My Turn: Hope Oliphant: Creating a sustainable and thriving community for generations to come

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 9, 2023

By Hope Oliphant

In China Grove and the surrounding Rowan County area, only some of our neighbors have access to the resources required for a healthy, sustainable life. Our insights from the Getting Ahead program and active engagement with our community have revealed a significant issue.

Despite the availability of federal services to alleviate this disparity, a considerable number of individuals still grapple with the gap between receiving assistance and earning a living wage. Within Rowan County specifically, a substantial $17-per-hour wage divide exists between those relying on services and those striving to attain a sustainable income that supports a decent standard of living. This stark contrast underlines the urgent need for comprehensive solutions that address both access to vital services and opportunities for sustainable employment that provides a living wage.

Since 2014, Main Street Marketplace and Meeting Place has worked to create new economic and social systems, cultivating a healthier and stronger community for everyone, including those living in “the gap,” an extremely underserved demographic. This gap includes teacher’s assistants, EMS workers, police officers, etc… By focusing on neighborhood connectivity, health and resilience, economic vitality, and training and education, we create new and sustainable opportunities for our neighbors across the income spectrum.

Our community Marketplace stands as an example of an innovative approach in providing hope and unity, promoting access to healthy foods for everyone, regardless of income and family size. The unique tiered system ensures that each member of our community can partake in this opportunity. The upper tiers purchases serve as a foundation, subsidizing the costs for the lower tiers and exemplifying the spirit of mutual support. 

When reimagining a new charity model and pioneering a new approach to helping, having the support of an organization like United Way is a game changer. Partnerships such as United Way sustain us as we work with neighbors to strengthen our local community. I am writing to express my deep gratitude for the transformative impact that United Way’s generous donation has had on our community’s equitable community market and our plans for further growth in the near future.

United Way’s substantial contribution has allowed us to further enhance our market’s reach and impact. This financial support has directly translated into increased affordability of healthy foods for individuals and families and provided local employment and training while reinforcing our commitment to economic vitality and health. The funds provided by United Way have enabled us to expand our outreach efforts through our newest food pharmacy program, providing education and training to further empower our community members to make informed choices about their health and nutrition.

As a locally rooted organization, we unify and strengthen our community by equipping everyone with the information, resources and opportunities they need to meaningfully participate in our shared future — creating a sustainable and thriving community for generations to come. This is all made possible through the generous support of our Rowan County United Way. Please consider donating to this year’s Rowan County United Way fundraising campaign by visiting or call 704-633-1802.

Hope Oliphant is executive director of Main Street Marketplace and Meeting Place.