Meals on Wheels Rowan announces ‘Forever Home Campaign’

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, October 24, 2023

SALISBURY — Meals on Wheels Board Member Tracy Smith announced the “Forever Home” Campaign to raise $965,000 to renovate and construct the Meals on Wheels Rowan forever home office in Rowan County on Oct. 11. 

“After living in 16 different places, Meals on Wheels Rowan needs and deserves a forever home,” said Smith, who is the campaign chair.

Smith served on the Future Home Task Group chaired by Mark Doby. 

When the task group toured multiple sites from Airport Road and downtown Salisbury to Spencer, Smith assessed each location for visibility, ease of access, safety for volunteers and staff, climate control and lighting. 

Smith prioritized the needs of the volunteers and staff in reviewing each location.

“We have made do for so many years that it is time to have a facility that works for us and expands our capacity to serve the nutrition needs of seniors across Rowan County,” Smith said. “Our ‘forever home’ will better facilitate our work for seniors over 60. This new office will serve the entire county because everything we do begins at our primary office, whether programming, meal coordination and distribution, volunteer organization or donor communication. 

“Our volunteer management software, meal participant system, mobile meal delivery system and donor management system are all housed in our primary office. Our software systems allow us to serve better the entire county and our six pick-up locations across our county’s 511 square miles.”

Before Smith’s announcement on Wednesday, Doby described the task group’s journey over the past 21 months. He thanked the members of the task group who brought their expertise and experience into consideration in every location they visited. 

Victor Wallace, a real estate professional, and Chris Bradshaw, a general contractor, joined the members of the executive team, Kevin Pruitt, Rob Miller and Smith, in discussing the priorities and needs of Meals on Wheels and multiple site visits. 

 “One building kept coming up in our discussions,” Doby said. “The former Salisbury Children’s Clinic building, located at 720 Grove Street, appeared to have space, parking, access, visibility and potential. The building was built in the 1960s by Dr. Joe Corpening and has been expanded twice. But as many buildings constructed in the ’60s, the HVAC, restroom facilities, lighting and interior finishes are past their expected lifespan. The first concern was the replacement of the roof, which leaked when the building was unoccupied. 

“During the previous two years, the water damage required that sheetrock, ceilings and flooring be removed in 25 percent of the building. Although there was much to do, Bradshaw advised the task group that the building had “good bones” and exciting potential. Wallace added that the location and potential expanded partnership with Novant Health Rowan could be a positive for Meals on Wheels.”

Doby discussed the partnership opportunity with the Novant Health Real Estate Group. Doby, Smith and Kristen Trexler, a Meals on Wheels Board member and community engagement director for Novant Health Rowan, discussed the project with the local Novant Health Leadership team. 

They emphasized the potential of an expanded partnership that involved locating in a Novant building close to the local hospital. Meals on Wheels is incredibly grateful for the support of the Rowan Novant Health Leadership Team led by Gary Blabon. Doby continued to negotiate on behalf of Meals on Wheels Rowan, and in late July, discussions culminated in a 20-year lease at a rent of $1 per year. 

During the lease negotiations, Doby and Pruitt kept the Meals on Wheels Board apprised of the progress on the “Future Home project.” The Board met at 720 Grove Street for their May 2023 board meeting. Meals on Wheels staff members led directors on tours of the building and shared ideas for the use of each of the offices, storage and open areas. 

Fink and Doby met with local contractor Carrol-Fisher Construction, specializing in Design-Build Construction. General contractors Luke Fisher, Danny Fisher and Ben Fisher, and architect Alex Bost made multiple visits to the building and worked with Fink and the staff at Meals on Wheels to develop the best and most economical use of space. 

The Meals on Wheels staff had several opportunities to provide input, ask questions and make suggestions. One of the biggest concerns was the construction of a volunteer drive-through. Over the past five years, Fink and Program Director Sandy Combs visited many Meals on Wheels Agencies across North and South Carolina to see their operations, facilities and processes. One of the things that stood out at 99 percent of the other Meals on Wheels facilities was a covered drive-thru where volunteers could load the meals in their cars or unload empty insulated totes during inclement weather. 

The board weighed in, saying that one of the primary reasons for moving is to make it more convenient and comfortable for agency’s 1,200 volunteers. The height of the current roof called for a creative design for the drive-through to meet the requirements for vehicle height and width. Luke Fisher and Bost designed and priced three options. The most economical design is also the best match with the look of the current roofline. The front of the building will be moved to the parking lot side, offering more accessible and safer access to volunteers and visitors. 

Smith shared a little about the “Forever Home Campaign” brochure, designed much like a Meals on Wheels daily menu, including an entrée, vegetables, fruits, grain and dessert. 

The brochure included giving opportunities and detailed information on the three primary parts of the project. She said that brochures would be available as volunteers exited the recognition event.

The lease includes language that at the end of 20 years gives Meals on Wheels first options of continued leasing or purchase with consideration for previous investment. Novant Health Real Estate approved the Meals on Wheels plans for renovation and construction. 

Upon signing the lease, Fink submitted a check for $15 rent for the first 15 years. As of Aug. 1, Meals on Wheels took possession of the building at 720 Grove Street, and on Aug. 3, locally-owned Graham Roofing began installing a new roof. 

As Carrol-Fisher Construction confirmed the costs, the Meals on Wheels Executive Team confirmed that Tracy Smith and Cindy Fink would lead the effort to raise funds.

The total project, including a 15 percent contingency, will be $965,000. The renovation will cost $565,000; the parking lot repair and landscaping will cost $93,350; and the covered drive-thru for volunteers will cost $185,000.

Smith announced on Wednesday that the “quiet phase” of the campaign had yielded pledges of $468,000 or nearly 50 percent of the project goal. She added that Fink is working with foundations and writing grant requests for this project’s support. 

“Because the project requires less than $1 million, we plan to complete the campaign before the end of the year,” Smith said. “Cindy and I will continue to call on potential donors and begin to make giving opportunities available to our volunteers and the public. We are very grateful to those who pledged initially and gave us a great start.”

For more information on the Meals on Wheels Rowan “Forever Home” Campaign, go to or contact Cindy Fink at 704-633-0352 or