Exodus Works Thrift Store Now Open!

Hickory City Ward 4 Alderman Hank Guess cuts the ribbon for the grand opening of the Exodus Works Thrift Store at 510 1st Ave. SW in Hickory on October 28, 2010. Those attending the event included Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright, Exodus Homes Board president Kevin McIntosh, other board members, staff, Exodus Homes residents, and people from the community. The store offers new and gently used clothes, furniture, appliances, household items, and electronics. Store hours are Monday – Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm, Saturday 8:00am – 4:00pm. For more information about items for sale in the store, please call Johanna Leith, Exodus Works Thrift Store Floor Manager at 828-962-8199.  To donate items for the store, please call Jerry Ratliff at 828-781-3222.      

Watch the video below to take a quick tour of the Thrift Store (taken during the grand opening event):

Exodus Works Thrift Store Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting

Thursday October 28, 2010  •  12:00pm  •  510 1st Ave. SW  •  Hickory, NC 28602

Exodus Homes, a faith-based United Way agency providing 82 beds of supportive housing for homeless recovering people, is about to celebrate another dream come true.  In order to survive the recession, they have expanded their social enterprise, Exodus Works, to create jobs  for residents of the program in fully insured landscaping, moving, cleaning, odd jobs, general labor and mobile car detailing.  As part of  the plan to create more jobs and sell surplus donated items, they are opening a new thrift store at 510 1st Ave SW in Hickory.   A Grand Opening ceremony and ribbon cutting will be held at noon on Thursday October 28, 2010 followed by light refreshments and tours. Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Exodus Homes executive director is excited about this new venture saying, “A thrift store has been part of the vision for many years and it is right on time. We are struggling to survive, and selling surplus donated items will help us make it to a better day.”

The  new thrift store will also house an office for Exodus Works, so that supervisors of the social enterprise can have more space to  work. ExodusWorks currently has three full time supervisors, 25 part time employees, and is the biggest employer of Exodus Homes residents.  The two story 9,000 sq. ft. facility also serves as a warehouse. Donated items such as furniture, clothing, and household goods not used in any of the 10 program locations of Exodus Homes will be rotated  through the store for sale.  Photographs of items in the warehouse will be available for customers to review if they don’t see what they need in the store.

Exodus Homes residents have been working for weeks to clean and sort items for sale in the store.  The United Church of Christ Linking In New Creative (LINC) ministry team representing four local churches worked to improve the outside of the store by replacing rotten wood, painting, and removing a large metal pole that had been used in the past to hold a sign.  Dave Leonetti, City of Hickory Senior Planner, and Sally Fox, Hickory City Council representative helped Exodus Homes locate the new warehouse after their previous warehouse downtown had been condemned last spring.

Ward 4 Hickory City Council representative Hank Guess will be on hand to cut the ribbon along with other city officials and Exodus Homes’ board members.  The public is invited to attend. Exodus Homes needs donations of furniture, clothes, and household items in good condition for the  82 residents of the program, and the thrift store. Donated items can be picked up if necessary by calling Exodus Homes Director of Operations Jerry Ratliff at 828-781-3222.

For more information about the thrift store grand opening, or to donate items, contact Rev. Susan Smith 828-962-8196. For more information about Exodus Homes or Exodus Works, go to www.exodushomes.org   


Exodus Homes Expands Social Enterprise to Survive

Exodus Homes, a faith based United Way agency providing 82 beds of supportive housing to homeless recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prison is struggling to survive. They have lost $233,000 in revenue since 2008 as a result of the high unemployment of its residents who pay fees that are the primary source of funding for the program. Budget cuts from major funders such as the United Way, Catawba County ABC Board, and Mental Health have also had a major impact.
Since the recession began, they have laid off four people, cut all salaries 20%, eliminated health benefits, and closed two rental locations while maintaining the same services for the residents of the program. Business Manager Ann Dickson juggles the bills the best she can. “I know the utility and insurance cut-off dates by heart. Somehow we have gotten by, but many bills are months behind” she said.  

The challenges of the last two years have made them even more determined to provide a way out of addiction and incarceration for homeless people who are ready to change, and learn a new way to live. “We could not wait for the government or the economy to save us because we were going down” said the Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Exodus executive director.  “We had to create our own jobs, and generate our own revenue by expanding our social enterprise Exodus Works with a one year grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for a Business Developer to increase sales.”    

The numbers tell the good news that despite the recession, their plan is working. Annual sales for their fully insured moving, landscaping, cleaning, painting, and general labor services have increased 495% since 2007 – from $21,000 in 2007 to a projected $109,000 for 2010. Sales for the first two quarters of 2010 rose 176% over the first two quarters of 2009 – from $17,000 to $47,000. When Exodus Homes residents receive their Exodus Works paychecks, they are able to pay their program fees to the supportive housing program.

Approximately 40% of the Exodus Works wages paid to Exodus Homes residents come back to the agency. They try to employee as many residents as possible as contract laborers, and spread the work around. Most pay checks are small.  The social enterprise employs two full time supervisors from the community, and so far in 2010 approximately $9,000 has been paid back into Exodus Homes as resident fees. The income residents are allowed to keep helps them pay their child support, probation fees, buy medication, food, and other personal items. The social enterprise is not yet making a profit on its own. However, considering the benefit of job creation, the funds that have come back into the agency as program fees, and the disposable income for residents – it has been worth it.                   

Exodus Homes envisions a day when revenue generated by Exodus Works will be a primary source of funding for the agency, but they aren’t there yet. They recently landed a contract with a major apartment complex for landscaping, and business continues to increase.  They do not have funds for advertsing, so marketing has been limited. Many people are surprised to learn about the variety and affordability of their services. Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright, and Catawba County Chamber of Commerce CEO Danny Hearn are regular customers. The program provides references upon request. 

Exodus Works is gearing up for the fall with specials on leaf removal, and gutter cleaning. “We need more people to hire Exodus Works to meet their needs. Our people want to work, and we must be more self sufficient to survive” said the Rev. Susan Smith, assistant executive director of the agency. “We’re not asking for a hand-out. We just need a hand in building the bridge that will insure our future by taking us from where we are to where we need to be” she said.

For more information, call Exodus Works at 828-324-2390.

Exodus Homes Gets Certified Peer Support Specialists

Exodus Homes, a faith-based United Way agency that provides 82 beds of faith based supportive housing to homeless recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prisons now has two certified Peer Support Specialists in its staff team. The Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Executive Director of the agency, and James Moore, Program Director, recently completed 120 hours of training at the Smoky Mountain Center in Lenoir to earn the new credential that is changing the way mental health services are provided. The certification was granted by the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services.
The role of a Peer Support Specialist (PSS) is to use personal experience with recovery from mental illness and substance abuse to help others who are struggling with the same issues. PSS have life experience and expertise in recovery that professional training cannot replicate. PSS are employed in a variety of settings including Assertive Community Treatment Teams, Community Support Teams, Recovery Education Centers, and advocacy roles. 
Exodus Homes is a model peer-led recovery supportive housing program which is primarily funded and operated by the residents themselves. The world of substance abuse treatment has evolved to recognize the expertise of successful recovering people, and their value in helping those who still struggle with addiction. This has been working for over 70 years in the 12 step movement. Exodus Homes was founded in 1998 on the premise that successful recovering people are experts in mentoring their peers who are trying to learn a new way to live. 
Longcrier began his recovery from addiction over 25 years ago, and James Moore has been a resident of Exodus Homes for four years. Both plan to use what they learned to improve the Exodus Homes program, and demonstrate the commitment to ongoing training for its staff. As a result of this training, a new support group for residents with over one year in recovery was added to the program at Exodus.
Ongoing training is very important to the organization. Six members of the staff team recently completed a 16 hour Mental Health First Aide training which helped them with assessment and referral in crisis situations.”We are experts in recovery, and we will continue to bring the very best information for improving services into our program, ” said Longcrier.
For more information about Exodus Homes, go to www.exodushomes.org. For more information about Peer Support Specialist trainings, contact Jamies Sales, adult Mental Health/CIT Coordinator at 828-323-8053 or JSales@MentalHealthPartners.org 



Invitation to 13th Choir Anniversary

Please join us for a hand clapping, foot stomping, get-up-out-of-your-seat good time! 
Exodus Missionary Outreach Church Gospel Choir — 13th Annual Choir Anniversary
Saturday August 21, 2010, 6:00pm
Exodus Missionary Outreach Church www.exodusoutreachchurch.org
1763 Highland Ave. NE, Hickory 28601
Free, and all are invited!
Thank you!

Exodus Homes’ Urgent Need For Donated Vehicles!

Exodus Homes’ Director of Operations Jerry Ratliff is seen with a donated 1990 Pathfinder that died this week of a bad transmission. The public is encouraged to donate cars, pick-up trucks, box trucks, and vans to the organization. The agency’s assistant executive director the Rev. Susan Smith says donating a vehicle to Exodus is more beneficial as a tax deduction than to other organizations. “The IRS regulations regarding donating vehicles changed several years ago, but donors can get the full value of the car as a tax deduction with us because we use the car in our organization rather than sell it to raise money.”Exodus Homes is a faith-based United Way agency that provides 82 beds of supportive housing for homeless recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prison with 10 program locations in Hickory. Transportation is provided seven days a week by volunteer resident drivers who take people back and forth to work, to look for a job, to recovery support groups, to medical appointments, and other places such as court, social services, the health department, and mental health. Residents are encouraged to use the bus, walk, or ride a bike whenever possible, but transportation in vehicles is still required on a daily basis. 
The organization uses donated cars in their transportation service, and has lost several lately to old age with worn out transmissions or blown engines. They are down to one car that can be used for general transportation purposes, and this is causing an overuse of their two full size passenger vans for groups of 5 or less. This is increasing their gasoline expense, and causing extreme difficulty in getting all 82 people where they need to go on time. Even when vans are needed in transporting all 82 residents at once to meetings or church, having only two vans requires multiple trips and is very time consuming.                 
Exodus Homes’ social enterprise Exodus Works also needs more pick-up trucks and box trucks to use in their moving, landscaping, and cleaning services that employ their residents. Exodus Works has experienced steady growth this year with the addition of a full time Business Developer that was funded by a one year grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The growth of their businesses is slowed by the need for more vehicles to accept bigger jobs, and multiple jobs on the same day.  
Jerry Ratliff, Exodus Homes’ Director of Operation says the need for more donated vehicles, especially cars, is urgent. “We are doing all we can to keep our residents employed in the community and in our own businesses. Without transportation, the whole process is hindered, and we lose revenue to operate the program.”
The public is encouraged to donate cars, pick-up trucks, box trucks, and vans to the organization. The agency’s assistant executive director the Rev. Susan Smith says  donating a vehicle to Exodus is more beneficial as a tax deduction than to other organizations. “The IRS regulations regarding donating vehicles changed several years ago, but donors can get the full value of the car as a tax deduction with us because we use the car in our organization rather than sell it to raise money.”    
To donate a vehicle to Exodus Homes, please contact the Rev. Susan Smith at 828-962-8196 or susansmith@charter.net.


Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Raise $30,000 for ALFA and Exodus Homes

Mitchell Gold (left) with Bob Williams, speaking to a festive crowd of 100 at Williams’ and Stephen Heavner’s home in Hickory, NC, on June 3, 2010. Taylorsville, NC-based home-furnishings company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sponsored an evening event to raise funds for two nonprofit organizations, ALFA and Exodus Homes. The “feast of food and drink” provided by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams corporate chef Sean Robinson created a perfect setting for a summer evening of giving, as guests mingled with representatives of both United Way organizations. ALFA provides HIV prevention services and support for individuals who have been infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Exodus Homes provides faith-based supportive housing for homeless recovering people, with community support for all people at risk of addiction or incarceration. A total of $30,000 was raised to help both agencies. To donate to the agencies, or volunteer your support please visit: www.exodushomes.com  and www.alfainfo.org.

Hickory Witnesses For Peace Go To Mexico

The Rev. Susan Smith and Veronica Pearson are seen pointing to Mexico on a world map as they prepare for their 10 day trip with the Witness for Peace program to study the Roots of Migration. They are going at the recommendation of the Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, President of the Hickory Branch NAACP. Rev. Smith is the Chair of the Hickory Branch NAACP Committee on Community Coordination, and Ms. Pearson is Secretary of the civil rights organization.The Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, President of the Hickory Branch NAACP, was a WFP delegate last year, and recommended both women for this year’s trip because of their leadership in working to acheive the 14 Point People’s Agenda of the NC NAACP which includes protecting the rights of immigrants from Latin America and other nations. “I believe this experience will broaden their worldview, and give them a desire to delve deeper into the struggle for justice and truth”, he said. Rev. Smith is the Chair of the Hickory Branch NAACP Committee on Community Coordination, and Ms. Pearson is Secretary of the civil rights organization.   
As a result of free trade deals between the U.S. and Mexico, the quantity of cheap imported corn in Mexico has exploded in recent years, undercutting the locally grown product and driving small farmers out of business, a significant blow in a country where 10 million people – a quarter of the workforce – live off the land. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was enacted in 1994, roughly 1.8 million people have been displaced from the Mexican agricultural sector while the rural poverty rate has climbed to 76 percent. The Witness for Peace delegation will meet with local leaders working in economics, human rights, labor, and politics as well as migrants and poor people. The trip includes time in Mexico City, Matias Romero, and Oaxaca.    

The two women had to raise funds to pay for the trip, and are grateful for all those who are supporting their journey. The Rev. Smith, Associate Pastor of Exodus Missionary Outreach Church in Hickory appreciates her church’s support saying, “This trip is in line with our desire at Exodus Church to reach out to all people, and we know that immigration reform is urgently needed for immigrants and all Americans.”  Veronica Pearson, a member of Morning Star First Baptist in Hickory is new to the immigration reform issue. “I don’t know much about the problem, and I am looking forward to learning why people are rushing to our country to find work” she said. After the trip, both women will be available to present what they learn to schools, churches, and civic groups.  



Access to the American Dream – The State of Race Relations in Hickory

Race Relations Focus Group Discussion 
Saturday May 22, 2010, 12:00pm – 4:00pm 
First Presbyterian Church of Hickory Fellowship Hall 
237 2nd St. NW, Hickory 28601 

A very unique event will occur on May 22, 2010 when a diverse group of 20 people from the Hickory community will convene for a race relations focus group discussion. The group of five Caucasians, five African-Americans, five Hmongs, and five Latinos will discuss their experience in race relations, with an emphasis on assessing equal access to the American Dream. Each group will include people from different backgrounds, men and women, and one youth.      
The focus group discussion will be facilitated by Tong Yang, Chairman of the Hmong Community Development Corporation. Yang is a well known community leader, executive producer of Hmong Press Radio, and former executive director of the United Hmong Association. He is a skilled group facilitator, and is looking forward to leading the event, saying ” I’m excited about this opportunity about bringing people from diverse backgrounds together to share their deep feelings about the state of race relations in Hickory.”     
The Rev. Susan Smith, Chair of the Hickory Branch NAACP Committee on Community Coordinaton, and Associate Pastor of Exodus Missionary Outreach Church has led planning for the event which will take place at First Presbyterian Church in Hickory. A 2009 grant submitted by the Hickory Branch NAACP to the City of Hickory Community Relations Council will fund simultaneous interpretation for non-English speaking Hmong and Latino participants. The use of simultaneous interpretation equipment is being donated by the Center for Paticipatory Change in Asheville, and will be used by skilled translators.  Smith is pleased with the partnerships that are making the event possible, “We have non-profit social justice organizations, people of faith, business, government, and citizens working together to make this happen. It’s a great project!” she said.  
Members of the NAACP, City of Hickory staff, Community Relations Council members, and other representatives working in race relations have been invited to observe the event which begins at noon with a light lunch donated by Biscuitville followed by the focus group discussion at 1:00pm. Discussion questions will ask participants about their experience and observations regarding race relations in social settings, on the job, in the neighborhood, at school, in the justice system, and in accessing government services. The goal of the event is to develop recommendations to address issues identified in the discussion. These recommendations will be shared with the City of Hickory Community Relations Council, and the Hickory Branch NAACP. Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright will attend, and help open the event.       
Media representatives are encouraged to attend this event. Group participants will be available for interviews before and after the focus group discussion. Representatives from this event will also be available in the future to discuss the group’s recommendations in print, radio, or TV coverage.    
For more information about the focus group discussion, contact the Rev. Susan Smith at 828-962-8196 or
 susansmith@charter.net.  For more information about the Hickory Branch NAACP, go to www.hickorybranchnaacp.org  


Rev. Bob Thompson and Rev. Reggie Longcrier Exchanged Pulpits!

On Sunday April 25, 2010, the Rev. Bob Thompson, senior pastor of Corinth Reformed United Church of Christ, and the Rev. Reggie Longcrier, senior pastor of Exodus Missionary Outreach Church did something rare – they exchanged pulpits for the day across denominational and cultural lines. The two have been friends for years, and both believe churches need more unity in the community. The two churches are quite different. Corinth is primarily white, and somewhat conservative theologically. Exodus is more diverse racially, with strong African-Amercian roots and is theologically liberal. Despite their differences, both congregations gave a warm welcome to their guest preacher, and the day was a success in both churches. 
Rev. Longcrier’s sermon at Corinth was “Let’s Go A Little Futher”, emphasizing that congregations need to move beyond the cultural barriers that keep people of faith divided. “It was a cultural ground-breaking experience, socially edifying for me and my congregation. For years, Bob has been a friend who has been open to go a little bit futher. Even when we see things differently, we’ve always managed to find common ground.That’s what friendship is all about”, said Longcrier. 

The two churches have plans to come together as one on Wednesday  June 2, 2010 for an evening of fellowship and music at 6:00pm at Corinth Church. Both congregations will bring covered dishes  for a pot luck supper, choirs from both churches will share their music, and several Exodus Homes’ residents will give brief testimonies. It is the start of a beautiful partnership, and they foresee more opportunities to come together in the future. 
For more information about the pulpit exchange, or the 6:00pm June 2, 2010 joint fellowship at Corinth Reformed United Church of Christ, please contact the Rev. Bob Thompson or the Rev. Reggie Longcrier.