Alumna’s nonprofit receives $500,000 grant
Kim Threadgill Rhodarmer, a member of the Erskine College Class of 1982, has been privileged to receive a calling and to follow it.
“When I was 16 years old, God called me to be a social worker. My calling was clear and resolute to my 16-year-old self,” she says.
Following her calling eventually led her to found Servant’s Heart of Mint Hill, a nonprofit in Mint Hill, North Carolina, which recently received a $500,000 grant from her community.
An ambition for others
Kim completed her degree in behavioral science as well as a social work certification program in just three and a half years, but Erskine’s influence on her has continued throughout her professional life.
“Erskine College was the perfect fit for me,” Kim explains, even though it did not offer a major in social work. “From Choraleers to theater to serving as Judicial Council chair, my experiences at Erskine continued to shape who I became as a human being and a professional.”
One of her warmest memories is of Dr. Lindsay Pratt, an Erskine professor “who challenged me, but also instilled in me a belief that I could achieve anything I desired in social work.”
Kim went on to earn a master’s degree in social work and served as a social work case manager for a children’s home, a juvenile court counselor, and a school social worker. She cherished a key ambition as she pursued her career: “I wanted to be the person to help children whom others shunned.”
Revealing an especially poignant aspect of her motivation, she adds, “I wanted to be the person my mom didn’t have during her childhood, when she suffered abuse and neglect. I could not undo what happened to her, but I could change the outcome for other children.”
As Kim followed God’s leading into social work, she developed an interest in teaching college students. She traces that interest back to her Erskine experience—Dr. Pratt, her former professor, had asked her to come back to Erskine a few years after her graduation to address his students.
“From that experience, along with quarterly speaking engagements with human services seniors at Queens University, I knew I wanted to teach on a collegiate level one day,” she says.
Her wish was fulfilled when she began teaching junior and senior students in the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She taught for one year.
“Even before that year ended, I knew it would be my last because I missed working with families who desperately needed help,” she says.
Kim became executive director at another nonprofit and pursued further education. “To sharpen my skill set, I acquired a two-year Certification in Essential Business for Nonprofits,” she says, adding, “My degree from Erskine was the start of becoming a lifelong learner and it has served me well.”
Her education, vocation, and faith have been linked together throughout Kim’s adult life. “I have enjoyed every job I’ve experienced,” she says. “I felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be with each landing. Each experience was an opportunity for growth in some way.”
Following a call to sacrifice
The establishment of Servant’s Heart of Mint Hill in 2016 was a significant achievement in Kim’s career. But on a deeper level, it was simply another step she took as she followed her calling.
“When my husband Frank and I embraced the idea that starting a nonprofit was the next chapter God had for me, there were so many challenges,” she says. There were no financial investors, so they were limited to their savings account, which they donated to Servant’s Heart.
“I told God that if He opened the doors, I would walk through them. With a business plan in hand, we—God and I—proceeded.”
For the first two years, Kim paid herself no salary. “I felt that in order to encourage and help clients to be financially independent, Servant’s Heart should be financially solid,” she says, and notes that the organization reached that goal in just a year and a half.
She discovered that grants were not typically awarded to nonprofits newer than five years old. “But once again, God opened doors and gave favor where favor should not have existed,” she says.
Then came COVID-19. “With three employees and 92 weekly volunteers, we entered 2020. The need during the pandemic was enormous everywhere,” Kim says.
In the early days of the pandemic, the “daily fundraiser” of Servant’s Heart—the Community Boutique selling donated items—was closed for two and a half months by order of the governor. But Servant’s Heart’s assistance programs were deemed “essential business” and allowed to remain open to serve those in need.
In February of 2020, Kim hired a full-time social worker so that she would no longer need to fill that role in addition to serving as business manager and executive director. “But because my social worker was new to Servant’s Heart, we were in it together,” she admits.
Servant’s Heart received a $175,000 grant in 2020. “This grant, along with many other grants we were awarded, allowed us to keep families housed [by] paying rent, mortgage, electric, and gas bills on behalf of our clients. … At three years old, Servant’s Heart helped over 6,000 people in our community with $395,000 in assistance during that one-year period.”
Reflecting on how far Servant’s Heart has come, Kim can cite statistics readily. For example, the nonprofit now operates with the assistance of six paid staff members and 55 weekly volunteers. “Our assistance programs have served approximately 33,000 people with over $1.5 million,” she says.
The recent $500,000 grant received by Servant’s Heart is its largest ever.
“This was incredibly meaningful to me,” Kim says. “Commissioners told me that Servant’s Heart was the only nonprofit which had a unanimous vote to receive monies. Because they appreciate our financial transparency, along with protocols and data to validate our use of funds, they entrusted the entire allotment to us.”
At the heart of Servant’s Heart
Looking back on the day when Servant’s Heart of Mint Hill opened its doors for the first time, Kim remembers the very first client.
“In the nonfood pantry, I asked her to select the brand of shampoo she would like. She made no move toward that section,” Kim recalls. “With tears running down her face, she stood still and said, ‘I haven’t had shampoo in three years.’”
She is thankful for the grants received by her nonprofit and for the ability to help meet people’s material needs, but, Kim says, “My most treasured part of working with clients is when I have the opportunity to remind them that God has not forgotten about them.”
She assures clients who are in distress that God loves them and has not abandoned them. “And then I have the honor of praying with them,” Kim says. “Many have said that they really appreciated the tangible assistance given to them, but above all, they were thankful that I prayed with them.”
It all goes back to a 16-year-old girl who heard a call from the Lord—and is still following that call.
“The knowledge that God has a plan for my life keeps me moving forward. Starting my own nonprofit was, without question, a faith journey. I learned to trust God in a new way,” Kim says thoughtfully.
“As I reflect on all the experiences and pieces of paper I have acquired, it is clear to me that God indeed had a plan. He was preparing me for Servant’s Heart of Mint Hill.”
To learn more about Servant’s Heart of Mint Hill and meet the staff members who help ensure that it runs well, go to the organization’s website here.