Smith working to continue to grow as new director of Mountain of Faith

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, December 10, 2017

It was a case of being in the right place at the right time.

Kimberly Smith had been back in Vicksburg about 14 months and working as a crime prevention/community relations officer with the Vicksburg Police Department when she heard about Mountain of Faith Ministries and went to the organization’s office.

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“I inquired if they were hiring, and I was told, ‘As a matter of fact, we are,'” Smith said.

That position was the director’s position, which had been held by the ministry’s founder, Tina Hayward, until her death in July. Smith applied for it, went through an interview process and took office as Mountain of Faith’s new executive director in November.

A native of Vicksburg, Smith graduated from Vicksburg High School and has a degree in English communication from Alcorn State. She also spent nine years in the Army Reserve, part of that with the 412th Theater Engineer Command.

“I was a 64 Charlie, which is the motor pool,” she said. “I did whatever they needed me to do, driving, changing oil; I got my hands dirty, but I don’t mind getting my hands dirty. I was raised pretty much by my dad because mom died at an early age.

“My dad did really well raising me and teaching me pretty much things you would teach a guy. I can change oil, put up blinds, flooring, carpet; I can do a lot of stuff.”

Prior to her appointment as executive director, Smith had never been involved with Mountain of Faith, but had experience working with nonprofit agencies from her experience working with an agency in Houston, Texas, called GMC, where she was a case manager.

“We dealt with a lot of different organizations and we dealt with the indigent community there,” Smith said. “We helped them with health care, education, on-the-job training; they had life skills training, interviewing, all kinds of different things. Housing, the whole works.”

She returned home, she said, “Because I decided it was time to start over again, and what better place to start over than here at home.”

It was on her return home when she began hearing about Tina Hayward and Mountain of Faith.

“I had heard a lot about Mountain of Faith, and I knew how they helped the community, and ministry is my first love; I love helping people,” Smith said. “I have been in situations myself; I know what it is to be in need and there not be anyone there to help you, but thank God Mountain of Faith is here to help the women.”

After she applied for Hayward’s position, she underwent an interview process involving a number of the ministry’s board members.

“It was a lot of fun,” Smith said. “There is a wealth of knowledge on the board, and the women on the board are exceptional. They’re educated, they’re very intelligent, they have a love for this community, and they have love for people to do better in their lives, and they do everything that they can to follow in Ms. Tina’s footsteps.”

Following in those footsteps, she said is going to be a challenge.

“I didn’t know Ms. Tina, but not knowing her, believe it or not, is still knowing her, because you get an opportunity to see how people in the city loved her,” Smith said.

“How the residents loved her, the employees loved her, and still love her. It was amazing how, since 2000 Mountain of Faith Ministries has grown exponentially because of her love for Mountain of Faith and for the homeless community.”

When she stood before the audience for the first time at Mountain of Faith’s Women’s Empowerment Luncheon, Smith laid out an ambitious goal to make Mountain of Faith not just a national, but an international organization.

“I’m an ambitious person. The one thing, knowing I didn’t know Ms. Tina, but hearing so much about her and hearing the dreams and aspirations she had for Mountain of Faith, the Lord, I believe sent me here to complete what she started,” she said.

“I have a five-year plan. I gave myself five years because I think that’s enough time to get to know a lot of people and for a lot of people to get to know me. We can build relationships, we can move forward with ideas and take Mountain of Faith not only nationally, but internationally, because there are so many people in need that are homeless. Not only do we help the homeless, we also minister.”

And that is to men and women. Smith said she talks with women, but she also meets a lot of men and talks with them.

“They can’t stay here —we don’t have the necessary means to help them, but we can still minister to them,” she said.

Presently, though, she is getting familiar with her new surroundings and responsibilities.

She’s working on new grants for the ministry and working to get more volunteers. “And they are coming, slowly,” she said. “The objective is to get the community involved,” Smith said. She said she has met with Michele Connelly, executive director of United Way of West Central Mississippi, and wants to partner with businesses and people to grow the ministry.

She said everyone at the mission is working to handle the duties Hayward performed, “Because no one person here can do everything Ms. Tina did, because Ms. Tina did it all, in essence.”

Everyone at the mission, she said, pitches in as needed, including interns and volunteers.

“It’s an effort, and it’s an effort we are achieving,” Smith said. “It’s a goal that we’re achieving together.

“One thing I’ve found is when you get people involved they’re more apt to help you, they’re more apt to give it their all. So now it’s a learning process for myself as well, now I’m having to learn how to incorporate everyone else in this gigantic ministry.

“I’m getting on-the-job training. Some of it I know already because I did it in Texas in case management, but a lot of it is learn as you go, and unfortunately, there is no book to go by. If it were it would be a lot better.”

Her education, she said, is never dull or boring.

“When I get in here in the morning, and when I finally look at my watch, it may be 8 or 9 at night sometimes and it’s like, ‘Wow, where did the time go I’m learning, and whatever time I need to learn I do that,’” she said.

And while she doesn’t think she’ll ever learn all of the nuances of running Mountain of Faith, she believes the education she is receiving now will help her move the ministry to the next level.

“Hopefully, getting us to the next level will be a lot easier than I’m praying for,” Smith said. “I have a huge job ahead of me, and with the support of the community, with the support of the different organizations that help Mountain of Faith, and friends, family, and the Lord first and foremost, we will achieve the goals that are set before us, because they are different goals every day.

“Different things that are placed in our path every day; just because we’ve done it on a daily basis, it’s always something new and it’s never done the same way twice, because every one is different.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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