After 34 years, the Chief Executive Officer of Friends Homes, Inc., a resident of Greensboro, is set to retire on December 31, 2016.
Wilson Sheldon is a native of Poughkeepsie, New York and a graduate of Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts; he earned his Master's degree in Public Administration from Northeastern University in Boston. He began his career in senior living at Kendal-Crosslands in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, in 1977 and then worked at Broadmead, outside Baltimore, Maryland, for two years. In 1982 he was recruited to be the assistant administrator at Friends Homes, Inc. (FHI). Shortly after Wilson's arrival, the then-current Administrator left and the Board of Trustees promoted Wilson to Administrator, and in 1996 he was promoted to CEO.
Wilson's vision for growth has been profoundly persistent throughout his career. Under his leadership Friends Homes grew from a single site community (now known as Friends Homes at Guilford), into two communities; Friends Homes West, built on West Friendly Avenue, was completed in 1994. Wilson's FHI legacy also includes stewardship of the environment and a commitment to increasing the standards for retirement communities. In March 2010, FHI installed solar hot water heating systems which reduced the consumption of fossil fuels by more than 150 tons per year, one of the largest ever installed in a retirement community in the country. And, in March 2006, the construction of a nursing facility as a household model of care, which creates a more home-like environment with a person-centered approach, was made a reality. Most recently his foresight precipitated the repositioning of FHI, by initiating a management services agreement with The Presbyterian Homes, Inc., in May 2016. The agreement provided for management and marketing services in order to ensure long-term health, vitality, and continued success for FHI.
Wilson's steady guidance has led FHI to numerous awards and accolades over the years. Since 2013, FHI has received the annual Occupational Safety and Health Administration Safety and Health Achievement and Recognition Program (OSHA SHARP) Award. His work with Project Search and the ARC of Greensboro helped those with disabilities find a career path. As a result, FHI was named the "2013 ARC Employer of the Year" for providing employment opportunities for nontraditional candidates since 1988, named Greensboro's "Employer of the Year for Persons with Disabilities," and recognized as the "2014 Employer of the Year" by N.C. Business Leadership Network.
Those who have worked closely with Wilson over the years have shared words such as "visionary," "trustworthy," and "positive," as words to describe him. Charlie Routh, resident of Friends Homes at Guilford and long-time volunteer and Board of Trustees member, stated, "I interviewed Wilson 34 years ago, (and I knew then as I know now) he shows compassionate care for the seasoned citizen," and, "he's never done anything for personal gain, it's all been for Friends Homes." The 2016 Board of Trustees Chair, Tom Wright, is quoted as stating, "In the 35 years I have worked with Wilson, he has presented the Board with a strong vision of what retirement living should be, and he has backed up this vision with the strong financial stewardship and management required to make this shared vision a reality."
In addition to his work with Friends Homes, Wilson served as an American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging Delegate representing the North Carolina Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging (NCANPHA) and was Chairman of the NCANPHA Worker's Compensation Self-Insured Fund. He is also a past President of NCANPHA. He is past Secretary of Crescent Rotary Club and a former member of the Board of Directors. He is a current member on the Board of Trustees for Guilford College. He has served as treasurer for New Garden Friends Meeting and currently serves as a trustee for the Trust Funds of the North Carolina Yearly Meeting. He is a trustee and member of First Friends Meeting of Greensboro and Chair of the Finance Committee.
"I have been blessed to work here. I have been very fortunate to create a good life, working for an organization I care about, with people who want to make a difference. I don't think my values and beliefs would have fit just anywhere, but they did here. It has been a pleasure to serve and be a part of growing such an excellent organization," said Wilson. He added, "I have always traveled and I hope to continue to have those experiences. I hope to spend some time in New York at our family summer home."
A retirement celebration will be held at 2:00pm on Thursday, December 22 at the Friends Homes Guilford "Living Room." All friends, coworkers and well-wishers are welcome to attend.