CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Before SouthPark Mall opened on the outskirts of Charlotte in 1970, the wisdom of building a big shopping mall in the middle of pastureland gave many people pause. But just a dozen years later, when the visionaries at Christ Episcopal and Myers Park Baptist Churches partnered to launch Southminster, a premier ecumenical, non-profit, retirement community in Charlotte, the area near the mall looked like a golden land of opportunity for future retirees.
As the Southpark area grew and prospered, so did Southminster, continually raising the bar for retirement living. The campus fast became an essential part of Southpark, attracting people who had built homes and lived nearby for years and didn’t want to leave the area as they retired. They wanted a place to embrace health and wellness in retirement and enjoy an enriching social environment, instead of trying to renovate an aging house on their own, surrounded by younger neighbors busy raising families. Southminster made it their mission to deliver all that beautifully. It also became known as a Life Plan Community, enabling leadership to offer more options for assisted living and skilled nursing as independent living residents’ needs changed.

Strategic Plans to Outpace Demand
The oldest Baby Boomers were 41 and the youngest just 23 when Southminster opened in 1987, but the writing was already on the wall. To meet the needs of this booming segment of the population into the 2020s and far beyond, Southminster’s leaders knew they would need to be highly organized and visionary, driven to embrace strategic plans and opportunities for expansion. Following a national trend, foresighted couples and singles began getting on waitlists for Life Plan Communities like Southminster in their late-60s or 70s, instead of their 80s. Southminster strategically analyzed and anticipated this demand and embarked on a
well-thought out eight-year expansion journey.
In 2020, it completed its first three-phase, expansion that included a new “small-house model of care” named Embrace Health at Southminster. This person-centered model for higher levels of care totally reinvented the look and processes of institutional-feeling, long-term care settings. According to Mary Cooper, Chief Operating Officer, who championed the small-house model of care early on at Southminster, “the neighborhood design of our small-house model ensures that residents and families always remain central to decision-making regarding their care.”
Along with this 200,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art health center, Southminster’s most recent strategic plan drove an expansion project exceeding $140 million, including 86 new apartments that increased total Independent Living residences by 27 percent. Southminster had been fully occupied for about four years prior to the groundbreaking, and their waitlist doubled during construction.

Driving Toward Excellence
Never willing to slow down, Southminster has also now embarked on its next strategic plan, “Driving Toward Excellence 2022-2035” The plan is driven by three parts—Hands on the Wheel, Fuel in the Tank, and Pedal to the Medal. It encompasses a wide range of objectives, everything from focusing on a master plan, diversity equity and inclusion, technology and data analytics, staff development, and land acquisition to ensuring financial durability and scalability, expanding charitable fund impact, balancing fee levels, and investing and cultivating innovation.
Immediate construction within the most recent strategic plan includes renovating two dining rooms and the main corridor, with work to begin in January 2023, as well as implementing a new master site plan that includes outdoor amenities such as outdoor patios and fire pits, walkways, and exercise spaces.
  Hiring will also be a crucial part of the plan. According to Lisa McClellan, Vice President of Human Resources, “although our eye will always be on staffing and recruiting initiatives, we will increase our focus and energy toward employee retention and engagement. COVID took its toll on gatherings and engagement opportunities, so we are redesigning our HR priorities to fit the needs of our people. This will include a strategic approach to implementing our new values and mission to strengthen our hiring, training, development and coaching.”

Collaboration and Philanthropy

Now more than ever, Southminster is making even more of an impact in the broader community. It recently announced a collaboration with The Ivey, a Charlotte non-profit devoted to serving individuals living with early memory or cognition concerns and their caregivers through programs designed to optimize brain health for aging well.
  It has also begun collaborating with long-time partner The Shepherd’s Center of Charlotte, a local non-profit that has served the Charlotte area for over 40 years, whose mission includes offering lifelong learning, free transportation, and Medicare counseling to seniors across Mecklenburg County.
“We believe in collaborating with like-minded organizations to accelerate impact across all generations through education, the arts, and building healthy communities in Charlotte Mecklenburg,” said Tracy McGinnis, Southminster’s Vice President of Philanthropy and Strategic initiatives.
McGinnis reports that since its inception, Southminster has distributed over $13 million in financial support to residents living on its South Charlotte campus.  Since expanding its philanthropic mission more than six years ago Southminster, has distributed over $3 million in philanthropic support among various non-profits across Charlotte Mecklenburg, some of which include:  UNC Charlotte, CPCC, The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Sustain Charlotte, Arts+, Memory and Movement Charlotte, The Ivey, The Shepherd’s Center of Charlotte, Charlotte Village Network, Alzheimer’s Association, Parkinson Association of the Carolinas, Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation, Roof Above, Families Forward, Charlotte Center for Humanities, Mecklenburg Ministries, Piedmont Culinary Guild, Queens University, Renaissance West Community Initiative, South Meck High School, and YMCA of Greater Charlotte.
According to Ben Gilchrist, Southminster President and CEO, “When our Board started down the road of creating our new strategic plan, the goal was to develop a living, breathing plan that would guide our organization and its stakeholders into the future. Part of that plan will be to offer expanded services to a broader market throughout the region in the years to come.”