Goodwill names campus project after philanthropist Leon Levine

Leon Levine Opportunity Center
Leon Levine Opportunity Center Holland & Hamrick Architects, P.A

Yet another building in the community is being named after Family Dollar Stores founder-turned-philanthropist Leon Levine.

Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont announced Thursday at its annual Cornerstone Celebration that a 160,000-square-foot building on its $20 million Goodwill Opportunity Campus is being named The Leon Levine Opportunity Center.

Levine made a $1.2 million contribution to the 18.5 acre project, and challenged the community to match the money. The challenge was met, resulting in $2.4 million in donations, officials said.

The building joins a dozen other arts, education and medical sites in the region to be named after Levine, rivaling the many namesakes of other prominent families like the Dukes and the Belks.

Among the Levine sites are: the Levine Museum of the New South, Levine Children’s Hospital, Levine Center for the Arts, Levine Cancer Institute and Levine Campus at Central Piedmont Community College. Still more sites bear the name of Levine and his wife, Sandra, who is a partner in the Leon Levine Foundation.

The Levines attended the Cornerstone Celebration Thursday at the Charlotte Convention Center and received a standing ovation from the 700 attendees.

“We don’t put our name on anything we’re not proud to be associated with,” Leon Levine said. “I think Goodwill has a strong track record of putting people to work. My hope is the opportunity center will be a place where people can find a path of a job to support their families.”

When completed in 2016, The Leon Levine Opportunity Center on Wilkinson Boulevard will host a collection of job training, job placement and job creation resources for people facing multiple barriers to employment. It will also host offices for partner agencies like Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services, Charlotte Community Health Clinic, the N.C. Division of Vocational and Rehabilitation Services and the Center for Community Transitions.

Goodwill intends to relocate its headquarters from Freedom Drive to the campus. In all, the nonprofit agency expects to relocate seven operations from around the city to the campus, which will be just north of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Construction began in early 2015, with occupancy in the new building anticipated to occur in mid 2016.

Goodwill committed $12 million of its own money to pay for the campus project, and embarked on a capital campaign to raise $8 million from the community. It has raised $5.2 million and needs only $2.8 million to reach the goal.

Michael Elder, Goodwill CEO, said the Levine name commands a level of respect that will benefit the campus project, like “a stamp of approval.” Another plus, he said, is the campus needs to be perceived “as a community resource, not just a Goodwill” site, due to all the partner agencies involved.

Levine retired from Family Dollar in 2003. He founded his Leon Levine Foundation with his wife in 1980, using what he called a “modest sum of money.” His foundation is now one of the largest private philanthropic organizations in the Southeast, with assets of about $300 million. The foundation makes about 250 grants annually.

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Some sites named after Leon Levine

Arts & Science Council Charlotte Mecklenburg Inc.

Levine Center for the Arts

Campbell University

Leon Levine Hall of Medical Sciences

Carolinas Healthcare System

Levine Cancer Institute

Carolinas Healthcare System

Levine Children's Hospital

Central Piedmont Community College Foundation

Levine Campus and Levine IT Building

Foundation of Shalom Park Inc.

Sandra and Leon Levine Jewish Community Center

Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont

Leon Levine Opportunity Center

Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region

Levine & Dickson Hospice House

Museum of the New South Inc.

Levine Museum of the New South

Queens University

Levine Wellness and Recreation Center

Ramah Darom Inc.

Levine Ramah Center in Georgia

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Levine and Sandra Levine Residence Hall

Wingate University

Levine School of Health Sciences