Take 5 with Meade Van Pelt

Catching up with executive director of The Harrelson Center


MEADE VAN PELT’S days off from The Jo Ann Carter Harrelson Center often are spent with her husband, Joel, and two children, 11-year-old Max and 4-year-old Josie. They enjoy spending time on the water on Wrightsville Beach or taking weekend trips exploring the outdoors.

I was born and raised here, left for college at UNC, then to Maine and onto New York City to begin my career,” Van Pelt says. She worked in marketing, management, and sales for Pitney Bowes, and traveled from New York to New Jersey to Connecticut for 21 years.

“I returned in 2004 for my MBA from UNCW,” she says. “With a large, close family here, I’d always believed I’d return to North Carolina, a state I love so much—particularly Wilmington.”

It wasn’t until 2016 she took a leap away from the corporate world and into the nonprofit sector. Van Pelt had volunteered in numerous capacities throughout her life. Even as a child, she remembers being a young candy striper at only 12 or 13, and watching her grandmother offer time and resources to charity.

“After working for a philanthropist in Maine, I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector, but the pay, particularly to live in NYC, just didn’t suit,” she says. “I have always been a give-back person and was raised in a family that participated in the community—always served.”

Nowadays, Van Pelt makes it her life’s mission to be there for Wilmington in various capacities at The Jo Ann Carter Harrelson Center, which acts as a hub for sixteen nonprofits, located on their campus on Fourth Street. It also partners with eight off-campus associates. All partnerships offer varying humanitarian services to the greater region, including emergency response, youth enrichment and education, health and wellness, entrepreneur and career development, social and economic justice, domestic violence and human trafficking, racial equity, housing security, and conflict resolution.

WILMA spoke with Van Pelt about her career and the opportunities it provides folks of all walks of life.

Take 5 with Meade Van Pelt

What has been the most eye-opening learning experience in the four years you’ve worked at the Harrelson Center?

“When provided with the opportunity to respond, Wilmington does – with grace and generosity. Hurricane Florence also taught us a lot. The response network became much more cohesive and less-siloed as a result of our disaster response. That’s something many of us learned, and it has made us a far more resilient community for the next crisis and to build community solutions.”

What changes/improvements have you helped administer?

“I have worked to connect health resources to our operation because we see so many unwell citizens who lack access to and knowledge of health resources. I applied several times for grants, and now we have a nurse care manager on-site. Everyone has access.”

What does the Harrelson Center need right now more than ever from the community?

“Like all nonprofits, we were not immune to the income lost from canceled fundraisers. Our Unlock Hope capital campaign continues in earnest to double our campus from 25,000 to 50,000 square feet and add a 300-person event venue as a sustainable business and nonprofit organization opportunity. Citizens, businesses, and foundations are invited to invest in the synergy found only here – synergy that creates a campus of high-impact nonprofit organizations and solutions that together make Wilmington a better place to live, work, and play.”

Do you volunteer outside of work?

“On the Partnership Advisory Group, considering the hospital’s future. I am always participating in my community and church; I particularly like youth projects. I’m on the board of Community Counseling Center, as I believe in access to good mental health care.”

What are your hobbies outside of work?

“Are you kidding? Did you see my children’s ages (four and eleven years old)? Their hobbies are my hobbies for now! I love reading and the outdoors, and get it in when I can.”

To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.

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Categories: Features