Hickory – Renowned Greensboro artist William Mangum became friends with a homeless man in 1987, and after learning about the complicated issues that cause homelessness, he wanted to do something to help programs that work with homeless people, so he created The William Mangum Honor Card program. For the next 35 years, Mangum donated a beautiful painting inspired by different homeless people he knew, and with the help of Wells Fargo Bank and other donors, he produced holiday cards that would be given free of charge to 15 N.C. organizations serving homeless people so they could sell them to raise needed funds for their programs. The recipients of the William Mangum Honor Card would know that a gift had been made in their honor to one of these organizations, with information about the program in the card. Over the years, The William Mangum Honor Card helped raise over $10 million dollars for organizations serving homeless people, and the program gained national attention for his philanthropy. Last fall, Mangum announced his retirement from The Honor Card program and the 15 N.C. organizations who have come to depend on the revenue it has generated for them needed a plan for what to do.

Photo: “Hope Heals”, the new Exodus Homes Honor Card painting for 2023 done by LA based mural artist James Smith.

Exodus Homes, a faith-based United Way agency in Hickory providing 73 beds of supportive housing for homeless people coming back to the community from treatment and prisons, has been a William Mangum Honor Card program since 2007, and annual sales of the holiday cards has raised over $600,000 for the agency. After learning of Mangum’s retirement, Exodus Homes assistant executive director the Rev. Susan Smith immediately began making plans to carry on the legacy of the William Mangum Honor Card with the creation of an Exodus Homes Honor Card that would be available in the fall of 2023. “We knew we needed an artist and financial support for the production of the card and we believed that God would make a way”

On May 23, 2023 Exodus hosted a special luncheon at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Hickory to thank Mangum for his many years of generous support and to unveil their plan for the new Exodus Homes Honor Card. The affair was well attended and many were deeply moved by Mangum’s presentation about the history of his program and all the good that has come of it. Each luncheon participant received a copy of his new book “Making a Difference” which includes all 35 Honor Card paintings and the stories behind them. At the end of his book Mangum says this, “Don’t forget who you are, and don’t forget why you’re in this world. A lot of Christians think they are here to sing Kumbaya until Jesus comes, but we are here to be salt and light to make a difference.”

In searching for financial backing to produce their own Honor Card,. Exodus turned to Darrell Johnson, Senior Vice President of First Horizon Bank in Hickory. The bank has been a strong supporter of Exodus Homes over the years and was receptive to this new partnership. Johnson spoke at the luncheon about their willingness to fund all aspects of the new Exodus Homes Honor Card saying, “We believe in the great work of Exodus Homes and we’re excited to support them in this new venture.”

The artist for the new Exodus Homes Honor Card is LA based mural artist James Smith. Smith is the son of the Rev. Susan Smith and is well known in the Hickory area for his work which includes the iconic “Welcome to Hickory” mural near the post office downtown. Smith grew up in Exodus Church and was part of Exodus Homes from the very beginning in 1998. Many of his paintings can be seen in the Exodus Church fellowship hall, and all of the murals inside and out at the Exodus Homes’ corporate headquarters on 4th St SW in Hickory were done by him. He is passionate about reaching out to homeless people wherever he goes across the country, and readily accepted the challenge of creating the first Exodus Homes Honor Card painting. At the end of the luncheon honoring Mangum, Smith unveiled his new work entitled “Hope Heals” which shows one man reaching out to another man who is homeless, with a soft glow of sunlight illuminating the snow covered ground. In explaining the inspiration behind his painting Smith said, “’Hope Heals” encapsulates the essence of the upcoming holiday season – a time when our hearts are more receptive to love, compassion, and giving. It serves as a reminder that we have the power to heal and uplift others through even the simplest acts of kindness. This Exodus Homes Honor Card represents more than just a piece of beautiful artwork. It signifies an invitation – a call to action for each of us to be a source of healing and hope in our community. It is a reminder that even a small gesture can make a significant impact in the lives of those who need it most.”

The new Exodus Homes “Hope Heals” Honor Card will be available in September to individuals, churches, and businesses that would like to participate in the program. For more info., ontact Rev. Susan Smith at 828-962-8196 or [email protected].