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Salisbury, NC: $300K grant to expand autism services; people 'waiting for years'

July 20, 2023, Salisbury (NC) Post: Golden LEAF grant opens sensory learning doors for local org

Partners In Learning has been awarded $300,000 in funding from the Golden LEAF Foundation that will permit the addition of a sensory room for children with autism and the positions to staff it.

“Golden LEAF is pleased to support the expansion of Partners In Learning,” said Golden LEAF President and Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton. “The addition of a clinic and sensory room for individuals with autism will create 35 new professional and paraprofessional jobs that will support the expansion of the organization’s services.”

The Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors awarded four projects totaling $1,296,301 in Open Grants Program funding on June 1. Those projects will support job creation, economic investment, and workforce preparedness in Alamance, Forsyth, Jackson and Rowan counties, of which $300,000 was awarded to Partners In Learning for construction costs associated with a clinic and sensory room for individuals with autism to support the expansion of their autism services.

The increased space will lead to the creation of 35 new professional and paraprofessional positions. Additionally, 48 new and current employees will earn 3rd-party industry credentials on-site.

“Partners In Learning is a major employer in Rowan County, and most people are shocked to learn that we employ over 80 staff members, with most of those employees living in Rowan County,” said Norma Honeycutt, executive director for Partners In Learning. “Having a high-quality program means we have to employ the most qualified staff. Therefore every year, we must support our staff’s continuing education, certifications and trainings, including the latest researched based programming.”

The Golden LEAF Foundation works to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural and tobacco-dependent communities through leadership in grantmaking, collaboration, innovation, and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation.

“We are beyond grateful for the support of the Golden LEAF Foundation,” Honeycutt said.

“We want to continue as the leader and model center for inclusion, education, and therapies.”

Partners In Learning Development Director Amy Vestal added, “This funding was critical to expanding our Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program. With an ABA clinic comes specifically designed materials and furniture to support the child’s growing social, emotional, and gross motor development. In addition to our exceptional clinical services and therapies, we will now have a professional training room for educators, professionals, parents, grandparents, and anyone seeking to expand their knowledge and skills. Our community room will be open to the public for support groups, gatherings, and meetings, providing a welcoming space for all.”

The funding is a welcomed addition to the organization’s efforts to expand needed services to community families.

“People have been anxiously waiting years for our new facility to open,” said Cassie Karriker, the Partners In Learning clinical services director.

“Unfortunately, we are just out of space and have had to place families on our growing waitlist until our new facility opens. I get calls daily asking about our ABA program and have to tell them we won’t be able to serve them until this fall.

It is heartbreaking to hear the desperation in parents’ voices, to know that the programming their child so desperately needs is finally here, but we don’t have room for them. We already have multiple staff sharing office spaces and working in the hallways just so therapists can have a place to provide care.” Vestal added,

“The Golden LEAF Foundation funds provided us with an exciting opportunity to continue to grow and serve our community.

Partners In Learning is going to be a place where a child can learn, play, and grow all under one roof—no more running around to different places for early education and developmental services. We’re taking that burden away from families.

“The Golden LEAF Foundation saw the potential in our program not only to support children and families in our community but also how our work will further benefit North Carolinians and our state’s long-term economic advancement.” …


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