Post. “While we recognized the many good intentions within current charity models, we felt it often lacked the lasting impact for those we sought to serve.”

Oliphant and Corriher also bonded over the fact that they’d gone through the same Bridges Out of Poverty workshop, which teaches concepts on how community members can address poverty in a comprehensive way.

After starting at Main Street in 2014, Oliphant — a graduate of West Rowan High School and Pfeiffer University — implemented the Getting Ahead course. The 15-week, group program helps people who may have gone through a rough patch get back on their feet.

“When the initiative began, I had no idea how much I would learn and grow personally from the initiative itself,” Oliphant said. “Through building close relationships with local neighbors it provided us with new eyes for the true plight to move toward stability in the community and also a vision for new healthier systems for growth.”

Since then, Oliphant has guided the creation of Main Street’s hydroponic garden that currently supplies fresh lettuce, herbs and other greens to the organization’s newly-opened marketplace. The marketplace, located in Main Street’s “warehouse,” offers healthy produce to people who may not be able to afford it or find it at a grocery store. 

“We hope to increase spending power through our market,” Oliphant said. “We also hope that all in our community will shop and help provide a way to make what we do sustainable as we work to make a long term change in our community.”

The market’s shelves are stocked with fruit, vegetables and even products made by local producers.

Oliphant said that she’s enjoyed partnering with other members of the community to provide help for those who need it most.

“Through a charity model built around mutual exchange, it allows one to recognize the gifts and talents of our neighbors too,” Oliphant said. “We have the privilege to witness individuals find hope, move forward, and evolve into a healthier lifestyle of wholeness and prosperity.”

In the new year, Oliphant said that Main Street will resume offering its Getting Ahead classes that were delayed due to the pandemic. In addition to the traditional Getting Ahead class, Main Street will offer a Hispanic version and a program for people who have recently been released from incarceration, which will be called Getting Ahead while Getting Out.

Oliphant said that the organization will continue to grow its hydroponic operation. The goal is to one day open a small restaurant in the marketplace.

“Dreaming big, we plan to one day open a small bistro lunch place in which we may sell our lettuce and micro-greens in the form of wraps, sandwiches, and salads,” Oliphant said. “This is one more step toward sustainability and creating jobs in our area.”

Q&A

Who would play you in a movie? This makes me laugh … maybe Reese Witherspoon.

What would you want for your last meal? The correct answer here has to be hydroponic lettuce! The real answer is pizza, though potentially with a salad on the side. 

Biggest personal challenge in 2020? Staying the course even when you know some may not yet understand, and recognizing that change takes time and with time, good things take place. 

Biggest personal hope for 2021? Continuing to listen well to others and learn from the obstacles we face together. 

Who will you be watching in 2021?  Locally: Natalie Morgan. She’s a visionary leader that loves her community and she is a large part of who we are at Marketplace. My mentor, Shawn Duncan from Focused Community Strategies in Atlanta (along with his co-world changer Donnell Woodson).

What’s your reaction to being named as one of the “10 to Watch?” I admit I’m extremely humbled. I was also hesitant to do this article because I would never want anyone to think that what I do is out of self-seeking motivation or that I do this without a lot of incredible help and support. After much thought, I decided that if it brings awareness of what we are truly about to our organization it’s a great gift to us.

Note: This article has been updated to fix a mistake. Oliphant joined the staff at Main Street in 2014, but did not become the organization’s executive director until 2019 after Anne Corriher retired from the position.

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