New chapter: Killingsworth to showcase real-life resident stories to foster a heart for the ministry

Killingsworth Gala is Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. at Seawell’s Restaurant, Columbia. Tickets on sale through Nov. 3 at

By Jessica Brodie

COLUMBIA—After a four-year hiatus because of the pandemic, one beloved women’s ministry is gearing up for a big return this month with a gala designed to open hearts and inspire many.

Killingsworth, a United Methodist-founded home for women emerging from crisis situations, is well known for its annual November gala, considered by many to be the official kickoff of the holiday season. Not only does the gala raise needed funds for the nonprofit residence, but it also helps the faith and philanthropy community know more about the work of its leaders and residents as they strive to shine light into dark circumstances. Yet COVID prevented ministry supporters from gathering in-person—until now.

“I’m just delighted,” said Azilee Dickey, Killingsworth board president who is excited about the opportunity the return of the gala will have in the lives of Killingsworth’s women, as well as in reminding others of their own redemption stories and the transformative power of the love of God at work through God’s people.

The gala will be Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. at Seawell’s Restaurant in Columbia.

“I’ve been in love with Killingsworth and its story since the first day I heard of it,” Dickey said, noting she is personally encouraged and inspired by women who call Killingsworth home. “I love these ladies, and when we get to know them and show them nothing can separate them from the love of God, it really makes a difference not only in their lives but also our lives.”

Susan Sirmons, Killingsworth interim director, said she is especially excited about the opportunity to help people learn about their critical work—many for the first time.

“What surprises me the most is people often have very little knowledge of what we do at Killingsworth and the women whose lives we save and the families we help put back together,” Sirmons said.

This is why, echoing the theme “A Night to Remember,” two Killingsworth women will share their powerful testimonies at the gala, one a current resident who is thriving in her journey to overcome, and the other a former resident.

Brooke Costner, a Killingsworth resident for more than a year, will share about her successful recovery journey, as well as the ways she has found hope and a second family through Killingsworth. Not only is she the manager of a popular Columbia restaurant, Travinia’s, but she is a top student at Midlands Technical College studying underwater welding.

Sheneka Corbin-Boyles, who left Killingsworth five years ago, will share about her journey and the work she does now at LRADAC, a nonprofit addiction prevention, intervention and treatment center in the Midlands. Corbin-Boyles has also launched her own business, serving at CEO and founder of the self-care organization Unapologetically No.

“There women are heroes, too,” Sirmons said. “They have fought a battle, just like fighting cancer or diabetes, and the more the public is educated and our work is celebrated, it empowers them to continue to overcome.”

The Rev. Millie Nelson Smith, a pastor and director of Connectional Ministries for the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, will also serve as a speaker for the evening.

There will be no fashion show this year, a longtime staple of the event, but the popular silent auction will return, featuring a host of items including a painting, “Water Lily of Lake Murray,” valued at $850, a teeth whitening package from The Art of Dentistry and a handmade hummingbird cage.

Dinner and other entertainment will round out the evening, and all proceeds benefit Killingsworth and the women they support.

Sirmons said it is incredibly heartening to hear the real-life stories of past and current residents, many of whom were once in a very dark place and now have a tremendous testimony.

“I really want people to see where their money is going,” Sirmons said. “A lot of people send donations for Killingsworth to the district, and then it goes to national and then to Killingsworth, but they don’t really know how it helps. But these are real women with real stories, and new chapters are written in their lives every day.”

Dickey agreed, noting that learning more about Killingsworth and the real women they help is both inspiring and relatable.

“Let’s be for real,” Dickey said. “We all want to feel safe and secure, to feel we have value and merit and that we are not alone—there are others in the world who have encountered what we have. I’m just grateful to be a part of it.”

The Killingsworth Gala is Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. at Seawell’s Restaurant, Columbia. Individual tickets are $65, and a table of eight sponsorship is $500. Deadline for ticket sales is Friday, Nov. 3. Buy at

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