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In the early days of the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, then-director Lois Nix had to call the organization's treasurer to see if there was enough money in the bank to pay someone's $50 electricity bill.

Forty decades later, the Black Mountain-based ministry is celebrating its 40th anniversary with an open house from 2-4 p.m. Oct. 2.  There will be a tour of the facility, a silent auction and refreshments. The ministry is located at 101 N. Ridgeway Ave. in Black Mountain.

“The local community has supported the ministry since 1975,” director Cheryl Wilson said. “There aren’t many communities that have something as wonderful as the ministry.  The whole community pulls together to support it, and it shows that we take care of our own who need our help.”

SVCM’s 2015 annual report indicates that 38 churches, 61 businesses and 21 organizations, foundations and grants support the ministry, as do about 600 people.  Some 200 volunteers gave 26,000 hours of service to those in need, the report states.

The ministry's first director was the late Pat Rice, who served from July 1975 until she resigned in April 1976.  Lois Nix became the second director in April 1976 and guided the ministry for 26 years before retiring in 2002.

“We literally helped hundreds with little money and just me and a few volunteers," Nix said. Some of the accomplishments that I am most proud of is bringing the facility to North Ridgeway Avenue. We paid for it in less than a year." The ministry also start Meals on Wheels in the area and initiated Second Loaf, a program that collects surplus packaged food from groups meeting at Montreat Conference Center.

"It was hard work but fulfilling,” Nix said. “I made a lot of lifelong friends that I treasure, and I enjoyed working with the ministers in the Valley."

Renae Brame took the helm as executive director of SVCM in 2002 and remained until she retired in May 2016. The ministry expanded its services during Brame's 14-year tenure, adding several programs to help those in need.

Brame headed the capital campaign that raised the $900,000 that enabled SVCM to purchase the building next to it and build a 5,000-square-foot building.

“The improvement and additions made the property cohesive,” Brame said.  “Roy Fenton, (ministry board) president at the time, was amazing.  We put the capital plan together, and in a couple of years we had the commitments and pledges needed.  The community was generous.”

Brame and Bill Walker, a long-time volunteer and member of board of directors, teamed up to bring a Crop Walk to the area in 2004 to increase the ministry's funding.  They started a walk of the ministry's own in 2009 to raise money to benefit SVCM.  To date, the GED program (General Education Program or high school equivalency) the ministry started in 2008 has graduated some 70 students. The ministry's scholarship fund has helped many students with job training at A-B Tech.

The ministry's homeless shelter at First Baptist Church in Black Mountain was started in 2009 under Brame and Walker's guidance. The shelter has provided warm beds for hundreds of homeless people in cold weather.

Brame is proud of the new outreach program to the Valley’s Latino community that provides an English class.  The class started in August 2015.  Four to 12 students participate weekly.

“It was a privilege to serve the ministry and those in need,” Brame said.

Building upon its past, Wilson is guiding SVCM into the future.

"The future of SVCM is the continued care for those in our community who are facing hardships, and continuing to ease their burdens,” Wilson said. “This is what SVCM has been doing since 1975, and I hope to carry on the wonderful legacy of Lois Nix and Renae Brame.  This wonderful, caring community we are blessed to call home is truly inspiring.”

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