Killingsworth casts new ‘vision net’

Crisis residence seeks new director, new perspective on current issues facing women as it approaches 75th anniversary

By Jessica Brodie

COLUMBIA—Three years from its 75th anniversary, a United Methodist home for women in crisis is casting what it calls a “new vision net” as it prepares to seek a new executive director and a new perspective on current issues facing its female clientele.

“Just as our board of directors did in 1972, when we went from a boarding house for young Christian women to our current existence as a home for women in various crisis situations, we’re looking at a new vision for 2019,” said Jeri Mckie, chair of the Killingsworth Board of Directors.

As Killingsworth’s executive director, Donna Lollis, steps down, the board is treating the years leading up to its diamond anniversary as an ideal time to reassess their mission and bring on staff with the administrative gifts they need.

“It’s a good time for this,” Mckie said.

Board member Flo Johnson agreed. “We’re in a place of hope.”

An evolving ministry

Killingsworth, a United Methodist Women national mission institution, opened in 1947 in a historic home in downtown Columbia purchased and renovated through contributions from Methodist churches across the area. Then, it was a place for unmarried women to board while they attended business or nursing school. Within a decade, they had outgrown the house and, with the help of the national office of United Methodist Women, bought a larger home a few doors down. Today, United Methodist Women still owns and insures the building, and Killingsworth’s staff and board handles operations.

By 1972, the culture had changed, and there was little need for a women’s boarding house. Killingsworth shifted gears and began its second chapter—as a unique community residence for women emerging from varying forms of crisis. Some are recovering addicts, others have escaped an abusive marriage or just been released from prison, and others are battling mental health or gambling problems.

In 2019, Mckie said, the needs continue to evolve. While addiction, prison and abuse are some of the issues many of its residents face, Killingsworth is increasingly aware of South Carolina’s newest status as one of the largest human trafficking hubs in the nation. They also believe there are needs they do not yet know about, and they are hoping to use this time for intentional research, dialogue and visioning to understand those needs and hone strategies to address them.

“We’re casting the net for a new 2019 vision that includes all the issues facing women today,” Mckie said.

Johnson agreed. “We’ll still be helping women just released from prison and fighting addiction, but we’ll also be focusing on other problems women might be facing today and adjusting the way we help our residents.”

Next steps

In addition to seeking a new executive director, the ministry is also launching a new campaign for the various program operations it hopes to tackle this year.

Killingsworth leaders are also inviting people to contact them with ideas about ways the ministry can continue to serve South Carolina women.

To contact Killingsworth with your thoughts, call Arlene Roberson at 910-916-9721 or [email protected]. You can also learn more about Killingsworth at

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