College of Faith Unity Day Invocation

Seen left to right are Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, Pastor of Clinton Tabernacle AME Zion Church; Mick Berry, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Minister Duane Muhammad, Muhammad Study Group; Dennis Jones, President of Temple Beth Shalom; Rev. Tom Sanford; Rev. Susan Smith, Associate Pastor Exodus Missionary Outreach Church; and Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Pastor of Exodus Missionary Outreach Church.

They represented a College of Faith at the Unity Day event on May 28, 2011 at the Hickory Regional Airport in Hickory , N.C. The College of Faith stood together in unity, offering an invocation in unison that was composed from themes in the Belhar Confession which is a statement of belief originally written in Afrikaans in 1982. It was adopted as a confession of faith by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa in 1986, and in other denominations throughout the world since that time.  The confession was named after Belhar, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, where a general synod of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church was held in 1982.    

Exodus Book Signing Was A Blast!

Rev. Reggie Longcrier is seen talking with Stine Isenhower at the Exodus Memorial Day Blast and Book Signing that occurred on May 28, 2011 at Exodus Missionary Outreach Church in Hickory. Isenhower is a former Catawba County Commissioner, former Catawba Correctional Center Volunteer of the Year, and current member of the Catawba Correctional Center Community Resource Council. He came to the book signing to get a copy of Longcrier’s new book “From Disgrace to Dignity” as did many others in the festive event that was attended by over 300 people. The book can be purchased at Exodus Homes at 122 8th Ave. Dr. SW in Hickory, NC 28602 , or online at

Twenty percent of proceeds from book sales go to Exodus Homes, a United Way agency that provides faith-based supportive housing to homeless recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prison. For more informaiton about the book, go to

Rev. Reggie Longcrier Signs New Book at Memorial Day Blast Event

Exodus Homes is hosting a free, family-centered Memorial Day Blast and Book Signing at Exodus Missionary Outreach Church, 1763 Highland Ave NE in Hickory N.C. on May 28, 2011 from 4:00pm – 7:00pm to celebrate his new book “From Disgrace to Dignity”, and thank Anna Griffis for her recent run in the 2011 Boston Marathon in Running for Recovery. The Memorial Day Blast event will include great music, a free cook-out for all who attend, fun activities for children, and games for adults such as spades, chess, checkers, and dominoes. The public is welcome to attend. For more information, please contact Rev. Susan Smith at 828-962-8196 or

Rev. Reggie Longcrier has been the Chaplain of Catawba Correctional Center in Newton, N.C. for 22 years, and it’s hard to believe that one of the most respected community leaders in this area spent 25 years going in and out of prison while addicted to heroin and cocaine. In “From Disgrace to Dignity” his journey begins on the street corners of Atlantic City, N.J. where he began his life of crime as a young boy with purse snatching, shoplifting, and breaking and entering. He began serving time in reformatories at age eleven and graduated as an adult to some of the roughest prisons in the country including Rahway and Rikers Island.
His adventures take readers back in time to the 60’s and 70’s in Atlantic City to places like Bruce’s Pool Room, Stanley’s Restaurant, Club Harlem, the Boardwalk, Carver Hotel, New Orleans and Bala Bars to name just a few. When things got too hot he left for New York, or played Three Card Monte up and down the East coast while selling fake jewelry, playing craps, hustling pool, and perpetrating other ingenious schemes to make fast money.

After being crowned Atlantic City King of the Nightlife in 1980, he winds up down south, in and out of N.C. prisons. He describes spending time in Hickory honky tonks like Talk of the Town where colorful characters with names like Snow Ball and Big Rosie were his friends. He even describes opening his own after-hours night spot in Hickory to earn a legal living while on probation for a five year suspended sentence.

Despite all his dedication to “the game”, his addiction continues to rob him of success, and takes him back to prison again and again. The story turns when he reaches the crossroads of his life in a N.C. prison after facing a 14 year to life sentence for the Habitual Felon Act. His remarkable spiritual transformation is inspiring, and a powerful testimony to the great work of dedicated prison ministry volunteers who mentored him and helped him get back on his feet the last time he left prison.   

The Zerden family of Hickory played a major role in his redemption when Marvin Zerden hired him to work in Zerden’s Men’s Store on Union Square in downtown Hickory in the early 80’s. Longcrier could not find a job because of his criminal record. The Zerden family took him in and made him one of their own, teaching him more about sales than he ever knew before. He worked at Zerden’s for years while he grew spiritually and volunteered at Catawba Correctional Center to show inmates there a new way to live.

In the book’s dramatic conclusion, against all odds Longcrier beats out many other pastoral candidates with degrees and experience to win the job of Chaplain at Catawba Correctional Center in 1985. He is pictured on the book cover smiling in front of the prison with the keys to the gate where he was once an inmate.   

Longcrier explains why he wrote the book, saying, “The intent of this book is not to glorify the lifestyle of crime and drugs, but to pull back the curtain to reveal the slippery slopes and tender traps that lead to a life of incarceration and addiction. I want to give the reader a bird’s eye view of the criminal subculture. It is a baffling, cunning, seductive, tangled web of deceit, greed and drugs. The citizens of this subculture are driven like cattle to be slaughtered mentally, spiritually, and emotionally in prisons throughout the country. I wanted to show that God provides a way out. There can be hope after dope. There can be salvation after incarceration. People can go from disgrace to dignity.

I had never dreamed I would be a prison Chaplain. Only God could take a crooked road and make it straight. Only God could take a convict, and transform him into a prison chaplain. God took my failure and gave me amazing grace. I had a new life with a loving God who made it possible for me to hold my foot in the door for so many others who need another chance to live again.”

Today he is still chaplain at Catawba Correctional Center as well as founding pastor of Exodus Missionary Outreach Church and Executive Director of Exodus Homes, a faith based United Way agency that provides supportive housing for homeless recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prisons.

“Rev.” as he is affectionately called, will be on hand at the Memorial Day Blast event to sign copies of his book that are already in the hands of local readers, or for those who would like to purchase a copy that day for $12.95. Five or more copies can be purchased for $10.00 each. He is looking for individuals and churches willing to sponsor cases of 50 books to send to prisons around the state and nation.   

The self published book was edited by Rev. Susan Smith, and has sold well here and in Atlantic City. He is getting letters from all over requesting copies. Many readers report reading the 169 page book in one sitting because they could not put it down. Mike Barlow, an employee at the downtown Hickory post office raved after reading it saying, “Rev. Longcrier’s story is honest, powerful, and very down to earth. He made every word count. The subject matter is raw, but the spirit that tells it is pure. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great book.”  Mitchell Gold, the Taylorsville furniture manufacturer received the book as a holiday gift and said, “I just finished your book “From Disgrace to Dignity a few minutes ago. I’ll simply say it was….without question…THE best gift I received this holiday season.  Bravo!”   

Anna Griffis who recently ran the Boston Marathon 2011 for Exodus Homes in “Running for Recovery” will also be present at the Memorial Day Blast event to thank all those who supported her in raising over $11,000 for Exodus in April. Rev. Paul Christ from the Lutheran Thrivent Foundation will be on hand to present their supplemental gift of $1,600 in the recent fund raiser.

To learn more about the book, visit, or you can buy copies of the book online using a credit card, debit card, or PayPal account by clicking the button below:


Anna Griffis Ran for Recovery in Boston Marathon

Last year Anna Griffis came to the 2010 Exodus Homes Running for Recovery celebration to congratulate Angela Hamilton for her success running the Boston Marathon and raising $25,000 for the faith-based United Way agency. She didn’t know then that she would be the one to cross the finish line in the 2011 Boston Marathon Running for Recovery, raising $10,000 for Exodus Homes with donations still coming in after the race. She struggled to run the race despite knee problems so that homeless recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prisons would get the support they need to learn a new way to live.

Anna lived in Hickory until last fall when she moved to Washington D.C. to work with chronically homeless people who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse. She is the daughter of Rev. Dr. Thomas Griffis, pastor of St. Lukes United Methodist church in Hickory.

“This was one of the more difficult races that I have ever run.  The weather was perfect, support was incredible, and I truly had a blast doing what I love; however I took a huge risk by starting out much faster than planned, without having trained intensively over the last three months.  Luckily I was able to maintain the pace for the most part throughout the race, but it was not without pain.  Sixteen miles of downhill took a toll on my quads and calves, and my knee ached for about seven miles.

Honestly, Running for Exodus Homes got me through, especially the last two miles.  I thought about my own consumers, and Exodus Homes residents. I thought about how I would be in pain for three and a half hours but how they have been struggling for days, weeks, months and years.  It was a humbling experience. I am so incredibly grateful for Angela Hamilton giving me this opportunity to follow her in such a great effort, and for Rev. Susan Smith’s hard work in organizing everything.  Even though the race is over for me, I know that it is not over for the millions of people who are still struggling to heal, and I will think of and pray for them each and every day.”

Anna finished the 26 mile marathon in 3 hours, 27 minutes and 53 seconds. This was much better than she anticipated. When the announcement was made at Exodus Homes that she had crossed the finish line, the residents and staff cheered in delight.

Ms. Griffis will be in Hickory on Saturday May 28, 2011 at 11:00am at Exodus Missionary Outreach Church, 1763 Highland Ave NE to thank all those who made gifts in the 2011 Running for Recovery Exodus Homes fund raiser. She will display the Running for Recovery banner that went to Boston with the names of all those who made a gift, and looks forward to meeting the residents of Exodus Homes who want to thank her for her tremendous run.

Former Hickory Resident Runs Boston Marathon to Support Exodus Homes

Read a letter from this year’s Running for Recovery participant, Anna Griffis!

Last year Angela Hamilton of Hickory ran the Boston Marathon in honor of her teenage son Nolan’s recovery from drug addiction, and to raise funds for Exodus Homes. In her struggle to understand her son’s problem she had learned about the faith-based United Way agency’s work helping homeless recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prisons. Her “Running for Recovery” 2010 campaign raised over $25,000,and was one of the key reasons the agency was able to keep the doors open last fall during a serious financial crisis due to the prolonged recession.

Angela is now serving on the Exodus Homes board of directors, and her son Nolan will graduate this year from a high school in Utah with plans to attend University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He has made tremendous progress in his recovery, but he knows college will present many challenges in the days ahead. When Angela realized that she would not be able to repeat Running for Recovery 2011 in the Boston Marathon  because of scheduling problems, she began planning to pass the torch to continue what she hopes will be a tradition honoring Nolan’s recovery and the work of Exodus Homes.

Anna Griffis trained with Hamilton last year and qualified for the Boston Marathon by completing the 2010 Nashville Marathon. She is the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Thomas Griffis, pastor of St. Lukes United Methodist Church in Hickory. Anna moved to Washington, D.C. last fall to work with chronically homeless people struggling with mental illness and substance abuse.

Anna is 25 years old and started running in 7th grade. She ran cross country and track all through high school, and participated in a running club team while a student at UNC Chapel Hill. She ran her first marathon in 2005, but took a two year hiatus while serving in Mali, West Africa with the Peace Corps. During that time she was a health education volunteer in a 2,500 person village with no running water or electricity, working mostly with women and infants on nutrition. She also did a water sanitation project and some HIV/AIDS work in the schools.

Anna is excited about Running for Recovery 2011, saying “Running can be a very individualistic sport. ‘I want to run a marathon. I want to qualify for Boston.  I want to get a personal record – so many ‘I’s”.  Running for Exodus Homes and Nolan has allowed me to get away from the self-serving goals that I otherwise may have focused on.  Now with every mile I will think not only about MY time, but about all of those folks out there who are struggling in their own race to heal. Most of us cannot even begin to imagine the lifelong struggle to recover from addiction. It is more daunting and drawn out than any marathon.”        

Angela Hamilton is grateful for Anna’s willingness to honor Nolan and help Exodus Homes with Running for Recovery 2011. “I was overjoyed when Anna accepted the challenge to run her first Boston Marathon in honor of Exodus Homes.  She has known our family’s journey first-hand and we have covered many miles of this recovery journey together on our runs.   When she moved to D.C. to work with homeless addicted people, it seemed like a natural transition for her to run for Exodus Homes this year.  Every mile I run now in Hickory is devoted to Anna’s training in D.C. and her efforts to run for Exodus in Boston on April 18th. Anna’s life is a demonstration of Matthew 25:40. She is always willing to work for the least of these in our community.”    

Anna has struggled lately with a bout of runner’s knee and was concerned that she might not be able to run in Boston. “I may not be able to race it, but I will finish even if it takes me six hours. Just like in recovery, there may be relapse and pain, but I will stay the course and finish it one step at a time. Recovery is a like marathon – not a sprint. ” she said.

Exodus Homes is stable, but not out of the woods yet. Funds raised by Running for Recovery will help them continue to provide supportive housing, food, clothing, transportation, vocational training, job placement, case management and many other services that reduce crime, reduce prison recidivism, reunite families, and stabilize the community. Everyone who gives will have their name listed on the Running for Recovery 2011 banner that is going to the Boston Marathon with Anna.   

Every three dollars raised by Running for Recovery will be supplemented with a dollar by a local fraternal chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans up to a maximum gift of $1600.00. Rev. Paul Christ, a board member of the organization said, “We are convinced that Exodus Homes is a valuable ministry in our community, and we want to be a part of their efforts to help those in need.”     

Gifts to support Anna Griffis in Running for Recovery 2011 can be mailed to Exodus Homes, P.O. Box 3311, Hickory, N.C. 28603 (you can download a contibution form by clicking this link), or give online by clicking the “Donate Now” button on the right-hand side of the page. 

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

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

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

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