Brenda and Gerry Wood give property to relocate Partners In Learning in Salisbury

By David Whisenant
Published June 23, 2020


ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) – According to a news release, Partners In Learning, which has been headquartered on Robin Road on the Catawba College campus for its 24-year history, has been given property to relocate on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Jake Alexander Boulevard.

The eight plus acres of property is a gift from Brenda and Gerry Wood of Salisbury and will allow for much needed growth of the program.

Partners In Learning was founded in 1996 by a grassroots group of individuals, headed by Dr. Shirley Ritchie, long-time Catawba College professor. It is a non-profit organization that serves as the Model Inclusive Center for Early Childhood Education, providing early care and education to children six weeks through 12 years of age. Its Community Impact Program provides comprehensive center-based, community-based, and home-based services and has been serving families in the community for more than 20 years. Currently, 64 percent of students are from low-income families.

Gerry Wood, CEO of Gerry Wood Auto Group, learned of the group’s plans to relocate at a presentation at the Salisbury Rotary Club. The couple then visited the facilities on the Catawba College campus and decided that the gift of property to Partners In Learning would better serve the Salisbury-Rowan community than the warehouses that they had initially planned to develop on the property.

“I was quite moved by their story and mission statement,” said Gerry Wood. “They do a fabulous job. There is such a need in Rowan County for youngsters who are less fortunate than most of us. This is why Partners In Learning is so necessary and that’s why we are supporting them.”

Bill Wagoner, a member of the Board of Directors and head of the Site Search and Development Committee, called the gift “beyond kind – amazing on the part of Brenda and Gerry Wood. It was their suggestion, and they were incredibly enthusiastic to make this work. It was an unsolicited gift. It was like they were saying ‘Go build your dream.’ Expansion is so important. The waiting list is at 140 students. What the Woods have done, at their suggestion, is a miracle: when a great goodness is granted from big-hearted people to the very best teachers of children…that’s a miracle to me.”

The property meets the committee’s needs of a visible, safe location that is easily accessible, Wagoner said. “This gives us tons of ability to meet future needs,” he said.

Norma Honeycutt, Executive Director of Partners In Learning, said that the gift moves the organization forward in a big way in is efforts to create an environment “where every child, no matter their income or disability, will have a proper and inclusive education.”

“Our mission is to model the highest quality learning environment that stimulates families and the community to provide optimal growth and development of children.Our vision is to empower families with differently-abled or trauma influenced children and to support those children as they grow and develop,” she said. “We know that high quality early intervention can change a child’s developmental trajectory for years to come. We believe that it takes a community to help build the foundation for our youth.”

She added that the hope of Partners In Learning is that “the generosity of the Woods will serve as an incentive for others to consider joining them in this important work for children.”

Partners In Learning operates two facilities with all-inclusive classrooms and family services — the original site on Robin Road, with 160 students enrolled, and a second site on Best Street, with 90 students enrolled. Partners In Learning is Rowan County’s only 5-star and Nationally Accredited program through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

In the past year (2018/2019 FY), Partners In Learning has:

· Worked with 115 school-aged children.

· Worked with 183 college student volunteers.

· Served 299 families at parent workshops and support groups.

· Provided developmental therapy to 220 children in their natural environment.

· Provided support to 79 center-based children, conducted by the on-site Inclusion Director.

· Supported 106 families in transitioning to an inclusive setting.

· Provided 328 site visits in child care centers throughout the county for classroom support.

· Been involved in training/coaching 500 teachers and directors.

According to Partners in Learning:

· Children who participate in early childhood education need fewer services over the course of their lifetime, including reduced need for special education and grade retention, saving taxpayers an estimated $7,500 per child.

· Early childhood intervention can close the gaps in reading competency and vocabulary by up to 28 percent.

· At age 6, those who participated in early education tested above the national norms in language, literacy, math, and general knowledge.

· A child without an early childhood education is 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 40 percent more likely to become a teenage parent, and70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.

The gift of property proceeds plans for the fund-raising effort by the organization and its Board of Directors, called Partnering for Our Future.

For more information, visit the Partners In Learning website,

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