Racial Justice Work Group Luncheon Exposes Racism in Death Penalty

Attorney Rebecca Inglefield is seen speaking to a diverse group of 40 who attended the Racial Justice Work Group luncheon about about racial bias against minorities in the death penalty and the Racial Justice Act on March 17, 2011 at Exodus Missionary Outreach Church in Hickory. Standing in the background is Rev. David Roberts, pastor of Morning Star First Baptist Church who spoke about his experience as an educator regarding the unequal treatment of African-American boys in schools. Roberts said racial discrimination in education leads to more serious social problems such as the disproportionate incarceration rates of African-American men.A diverse group of 40 from local churches and civil rights organizations attended the Racial Justice Work Group Luncheon on March 17, 2011 at Exodus Missionary Outreach Church in Hickory to hear attorney Rebecca Inglefield present the history of racism with the death penalty. This event is one of  a series of luncheons fostering inter-racial dialogue that resulted from the public showing of the film “Traces of the Trade” last fall in Hickory. The Racial Justice Work Group is one of three groups that formed from this initiative with a goal to improve race relations, and foster racial reconciliation. The other two groups meeting monthly are a fellowship group and a book study group.
Inglefield gave many examples of racism and the death penalty from the days of slavery to recent studies that presented data of racial bias in jury selection and sentencing. She shared how a 1980’s study of the death penalty in Georgia indicated that when a murder victim is white, the defendant is 3.5 times more likely to get the death penalty than if the victim is African-American.  The Supreme Court has left the decision about how to handle the racial bias against minorities in applying the death penalty to the states.
As a result, the N.C. legislature passed The Racial Justice Act in 2009 which states “No person shall be subject to or given a sentence of death or shall be executed pursuant to any judgment that was sought or obtained on the basis of race.” People on death row now and those being tried in capitol cases are allowed to use the facts of their own case, regional statistics, and sentencing information from similar cases to prove racial bias in receiving the death penalty. If racial bias is found, they can ask for life imprisonment rather than execution.     
Questions and comments following Inglefield’s presentation included other kinds of current institutional racism that feeds the “pipeline to prison” which is incarcerating African-Americans in vastly disproportionate numbers. African-Americans comprise 13% of the nation’s population, but they make up 44% of the prison population. Several speakers were passionate about racial discrimination against African-Amercian males, especially in the education system.  Lynn Foes, a white retired educator who attends Church of the Master UCC said, “I know from experience that African-American boys are labled and treated unequally in our education system in America.” All agreed that multiple streams of institutional racism converge in the racial bias against minorities in the death penalty.  
Rev. Susan Smith, the Racial Justice Work Group coordinator, asked for volunteers to help determine the direction for their next luncheon meeting which will be at 12:00pm on April 21, 2011 at the Church of the Master UCC in Hickory. Lunch will be provided, and donations appreciated. The group is alternating meeting across racial and denominational lines to help facilitate diverse participation. People of faith, those interested in civil rights, and community representatives are encouraged to participate.

Exodus Homes and Exodus Missionary Outreach Church Reach Out to Community

Rev. Cornelius Holland is seen praying for people who came forward in need at the recent Exodus Homes and Exodus Missionary Outreach Church Community Outreach event on Saturday March 5, 2011 at the Brown Penn Gym in Hickory. The Exodus ministry drew a crowd of approximately 300 people, giving away free food, clothes, furniture, Bibles, information from the PPC Healthcare Co-op, blood pressure checks, haircuts, manicures, voter registration, and free HIV testing by ALFA.  Several Exodus Homes residents gave moving testimonies of their recovery from addicton or incarceration. Volunteers from the faith-based United Way supportive housing program and the church took prayers requests from individuals, and Rev. Holland led the corporate prayer for all those who came to the front with special needs at the end of the program. The ministry has done outreach events like this for the past 14 years, and is committed to meeting concrete needs as a means of helping people learn about resources and get help for their problems.

For more information, contact Rev. Susan Smith at 828-962-8196 or revsusansmith@gmail.com.

Hickory Delegation Attends NC NAACP Historic Thousands on Jones Street “HK on J” March on 2/12/11

An anonymous donor provided a chartered bus for members of the Hickory Branch NAACP to attend the fifth annual NC NAACP Historic Thousands on Jones Street “HK on J” march in Raleigh on February 12, 2011. Seen here are those who rode the bus to the march which started at Shaw University and ended at the steps of the General Assembly. 109 social justice organizations participated in the annual march  which aims to bring a 14 Point People’s Agenda to NC legislators as they prepare to begin the next legislative session. Thousands came from all over the state asking that the re-segregation of public schools be addressed, quality education for all children, living wages, affordable heathcare for all people, restorative justice  for people leaving prison, and many other issues in the modern day civil rights movement. Others from Hickory drove to Raleigh, with a total of 55 people from this area participating. Many representatives from  Exodus Homes, Exodus Church, and Clinton Tabernacle AME Zion Church were in the delegation. For more information, go to www.hkonj.com

Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Executive Director of Exodus Homes in Hickory is seen with Exodus Homes resident Keisha Simpson marching in the fifth annual NC NAACP Historic Thousands on Jones Street “HK on J” people’s assembly in Raleigh on February 12, 2011. A delegation of 25 people from Exodus Homes and Exodus Church participated in the march to ask for restorative justice for people returning to the community from prison, and others with criminal records. 109 social justice organizations participated in the annual march  which aims to bring a 14 Point People’s Agenda to NC legislators as they prepare to begin the next legislative session. Thousands came from all over the state asking that the re-segregation of public schools be addressed, quality education for all children, living wages, affordable heathcare for all people, same day voter registration, restorative justice for formerly incarcerated people, and many other issues in the modern day civil rights movement. Others from Hickory drove to Raleigh, with a total of 55 people from this area participating. Many representatives from Clinton Tabernacle AME Zion Church were also in the delegation. For more information, go to www.hkonj.com.

Rev. Susan Smith Receives 2011 Spirit of King Award

Rev. Susan Smith is seen waving to the audience at the MLK Community Service as she receives the 2011 Spirit of King Award.Rev. Susan Smith received the 2011 Spirit of King award on January 16, 2011 during the ecumenical MLK Community service hosted by the Greater Hickory Ministerial Alliance and the Hickory Area Ministers at Corinth Reformed Church in Hickory.  In presenting the award, Rev. Bill Gerrard read from the nominations for her that described her as a community leader who embodied the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy of inclusion of people of all races and cultures, making our community a better place to live. He gave many examples of her work in the NAACP, diverse work in the community, service with Exodus Church, and her dedication at  Exodus Homes.  When receiving the award, Smith said “To God be the glory” and named many who share the award with her because “when you see a turtle on a fence post, you know she didn’t get there by herself.”
Rev. Smith accepted the award on behalf of her late husband Michael Smith who was a lifelong advocate for equality of rights for all people as well as her children, Unifour Christian Fellowship Church, Church of the Master UCC, the NAACP, Faith In America,  Exodus Missionary Outreach Church, and Exodus Homes. She has been associate pastor of Exodus Church and assistant executive director of Exodus Homes for almost 14 years. Smith is currently chair of Press and publicity for the Hickory Branch NAACP.
Smith gave a rousing acceptance speech, encouraging the audience to join the NAACP and continue the fight for full and equal rights for all people. Quoting Dr. King, she said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We can and will make Dr. King’s dream come true. God bless America, and God bless you all.”

Young Men of Integrity Wins State Award for Community Collaboration

NC Council of Community Programs, Excellence Awards 2010-11
Pinehurst, NC, December 3, 2010

Exodus Homes Executive Director Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Young Men of Integrity Founding Director Chris Johnson, The Cognitive Connection CEO Kathy Clay, and Mental Health Partners Area Director John HardyYoung Men of Integrity, a mentoring program of United Way agency Exodus Homes, recently won recognition for its excellence in community collaboration from the N.C. Council of Community Programs.  The Council of mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse programs was incorporated in 1982 as a nonprofit association dedicated to helping its member area programs improve their service quality and management effectiveness. It held an awards day on December 3, 2010 in Pinehurst N.C. attended by representatives from all across the state, including four from Catawba County.

The program was nominated for the award by Kathy Clay, CEO of The Cognitive Connection, and John Hardy, Area Director of Mental Health Partners. Young Men of Integrity provides mentoring services to 35 at risk youth ages 10 – 19 in partnership with the two agencies under the umbrella of Exodus Homes as its parent organization. The program is a model of community collaboration by working with numerous organizations to give the youth, their parents, and volunteer mentors opportunities to participate in community service projects, educational activities, career exploration, cultural enrichment experiences, and recreation with an emphasis on drug free living. For example, last summer the young men volunteered to read to younger children at Centro Latino for a cross cultural experience that emphasized the importance of learning.

Chris Johnson graduated from the Exodus Homes program in 2006 and soon founded the new mentoring program to help young men not fall into the trap of drug addiction as he had done. 19 year old Phrank Moses lived at Exodus Homes from 1999-2001 with his mother and was one of the first young men to enter the Young Men of Integrity program in 2006. Today he is a shining example of the effectiveness of the program, and a testament to Chris Johnson’s ability to lead young men into a life of accomplishment and integrity. Phrank was president of the Key Club and named a Hero of Hickory at Hickory High in 2009. Today he is attending CVCC studying criminal justice on a full scholarship from Kiwanis Club.

Young Men of integrity has partnered with the United Way Youth Council, the Christmas Bureau, the Charity Chase, Catawba Valley Rotary Club, Boy Scouts of America, the Health Department, Council on Adolescents, Hickory Parks and Recreation, Hickory Public Schools, the Western Piedmont Symphony, Viewmont Baptist Church, the NC State Martin Luther King Commission, Samaritans Feet, and many others.
Chris Johnson gave credit to his numerous community partners, and most importantly to the youth themselves who have worked very hard to serve, learn, and grow individually and collectively. “My young men are becoming the leaders of tomorrow, and it is my privilege to be a part of their life. I am especially grateful for Exodus Homes, The Cognitive Connection, and Mental Health Partners for supporting the Young Men of Integrity. All of our partner organizations want us to expand, and we look forward to bigger and better programs in the days to come.“

For more information, contact:  Chris Johnson, Founding Director, Young Men of Integrity 828-228-4110 or ladell222000@yahoo.com.

Exodus Homes “Giving Back” Gospel Concert

Friday January 7, 2011  •  7:00pm  •  FREE and all are invited!
Exodus Missionary Outreach Church, 1763 Highland Ave. NE, Hickory, NC 28601

The 7th annual “Giving Back” Gospel Concert will be held Friday January 7, 2011 7:00pm at Exodus Missionary Outreach Church in Hickory, and will feature the renown Exodus Missionary Outreach Church Gospel Choir under the direction of Minister of Music Zack Martin. Many of the choir members are current or former Exodus Homes residents or have received help in their prison ministry or community outreach. William Mangum, the Greensboro artist who created the nationally recognized Honor Card program that raises funds for homeless shelters during the holidays will be the featured guest. 
This year they have even more to be thankful for than in years past. The recession and extremely high resident unemployment has seriously impacted the program. In 2009 four people were laid off, salaries were cut, and health benefits eliminated. In October 2010 five executive staff began working without pay and two housing locations were closed to keep the doors open in the remaining six housing locations. A public appeal to save the organization went out at the end of November, and the community has responded with an outpouring of financial gifts and offers to help.  The organization has stabilized for the moment, but they are not out of the woods yet. The board and staff still have much work to do in streamlining the program so it can be sustained by available  revenue.   
Exodus Homes Executive Director Rev. Reggie Longcrier expressed his gratitude for the generosity of the community saying, “We want to thank all of our supporters for believing in us.  The community has spoken with their gifts and offers of help . We have received so many kind letters and notes that let us know they need us to survive. We can’t let them down. ”  Assistant executive director Rev. Susan Smith says their supporters have kept the program from being another statistic in the recession. “Individuals, churches and businesses have been very good to us this year, and helped us keep our doors open. Four other programs similar to ours have already closed; two in Statesville, one in Charlotte and one in Kannapolis.  Community based funding will be the key to our survival in the days to come.”                
The “Giving Back” Gospel Concert is an annual event that has become an end of holiday tradition for many in this area. Contemporary and traditional gospel music is performed by the Exodus Choir that is well known for its energy and  excellence. The audience is invited to clap their hands, stomp their feet, and get up and dance! Several current and former Exodus Homes residents will give brief testimonies of appreciation, and William Mangum will thank all those who sold or bought Honor Cards to help raise funds for Exodus Homes.  The Unifour Christian Fellowship Church Praise and Worship Team from Newton will sing from 6:30pm – 7:00pm as people are seated. People are encouraged to come a little early to get a good seat, as the event is usually very well attended.  Light refreshments will be served in the fellowship hall after the concert.
For more information  about the “Giving Back” Gospel Concert, contact Rev. Susan Smith 828-962-8196 or susansmith@charter.net.

Exodus Homes Featured in Charlotte Observer

Exodus Homes was featured in The Charlotte Observer in the article “Recovery agency fights through recession” (December 27, 2010).  The article profiles several of the Exodus Homes residents, and discusses the challenges we face at this time.

To read the full article online and view the photos/videos that accompany it, please click this link.

Exodus Homes Fights To Survive

Exodus Homes, a faith Based United Way agency that provides supportive housing for recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prison, held a press conference today to tell the community that it is fighting to survive the recession.
Kevin McIntosh, chairman of the Exodus board, said today that they have lost $346,000 in revenue since 2008, and needs the community’s support to continue its work. Rev. Susan Smith, assistant executive director of the organization reported that the organization is experiencing a severe cash flow problem, and is months behind  in their bills and mortgages. “In the short term, we need to raise at least $75,000 to survive” she said, appealing to the community for donations.
Major cutbacks have already taken place, loans and mortgages are being deferred and restructured, and Exodus is canceling its annual Christmas Lights Festival and Food Crawl this year. “Sadly, the lights will be out at Exodus this Christmas,” McIntosh said.
The agency was founded in 1998 by Rev. Reggie Longcrier, and was built on an employment model. Its  primary funding has been from the residents who pay fees from wages they earn working jobs Exodus helped them obtain.  Since 2008, the loss of jobs and prolonged high unemployment in the area has made employing their residents almost impossible. Without jobs, they cannot pay their program fees. Exodus has also suffered significant funding cuts from other local, county, and state sources due to the effect the recession has had on them.
For the past 12 years Exodus has been a boon to the community. “Since 1998 we have helped almost 2,000 men and women become drug-free, productive, law abiding, tax-paying citizens” said Rev. Longcrier. “We have reunited families, and helped good people get jobs.” According to the Hickory Police Department, Exodus Homes has reduced crime significantly in areas where its program is located – especially in the Ridgeview neighborhood. Around the organization’s central campus, drug related calls to police have been reduced by 98%, and by 35 % in the neighborhood overall.  
Through Grants and other local, state, and national funding, rev. Longcrier estimates Exodus has brought over a million dollars into the community. The program has won many awards for excellence, and was a key part of the Hickory All-America City team that won that honor in 2007. Later that year staff was invited to speak at the White House because if the program’s effectiveness in stabilizing the community around it. In addition to supportive housing, the agency provides mentoring programs for at-risk youth, walk-in crisis services, after care, and outreach to the community, treatment centers and prisons.
With jobs disappearing from the area, Exodus took action. According to Rev. Smith, “One solution was to create jobs for our residents.  In 2007 we created  in our own enterprises called Exodus Works providing fully insured and affordable landscaping, moving, cleaning, odd jobs, and car detailing.  More recently we opened a thrift store on First Ave. SW to sell surplus donations. Despite the recession, our businesses have grown steadily and will surpass $100,000 in sales by the end of 2010.” Currently 20-25 Exodus Homes residents work in these enterprises  part time as needed.  New revenue from the thrift store and continued growth in Exodus Works will help in days to come.   
They have been struggling for some time. In early 2009, the agency laid off four people, cut salaries, eliminated health benefits, and closed two rental locations. More cutbacks and downsizing are needed, however. As a result, Exodus will close and sell two properties; a 16 bed men’s apartment building in the Green Park neighborhood and a five bed women’s home in the Kenworth neighborhood. They are not taking any new residents while they redesign the program.   In October, the executive staff began serving as volunteers to keep the doors open. They still have 63 beds and six housing locations. The plan is to continue operating primarily from the Ridgeview campus area where they have five facilities on 8th Ave. Dr. SW.  
Banks and other lenders involved with their six housing properties are working with Exodus to defer and restructure their loans, Rev. Smith reported. She said the board is working closely with their staff, bringing in a business consultant to help downsize and streamline the finances of the operation. “The Christmas lights may be out at Exodus this year,” she said, “but we will be back.” 
They need the community’s financial support to help us get from where they are to where they need to be. In the short term, they need to raise at least $75,000 to meet their current obligations and survive. Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams, Inc. have donated $5,000 and challenge other business to help them keep the doors open . Holy Trinity Lutheran Church gave $5,000 and the Episcopal Church of the Ascension has given $3,000.  They challenge other  churches to help “so homeless recovering people don’t have to sleep under bridges or go back to jail.” An anonymous donor has given $10,000
and challenges other individuals to contribute as well. Their annual Honor Card campaign kick-off will be held this evening at the  Exodus Church fellowship hall with Greensboro artist William Mangum who created the program to raise funds for homeless programs all over N.C.  They are hoping people will be generous in the end of year giving season. 
Kevin McIntosh is confident they will make it through the storm, saying “I have worked with Exodus for fourteen years and know from experience the staff can adapt and do whatever is necessary to survive. They’ve seen tough times before.  They have tremendous faith in God, and give 200% every day. They are not quitters, and they need your help.”  Rev. Longcrier said, “We need to work as if everything depends on us, and pray as if everything depends on God. Our problems are big, but our God is bigger.”

2010 Exodus Homes Honor Card Kick-off Dinner with Artist William Mangum

Monday November 22, 2010, 6:00pm
Exodus Missionary Outreach Church (www.exodusoutreachchurch.org for directions)
1763 Highland Ave. NE, Hickory, NC 28601

Please RSVP to susansmith@charter.net or 828-962-8196
Click this link to receive an order form for the 2010 Honor Card!

Inspired by a chance meeting between Greensboro artist William Mangum and a homeless man, the Honor Card program has raised more than $3 million for homelessness in North Carolina since the annual holiday program began 22 years ago. The 2010 Holiday Honor Card features the painting “Everybody Needs Somebody” by Mangum, depicting a solitude figure befriended by a caring soul. The Honor Card is produced at no cost to Exodus Homes by Wachovia Bank and William Mangum. Food for the dinner will be donated by Olive Garden, Texas Roadhouse, Jason’s Deli, and Tasteful Beans Coffeehouse. 
Revenue from the sale of Honor Cards is urgently needed because Exodus Homes’ operating budget has lost over $233,000 since 2008 due to high unemployment of our residents plus budget cuts from United Way, Mental Health, Catawba County ABC Board, and other funders. We are struggling to survive. Honor Cards are available for a minimum donation of $5 per card each holiday season with 100% of the proceeds going to provide services for homeless people. The Honor Card says a gift has been given to Exodus Homes in honor of the recipient, and has information about the program inside. It makes a beautiful gift, and many people use them as Christmas cards.  
This year’s honor card inspiration is a heartfelt true story of an individual reaching out to a North Carolina homeless vet in spring 2010. As a result of this friendship, both have benefited much and the vet now has an automobile detailing business and a roof over this head.
On Monday November 22. 2010 we are holding a 2010 Honor Card kick-off dinner with special guest William Mangum who will share his passion for this work and tell the true story of this year’s card.  We are inviting local churches, and business to send a representative to learn more about being an Honor Card coordinator for your organization. Individuals are also encouraged to attend! Honor Card coordinators are asked to take at least 25 cards and share with others how much a $5.00 or more donation will do to help Exodus Homes continue serving homeless recovering people. After the holidays are over, coordinators return the money raised and any unsold cards to Exodus Homes. 
This will be an inspirational evening to learn more about a gift that keeps on giving.  Please RSVP to susansmith@charter.net or 828-962-8196 and let us know who your representative will be. You are welcome to send more than one person!

Exodus Works Thrift Store Needs Donations!

510 1st Ave. SW, Hickory, NC 28602

The Exodus Works Thrift Store is now open and needs your help. The store helps provide vocational training for the residents of  Exodus Homes, a United Way agency that provides faith – based supportive housing for homeless recovering people. Revenue from the  Thrift Store is urgently needed because Exodus Homes’ operating budget  has lost over $233,000 since 2008 due to high unemployment of our residents plus budget cuts from United Way, Mental Health, Catawba County ABC Board, and other funders. Exodus Works is the social enterprise of Exodus Homes and creates jobs for our residents in landscaping, moving, odd jobs, and car detailing services. It is  doing well,  but not growing fast enough to support the housing program which is struggling to survive. The Thrift Store is a recent addition and donations of all kinds are needed.
We need new and gently used clothing, furniture, household items, appliances, and electronics.  Tax deductible donations can be brought to the warehouse Monday – Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Donations scan be picked up  on Mondays and Saturdays by calling  Jerry Ratliff at 828-781-3222.
We also need customers! Our store is a pleasant place to shop for great bargains, and we have bi-lingual staff for Latino people. Please help us spread the word! For more information about items for sale in the store, call Thrift Store Floor Manager Johanna Leitch at 828-962-8199.  For more information about Exodus Homes contact Rev. Susan Smith at 828-962-8196, susansmith@charter.net, or go to www.exodushomes.org.