Kevin Bates to lead SVCM following Cheryl Wilson's departure

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Kevin Bates will replace Cheryl Wilson as Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry's executive director.

Kevin Bates is looking to connect people with the resources they need.

As the new executive director of Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, he said he will be able to do just that.

SVCM is the valley’s largest outreach program for people who need help with food, fuel and clothes.

Moving from Candler, Bates came to Black Mountain four years ago with his family when he and co-minister Kevin Miller decided to start a new ministry, Way in the Wilderness. Bates said the purpose of this ministry is “learning to love a community as a whole.”

Bates said his wife was born and raised in Swannanoa and currently works at Warren Wilson College. Bates said the Swannanoa Valley is where he and he wife wanted “to put down roots deep.”

Prior to moving to Black Mountain, Bates was a pastor at two United Methodist Churches.

He said a lot of the work he has done in the past few years with Way in the Wilderness has been about connecting people with what they need.

“A lot of what I’ve been doing the past couple years has been about connecting people,” Bates said. “It’s about seeing the places where God is already at work and helping us sort of leverage our gifts and our talents. A lot of times organizations are doing really great work in the community, but they’re doing it often siloed and separate from one another. When we do things together, we do more, we can do things better.”   

Bates said his love of connection is one of the things he brings to the role of executive director. He said with Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, it’s important to connect the large number of churches, businesses and other organizations working together toward their common goal.

“We’re all working towards a goal together,” Bates said. “For me, this is where I get excited. Everyone brings something to the table. Everyone has something to teach us. Everyone has something to learn. When we connect one another’s gifts together, I think we can do great things.”

Bates said it is important for him to treat individuals coming in for assistance not as problems that need solutions, but as people with stories. He said one of his favorite things about working with Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry so far is sitting on the porch and talking with everyone.

“These things create a terrible loneliness in people and one of the best things we can do for people, the thing I’m so excited about is I think the way we fight poverty and the way we fight these things is by building a community together and if we build a community we’ll be more resilient as an entire community,” Bates said. “If we can come alongside and help build connections with people, build those friendships with one another, I think that’s the actual thing that can get us out of these systems of poverty and systems of injustice.”

Bates will replace Cheryl Wilson as executive director. They are currently both serving as co-executive directors until Wilson retires in December.

Wilson said she is stepping away from her role due to her own health reasons and to take care of her 89-year-old father. She said she could not keep doing everything and she is happy to have been a part of Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry.

“I have been so blessed and love this community and this ministry and I’m so thankful for having this opportunity,” Wilson said. “I’ve enjoyed it. I love the volunteers and the donors and this community. It’s a blessing.”

While Wilson was not directly involved with choosing her replacement, she said she read the resumes and gave her recommendations to the board. She said Bates was at the top of her list, in part due to a letter he wrote with his application.

Bates said Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry would not be where it is today without those like Wilson who came before him. He said he hopes to continue the good work.

“I really believe that we stand on the shoulders of others who come before us,” Bates said. “We’re not here on our own doing, but others have started this ministry, had the vision for it, have brought us to the place that we are now. My hope is just to stand on those shoulders and continue that vision into the future.”