New ministry director’s work began long ago

Paul Clark

Cheryl Wilson, a seasoned pro in the charitable institution industry, has just six weeks to train as executive director of Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry before Renae Brame retires.

Brame, the ministry’s longtime leader, retires May 31. Wilson, her successor, began working with her on April 11. Wilson has been volunteer and special events director at Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministries for 11 years. For six years prior to that, she worked in ABCCM’s Coxe Avenue shelter and served as interim director of its Steadfast House women’s shelter.

Service is deeply engrained in Wilson. When she was in the fourth grade, her father abandoned his childhood dream of becoming a pilot to go to seminary. “He was a big promoter of community service and helping in the community,” Wilson said. “I never knew anything other than (being of service).”

Wilson’s new job marks a homecoming of sorts for her. Her daughter, Brittany Williams, is the recreation supervisor for Black Mountain, and her parents moved here when her father retired and began volunteering at ABCCM’s Veterans Restoration Quarters in east Asheville.

“This is just home,” said Wilson, who has lived in the Valley for 30 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, but her work in the charitable trade has “all been hands-on training,” she said.

She described herself as a “people person” who is excited about helping people find Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry.

“I like going out to share what a ministry can do,” she said. “It’s the churches and volunteers and donors coming together to help those in need. Any one of us could become someone who needs a helping hand at any time in our lives. To be able to help them, it just makes my life richer. It just gives me a sense of joy.”

Everyone has gifts, and those gifts are meant to be shared, she believes. One of hers, she said, “is going out in the community and letting it know what good work is being done. It’s just how a community comes together.

“It’s a good feeling to know that this is what I’m supposed to do,” she said of her new job.

That’s one of the things Wilson loves about the Black Mountain area is the way residents pitch in to help each other.

“It’s not just one civic group or one individual. It’s the whole community,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve been anywhere where a community comes together as tightly and quickly as this one does. If someone knows there is someone in need, this community rallies in a special way.”

Wilson’s husband is a firefighter for the town of Black Mountain. Her little grandson lives next to her. Four generations of the family attend Black Mountain Presbyterian Church.

“They say that families who worship together intergenerationally do better, live longer and have happier lives,” she said. Her other son is a U.S. Coast Guard a recruiter in Memphis. “He has my other four grandchildren,” she said, delight in her voice. “Family is very important to me.”

The staff and volunteers at Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry feel like family to Wilson, she said. “It’s not one of those jobs where you’re there just for the paycheck,” she said. “It’s a job you do because you care. The volunteers give us their time and talents.”

There’s always a need in the community, Wilson said. It’s incumbent upon people to help those who need it, she believes.

“I’ve been praying for months, and the Lord told me he would lead me somewhere. I’m extremely blessed that where he led me was right here at home at Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry,” she said.

The ministry provided 18,194 client services in 2015.