Partners in Learning announces new center name to honor Gerry, Brenda Wood

Published 12:01 am Friday, April 29, 2022

SPENCER — Partners in Learning has landed on a name for its new facility and it pays homage to the people who got the ball rolling on its multi-million dollar fundraising effort.

The center will be called Partners in Learning at the Woods, in honor of Gerry and Brenda Wood leading the way with a donation that started a campaign that has raised more than $10 million. Officials expect to break ground on the facility this summer.

The Woods were asked to come in at the end of a design session PIL staff attended at Spencer’s new town hall on Thursday. They did not know the real reason they were asked to come, which was so they could hear the news about the name.

Executive Director Norma Honeycutt told the crowd the dream for the new center started with the Woods. She described reviewing criteria for a new location with the project manager and starting to look for a location in 2020. Nowhere seemed to fit right, but Gerry heard about what the nonprofit was doing and asked Honeycutt to take a look at a plot he owned of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

“I went and I sat out there,” Honeycutt said. “I just knew it.

Honeycutt said the new center is about bringing the outside in, being in nature and it will be a place for healing.

“It’s because of the nature, it’s the beauty of the woods,” Honeycutt said.

Gerry said donating the land was the easy part, and PIL has done all the hard work since then. He told the crowd the land would be better used by the organization than as another part of the Woods auto group.

“Brenda and I are very happy to have started this,” Wood said. “Really it’s a very small part of what you’ve done. It’s in the woods, but don’t relate it too much to Gerry and Brenda Wood.”

PIL has collected more than $10 million of its $12 million goal for the center. It will take more than a year to build and the move is expected to happen in late 2023. The nonprofit also has a center on the Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Campus, which will remain as it is.

The new center will expand the number of seats in PIL’s early education programs and allow it to add new programs like more clinical services.

The session on Thursday, referred to as a creative visioning session, was run by local volunteer Sherry Mason Brown. She also offered her interior design services to Spencer at no cost during the construction of the town hall.

The PIL staff spent the day talking about more than what they wanted the new center to look like on the inside. They talked about how they want it to smell, sound and feel. The group was split in two and each filled out their own vision boards with words, images and colors they want to reflect the inside of the center.

Mason Brown was happy the two groups had converging visions and the colors were similar, made up mostly of light earth tones. She also brought in professionals to speak to the group about their ideas.

Mason Brown said when groups start too far ahead by looking at photos of interiors they get stuck on the images rather than thinking about the big idea.

“Once they had thought about this, then they could go select images and fabrics and talk about why,” Mason Brown said.

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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