Veteran’s Day Community Service: Supporting the Foothills Homeless Veteran’s Stand Down

Hosted by Church of the Master United Church of Christ and Exodus Missionary Outreach Church

Wednesday November 9, 2011, 7:00pm

Exodus Missionary Outreach Church, 1763 Highland Ave. NE, Hickory, N.C. 28601

A joint service celebrating Veterans Day, and supporting the upcoming Foothills Homeless Veteran’s Stand Down will be hosted by Church of the Master United Church of Christ and Exodus Missionary Outreach Church on Wednesday November 9, 2011 at 7:00pm at Exodus Church. Rev. Bud Zehmer and Rev. Reggie Longcrier will give brief messages, both choirs will sing, and Jim Starkey, Chair of the Foothills Homeless Veterans Stand Down Committee will speak about the event to be held at the Hickory Fairgrounds on April 20, 2012. The offering from the the service will go to support the Stand Down. Light refreshments will be served in the fellowship hall after the service, and information will be available about how the public can support the Stand Down with donations and volunteers. Please join us.

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

For more information about the Foothills Homeless Veterans Stand Down, contact Jim Starkey at 828-294-0184 or foothillsstanddown@gmail.com  or go to www.foothillsstanddown.org   

Veteran’s Anonymous Now Meeting Every Wednesday at Grace House!

Veteran’s Anonymous, Every Wednesday, 1:30pm, Grace House, www.gracechurchnc.org, 600 Highland Ave. SE, Hickory NC 28602

Are you a veteran, or do you know a veteran who would like to fellowship and talk for extra support? Exodus Homes’ Certified Peer Support Specialist Rev. Aaron Wells is a veteran, and is the facilitator for this new group that meets every Wednesday from 1:30pm – 2:30pm at Grace House, the local drop-in community day center for homeless people. Coffee and refreshments will be served in a relaxed and confidential atmosphere aimed to reach out to all veterans who need to know we care. Please join us. 

First Baptist Church of Hickory Gives Exodus Homes a Bus!

Butch Pitts of First Baptist Church of Hickory is seen giving the keys to a 1995 14 seat diesel GMC bus to Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Executive Director of Exodus Homes, a faith-based Catawba County United Way partner agency.  Jerry Ratliff, Exodus Homes Director of Operations was also there to receive the donation. Ratliff coordinates the transportation services of Exodus Homes, and will use it to transport residents of the program, youth in the Young People of Integrity mentoring program, and to bring inmates from Catawba Correctional Center in Newton out for special programs and church on Sunday.

Exodus Homes and Lenoir-Rhyne University Bring Gospel Play to Hickory!

“Pieces of A Dream”
Saturday August 27, 2011, 

6:00pm, 

Lenoir-Rhyne University, PE Monroe Auditorium

 625 7th Ave. NE, Hickory, NC 28601
For more information, contact Rev. Susan Smith revsusansmith@gmail.com or 828-962-8196.
 

Exodus Homes in partnership with Lenoir-Rhyne University Lineberger Center for Cultural and Education Renewal is bringing a gospel play, “Pieces of a Dream”, to the PE Monroe Auditorium on August 27, 2011 at 6:00pm. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by clicking the “Buy Now” button above or at the Exodus Homes office at 122 8th Ave. Dr. SW Hickory NC 28602.  A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the faith-based United Way organization. 

 
The play is produced by 3 M Productions of Charlotte, a professional theater company. “Pieces of A Dream” is coming to Hickory to help raise awareness about the mission of Exodus Homes. It shows how incarceration alters the dreams of a family, and how forgiveness can help mend their brokenness. It is the story of a father and mother pulled apart at the seams of their marriage by what has happened to their son who has been changed in many ways by being in prison. Harry McDowell, CEO of 3 M Productions, brought the idea to Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Exodus Homes Executive Director, after being impressed by the work of Exodus Homes and wanting to help increase support for the organization.

Dr. Rand Brandes of Lenoir Rhyne University agreed to sponsor the event as part of the Lineberger Center for Cultural and Educational  Renewal series. Dr. Brandes and his staff have been working with 3 M Productions to work out the details of bringing in the play to Hickory at no charge to Exodus Homes.

Gospel plays have been increasing in popularity over the past 10 years. They include inspirational music and usually have timely social themes that leave the audience with something to think about when they leave the theater. In this case, Rev. Longcrier is hoping the audience will leave the theater with a new awareness of the far reaching and long lasting affects of incarceration on the entire family. 

Fund Raiser – Help Exodus Homes Serve More Homeless Veterans!

Thursday July 28, 2011, Crescent Moon Cafe, www.crescentmooncafenc.com
4:00pm – 6:00pm
256 1st Ave, NW, Hickory, NC 28601
 
For more information, contact:  Paul Byrd of Tar Heel Wealth Management, pbyrd@tarheelwm.com or 828-327-3959

It is well known that many veterans are struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues as a result of the trauma they have experienced serving our country. Many are homeless. Exodus Homes has always served homeless veterans in our faith-based United Way agency that provides supportive housing for homeless people returning to the community from treatment centers and prison. 
 
The magnitude of the problem has brought the Veterans Administration to Exodus Homes to plead for more beds dedicated specifically for homeless veterans. The VA has funds to support these designated beds for homeless veterans, but Exodus Homes needs help to modify several buildings to meet VA standards for funding. We need handicap accessibility in two apartments. We need ceiling fire prevention sprinklers in one house and six apartments. With this in place, we could dedicate five beds for female vets and 16 beds for male vets. With modification of other buildings, we could do even more.    
 
We have struggled to survive the recession because of the extraordinarily high unemployment of our residents in Exodus Homes and funding cuts that caused us to lose half of our operating budget since 2008. Even with the creation of jobs in our own enterprises with Exodus Works, we are still not breaking even. New funding from the VA to serve homeless veterans could help save Exodus Homes for all homeless recovering people, but we have to qualify to get it by modifying these buildings.
 
Veteran Paul Byrd of Tar Heel Wealth Management is coordinating a community fund raiser at Crescent Moon Cafe in downtown Hickory this Thursday July 28, 2011 from 4:00pm – 6:00pm. You will hear from veterans who are already being served by Exodus Homes and how you can help serve more. The Crescent Moon Cafe has a wonderful atmosphere and great food. Please stop by and be a part of the next great miracle in Hickory!       
 
Let’s be a community that doesn’t throw anyone away – especially those who have served our country and need our help. We hope to see you Thursday between 4:00pm and 6:00pm at the Crescent Moon Cafe in downtown Hickory.  

 

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 www.exodushomes.org.

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 www.fromdisgracrtodignity.com.

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 revsusansmith@gmail.com.

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 www.fromdisgracetodignity.com, 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.