Hickory – Exodus Homes, a faith based United Way agency that provides supportive housing for homeless recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prison has impacted our community significantly beyond the lives of their residents since their founding in 1998. Over the years they have reduced neighborhood crime, reduced prison recidivism, increased the effectiveness of substance use disorder treatment, increased the property value of their neighbors, and increased workforce development in this area. Their work has been celebrated all the way to the White House and one of the keys to their success is their diverse leadership team headed by the Rev. Reggie Longcrier and the Rev. Susan Smith. The unlikely pair are in their 24th year of partnership. He is the visionary, and she is the administrator. He is wise, and she is organized. He is a black man, and she is a white woman. He has criminal justice wisdom and she has a social work background. Although they are very different, their skills compliment one another in leading the agency. Their partnership has created a unique model for leadership development at Exodus Homes where men and women of all races from all walks of life live together in order to learn a new way to live after addiction or incarceration. Diverse leadership at the top has created an atmosphere where all residents feel valued as potential leaders and opportunities abound for them to use their gifts in the organization which is primarily operated by the residents themselves in volunteer roles. Our community benefits from these new leaders while they are residents, and after they graduate from the program.
To celebrate Exodus Homes’ commitment to empowering differences in leadership, a new mural called “Strength in Diversity” has been unveiled on the 800 sq. ft. north facing wall of their corporate headquarters at 610 4th St. SW in Hickory. The new work of a black and white hand in partnership was proposed and created by well known mural artist James Smith from Los Angeles who has done other murals around town over the past few years. He is the son of the Rev. Susan Smith and grew up watching the evolution of Exodus Homes from it’s first house in 1998 to where they are today. He describes his inspiration for the work this way, “I felt there was a message of unity that needed to be shared at this moment in history and this mural communicates hope that we can come together as one people to do great things.”
The hands in the mural are actually those of Longcrier and Smith. They are superimposed over a mandala which are often used as meditation tools and are seen as symbols of peace or unity. “I am honored that our work will encourage all who see it to believe that people can be very different and lead effectively together at the same time”, said Smith. Longcrier is proud of the new work saying “This mural is the quintessential expression of the Exodus movement where all people are valued and needed in leading the work of this ministry,”
In the days to come the mural will be available as an original painting and also in a limited number of signed prints. For more information, contact the Rev. Susan Smith at 828-962-8196 or [email protected].