Opening its doors: New Partners In Learning facility prepares to open

Published 12:05 am Sunday, September 24, 2023

SALISBURY — The long-awaited new Partners In Learning facility in Salisbury will officially be cutting the ribbon next month.

The new facility, Partners In Learning at The Woods, is located at 1775 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. and will host the ceremony to commemorate its opening on Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m.

Partners In Learning Executive Director Norma Honeycutt described the culmination of a years-long journey as mixed emotionally.

“Working with all these people day in and day out, and all our volunteers, we are in touch constantly and have built such good friendships together,” Honeycutt said. “The sweet part is we are opening the doors.”

Partners In Learning has operated for several years at its current location near the Catawba College campus. The non-profit organization provides children and families with early education and comprehensive clinical services. Its inclusive services support children of all abilities, regardless of income.

The new center will package those offerings through various programs in one location, including additional infant toddler classrooms, Pre-K, after-school care, summer enrichment camps, mental health, developmental therapies and ABA therapy.

“We believe that early childhood education is essential for all children, and we are committed to providing high-quality, affordable care to all families,” Honeycutt said.

With the expanded facility, the executive director expressed excitement about what that will mean for the Autism and mental health support services they provide.

“The biggest thing is the childcare side,” Honeycutt said. “It’s two-sided. The childcare side is going to allow us to expand our services to infants and toddlers where we are actually doubling our space (for that demographic).”

Honeycutt mentioned that the facility would also have a dedicated STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) room.

“We have never had that, so we will really be able to focus on those subjects,” Honeycutt said.

They have made additional hires to account for the growth the facility is experiencing and the increased demand for its services.

“We just hired a second mental health counselor,” Honeycutt said. “We have hired about six more staff members for our ABA therapy.”

Up until now, four of those employees had been sharing the same offices.

“We are crammed into our current location,” Honeycutt said.

It will also give families a place to meet physically.

“Right now, many of our meetings have had to go on Zoom because we have just not had the space, and now we will have the space,” Honeycutt said.

Partners In Learning Board Chair Celia Jarrett explained that recognition of the growing need prompted the work to get out and involve the community.

“We knocked on many doors and were welcomed in at every step,” Jarrett said. “I am grateful for this community, who chose to walk with us on this journey.”

Similarly, the campaign chair Hen Henderlite, added, “Look at individuals and businesses in our community who have stepped up to the plate to be a part of Partners. Reaching out further, just the wonderful company that provides grants that have helped us to reach our goal in addition to our representatives in local and state government to help get our story out and increase our funding.”

Henderlite said everyone having a piece of the pie is “great because those people will have a sense of ownership in Partners In Learning.

Partners In Learning is funded by various sources, including grants, donations and tuition fees. The center is also a member of the North Carolina Early Childhood Education Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Honeycutt said that the facility fulfilled the mission that the late Dr. Shirley Ritchie set out to accomplish when she brought Partners In Learning to the community.

“Dr. Ritchie told me it would be a diverse place where children with special needs could be integrated into the classroom with typical children,” Honeycutt said. “She also said she wanted it affordable for all families of different income levels.”

Honeycutt said she felt that Ritchie would be proud of the new facility and the direction the program is heading. With many to thank for the project, Honeycutt said a special thanks was due to Sherry Mason Brown.

“She is our volunteer designer and has spent hours making this place look amazing,” Honeycutt said. “I can’t wait for everyone to see her work.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be open to the public and will feature remarks from the center’s board chair, staff and community partners. There will also be self-guided tours, a scavenger hunt and food trucks.
“In addition to our brick-and-mortar facility, our new campus will have a three-acre Adventure Forest, which is still under construction,” Honeycutt said. “This outdoor experience expands our space for children to learn, grow and heal. Once completed, there will be another ribbon cutting to celebrate this amazing area.”