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. 


Exodus Homes Wins Dream Keeper Award Presented by Maiden Rosenwald Community Development Corporation

On Sunday January 18, 2009, Exodus Homes won a Dream Keeper award presented by the Maiden Rosenwald Community Development Corporation during a banquet at the Crowne Plaza celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and those who are helping realize his dream. Greetings were offered by Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright, Catawba County Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Lynn Lail, and Catawba Valley Community College President Dr. Garrett Hinshaw. A moving video montage of the life of Dr. King played during the event, while speakers inspired the participants to reach higher and do more to improve the community. Exodus Homes, a United Way agency, was honored for it’s excellence in providing faith based supportive housing for homeless recovering people in a way that saves lives, improves neighborhoods, and reduces crime. Susan Smith, Exodus Homes Assistant Executive Director, accepted the award on behalf of Rev. Reggie Longcrier who was in a worship service with the young men at Western Youth Correctional Center in Burke County that evening. Although he knew about the award, he felt he must honor the prior commitment to the young men there. In accepting the award, Ms. Smith who has worked with Exodus for 12 years said, “Rev. Longcrier wanted to be here, but he has taught us to always put meeting the needs of our people first, and then God will take care of the rest.” 

The mission of the Maiden Rosenwald Community Development Corporation “Developing and providing support and resources to the community through education, advocacy, and empowerment.” For more information about Exodus Homes, go to www.exodushomes.org or call 828-324-4870.      

Exodus Homes’ Young Men of Integrity Founder Chris Johnson Wins Ukama Award at African American Cultural Center Summer Gala

Seven of the Exodus Homes’ “Young Men of Integrity” were perfect gentlemen at the African Amercian Cultural Center Summer Gala on Saturday July 26, 2008 at the Hickory Art Museum. Led by the program founder and director, Chris Johnson, who was honored with the Ukama Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community, the young men served as ushers for the elegant affair that celebrated the evolution of the African American Cultural Center from the dream of a building, to a reality as a comprehensive online resource for the Greater Hickory Metro Region. The Young Men of Integrity is an at-risk youth mentoring program serving 25 young men from the ages of  10-19 who do not have fathers in their homes. Founded in 2006, the Exodus Homes’ United Way program pairs adult mentors with youth who need healthy male role models to learn about decision making, entrepreneurship, living drug free, treating women with respect, getting an education, preventing gang involvement, and avoiding teen pregnancy. One of the primary activities of the program is keeping the young men busy in community service projects such as Habitat for Humanity, the Christmas Bureau, Charity Chase, and neighborhood block parties with healthy youth-centered themes. They also participate in cultural or leadership development events such as the Western PIedmont Symphony, Promise Keepers, and the Man to Man Conference. Chris Johnson is the quintessential leader for this innovative program. An Exodus Homes graduate, and substance abuse counselor with The Cognitive Connection, he is a polished and dignified community activist who grew up without a father in his home, and he knows how to motivate young men. Chris helps them believe that life holds great potential for them if they will make good choices that will help them reach their goals. He says, “Inside every man there is a boy, and inside every boy there is a man. It’s up to mentors like us to reach inside a boy and find out how we can pull out the man inside.”

Six Young Men of Integrity have been designated Heroes of Hickory, African American leaders of tomorrow from Hickory High; John Smith, Michael Boyce, Jamil Johnson, Marlon Williamson, T.J. Middlebrooks and Troy Wright. Five are going to college this year: John Smith – Gardner Webb, Troy Wright – LIvingston College, T.J. MIddlebrooks – Glenville State, and Garfield Wilson – Alice Lloyd College, Desmond Johnson – Lincoln Memorial University. This first wave of college graduates plan to return to the program during summer breaks, and after graduation to become mentors themselves. The amazing success of The Young Men of Integrity has the same synergizing momentum that was seen in the phenomenal growth of Exodus Homes since 1998. Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Exodus Homes Executive Director says “This is how we want to impact the community. We are very proud of Chris and the brilliant job he is doing with his young men.”               

Duane Muhammad, Chairman of the Board for the African-American Cultural Center says “The Ukama Award is given to recognize individuals in the Hickory Metro region who work with young people of color directly or indirectly. Mr. Johnson and Young Men of Integrity exemplify the mission of the African American Cultural Center to Preserve, Promote and Inspire the culture and development of the African American community.”

Exodus Homes Wins Again!

On April 9th, 2008, Exodus Homes won the Runner Up Award for Fair Share Giving in Division 6 with the Catawba County United Way during the Spirit Awards Luncheon at the Gateway Conference Center. Division 6 represents organizations with 2-49 employees, and Exodus Homes had 100% fair share giving participation for all of our employeess.

This was a very special day for us because one of our residents, Bernice Newman, sang at the beginning of the program prior to a special message from Susan Smith who thanked the audience of corporate leaders for all of their hard work in the 2007 United Way campaign.