Killingsworth gala celebrates 70 years helping women in need, bids adieu to retiring director

By Jessica Brodie

COLUMBIA—Seventy years ago, one woman had an idea to help young Southern women establish their independence in a safe space. Killingsworth, a Christian ministry for women in transformation, was born.

Decades later, while their mission has shifted to a different kind of transformation—one that embraces strength and recovery over addiction, abuse, prison and mental illness—Killingsworth is still thriving and still helping women in need.

On Nov. 9, hundreds of Killingsworth supporters from across the state gathered at Seawell’s in Columbia to celebrate 70 years of the United Methodist ministry and bid a loving and hearty adieu to longtime executive director the Rev. Diane Moseley. Moseley, who has served as Killingsworth’s director for 41 years, is retiring at the end of the year.

The annual gala and fashion show not only raises funds for the ministry but is also a way to lift up the work and the women of Killingsworth. Killingsworth residents modeled some of the fashions alongside other community members and United Methodist leaders, often sharing their testimonies as a way to thank the crowd for their support and illuminate the real, life-changing work the home is doing in the world.

“Happy happy birthday from us to Killingsworth!” gala chair Jane Scott announced to wild applause, lifting up the hundreds of women who have been helped by Killingsworth since its inception.

The evening started with a dinner and silent auction, featuring a host of items for bid. After bidding ended, models walked the runway, showing off fashions by Chico’s as announced by fashion show chair Flo Johnson with WIS television news anchor Dawndy Mercer Plank.

During intermission, Johnson was joined onstage by Scott and personnel committee chair the Rev. Angela Ford Nelson, who praised the work of Killingsworth and also gave a special farewell presentation to a tearful Moseley, whom Johnson called “the heart of Killingsworth for so many years now.”

In honor of her longtime service, the Killingsworth Board of Directors has decided to renovate the living room of the home, which is where the women gather both to relax and hold their weekly house meetings. The room will be called “Diane’s Den” to commemorate the decades of love and service Moseley gave to Killingsworth and its residents.

“You have poured out from your soul and many people have been healed,” Nelson said to Moseley. “We thank you for not only what you did but how you did it.”

Moseley called the honor “incredible” and said she loves the room’s new name. She said the room is hugely important to her and the women of Killingsworth, a place where they can sit in great big circle, all residents and staff, to share devotions and pray together.

“That’s where we heal ourselves,” Moseley said, offering deep appreciation for the gift and the recognition.

The Rev. Kathy James offered greetings and celebration to Moseley on behalf of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church and its bishop, Jonathan Holston.

James praised Moseley’s work, noting she was one of first women ordained in this conference.

“She is courageous, creative, determined and compassionate,” James said, calling her “a daughter of God and leader of women.”

After a live auction of items—from beach trips to a hand-painted purse and more—the fashion show resumed with evening wear.

Three current or former Killingsworth residents, who modeled some of the fashions, gave their testimonies during the show.

DJ Zorn, who was a resident of Killingsworth 30 years ago and recently retired after serving as an emergency medical technician for more than 20 years, offered thanks to the crowd.

“Without you giving every single one of us a stable environment, we would not have made it,” Zorn said.

Another model, Elizabeth Samuel, is currently at Killingsworth for the second time. She shared how she arrived at the home in 2013 after being in a 28-day drug and alcohol treatment program in Florence.

“I found love, I found God, I was able to work and able to be me once again,” Samuel said of her first stay, noting that for the first time in a long time, she had plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear, people to offer love and counseling—people to keep her in order.

“After nine months thought I was strong enough to go home,” Samuel said.

But it was too soon. She returned to Killingsworth last year and is working hard to get her life back on track.

“By grace of God, my thanks go to all of you,” Samuel said. “I work hard, pray hard and continue to do all the things I need to change to be the person I am today.”

Resident Gidget Alexander also offered her story. Alexander recently relapsed and didn’t think she was worthy of being a model anymore, but the staff of Killingsworth gave her love and support and convinced her she is more than worthy.

“When I think of Killingsworth, I think of love—unconditional love,” Alexander said to resounding applause. “(They showed me that) just because I failed didn’t mean I’d stay stuck, you know? … I’m OK with starting over. I’m OK with having 30 days clean because that in itself is a lot. Thank you not giving up on me. I’m overwhelmed, so happy, to be on this stage. Thank you for believing in me, believing in us.

“Killingsworth is the best house on the block—it’s at the corner of peace and happiness.”

In addition to Alexander, Samuel and Zorn, models included Parri Andrews, Sherri Covington, Kaila Hyman, Donna Lollis, Lexie Mitchell, Melanie Moody and the Rev. Jeri Katherine Sipes. Marshals were the Rev. James Friday, Dr. Charles Harmon, Melvin McKie and Duane Scott. The Dick Goodwin Quartet provided live music.

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