Partners in learning raises $3.2 million for new facility

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 24, 2021

SALISBURY — With $3.2 million raised of its $8 million goal, nonprofit child care organization Partners in Learning is ahead of the curve on fundraising for its new center.

PIL announced its plans to build a new facility last year after Gerry and Brenda Wood donated a piece of land off Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. The new center will replace the nonprofit’s Catawba College location while expanding its classroom space and programs.

Of the funding, $2 million is a gift from the family of Partners in Learning board chair Celia Jarrett. Jarrett’s mother, Dr. Shirley Ritchie, founded the organization. 

Jarrett said the organization has expanded its services for 25 years to meet the needs of families and children.

“Once again the need in our community is great, and once again Partners in Learning is moving forward to make sure our families and children have the support they need to thrive,” Jarrett said in a statement.

The fundraising total also includes the value of the land, some private donations and a commitment from Taylor Clay Inc. to donate the brick for the new facilities.

PIL Executive Director Norma Honeycutt said the community has been generous with the project.

“There has never been a more important time to expand our services than right now,” Honeycutt said. “We are not only building bricks and mortar, but transforming lives in our community.”

PIL Development Director Amy Vestal said the nonprofit is planning to meet 60% of its campaign goal by October and then host a kickoff event to fundraise the remainder of the project cost by May of 2023.

Vestal said the organization is working behind the scenes, putting together marketing information, speaking to board members and community members to drum up support for the addition.

“COVID hit Rowan County Hard in terms of child care,” Vestal said. “Many centers shut down and families are not able to go back into the workforce.”

Vestal said PIL currently has a wait list of more than 360 children, and that number is increasing. The organization is also advocating for additional COVID-19 relief funding from the state for child care centers.

The new center would provide more than extra classrooms to meet the demand; it would also provide space for a staff psychologist to practice therapy techniques important for children with autism.

Applied behavioral analysis is a method that can make a big difference in the lives of kids. Vestal said it can make the difference in getting a child to communicate vocally, socialize and function in an inclusive classroom after starting elementary school. Vestal said not getting early intervention for kids who need it means trying to play catch up for two years.

The need for the therapy is greater than the supply. Families have to travel to Charlotte or the Triad to get the therapy for their kids, and there are yearlong wait lists to start therapy. Part of PIL’s mission is serving all students even if they have special needs or come from low-income families.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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