SILOAM SPRINGS -- The Genesis House of Siloam Springs recently announced that Tim Rogers would take over as the new executive director, effective Jan. 1.
The vacancy emerged for the nonprofit, whose mission is to provide aid to the homeless and low-income populations in the community, when the former executive director, Harvey McCone, announced his plans to retire last year. McCone has held the position for the last three and a half years and will remain involved moving forward because he was selected to serve as president of the organization's board of directors.
Five new members will also be joining the board for 2019: Tamera Holmes, James Walls, Rex Dickey, James Harris and Caleb Schultz. The new directors are from diverse backgrounds, from Schultz, a teacher at Siloam Springs Middle School, to Rex Dickey, a chaplain at Cobb Vantress. This is similar to the board's current members, who have backgrounds working for places such as McKee Foods, Main Street Academy, Simmons or DaySpring.
McCone is also a member of the board of directors for the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce, and his move from the staff side to the board stemmed from a desire to stay involved but to a lesser extent so that he can have more time to spend with his family and enjoy retirement. He will officially begin in April and will be replacing Christina Drake, who has served as board president for two three-year terms.
Drake will still remain on the board as a director, however, and said that she didn't step down for any particular reason other than to allow others an opportunity to bring in new perspectives and ideas. She emphasized the progress that has taken place under McCone's leadership in recent years.
"I've been on the board for five years and have seen where we've grown just in the last three and a half years since Harvey came on board," Drake said. "He came in with so much momentum, it was really exciting to see. He had all these charts and graphs and looked at where our gaps were (and) the areas that we could grow.
"Our budget at that time was about half of what it is now; he's doubled almost every program to twice the capacity of what they originally were. We're at max capacity with a lot of programs that we're running, so I mean he really took everything to the next level, and what I see for Tim (Rogers) is keeping those things going and then implementing things that can refine them and make them run even smoother."
Since he began in May 2015, McCone has overseen a number of improvements for the organization, such as the effort to secure funding for the Tiny House Project, a transitional housing program which will offer emergency shelter to selected applicants. The project's completion is expected sometime in the early months of 2019 and is located on the corner of Arkansas Highway 16 and Kenwood Street.
Other new program initiatives are focused on offering additional options for transitional housing, food banks, van transportation assistance, special outreach programs for the summer and winter months, as well as homelessness prevention assistance and education, according to a document provided by the Genesis House. Moreover, program funding has increased considerably since McCone's arrival.
Annual funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development has increased from $26,000 to $92,000, and $460,000 has been raised through grants or other sources.
McCone became acquainted with Rogers during his time as a volunteer and his time on the Genesis House board of directors, on which he served prior to his consideration of the new position. After his decision to retire, McCone asked Rogers if he would consider applying for the position. McCone said he knew Rogers' heart is in the right place and that he would be leaving the organization in steady hands.
Rogers grew up in Lebanon, Conn., and earned an associate degree in criminal justice before enlisting in the U.S. Army, where he went on three overseas deployments and served for a total of 20 years. For the first four years of his service, he was an infantry paratrooper and spent the remainder of his service in other capacities, including the reserves.
After the military, Rogers earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where he lived for about 20 years before coming to Siloam Springs in June 2014.
He is married with two sons, a daughter, and twin granddaughters. He has worked in law enforcement, sales and has spent 12 years working as a supervisor for Delta Airlines at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
The coming weeks will be a transition period for Rogers, who, under McCone's guidance, will be learning more about the financial and business aspects of the shelter. McCone will step down from the role completely in March and begin on the board in April.
Rogers said that he's always had an interest in becoming a counselor and that he still has hopes of earning a master's degree in social work someday. He attributed the reason for this prospect in part to his mother -- who spent 20 years as a social worker -- and said that her dedication to helping others has given him lasting inspiration to do the same.
"My mom never made a lot of money, but she helped a lot of people in her 20 years, a ton of people," Rogers said. "It's an honor for me to do something even similar to what she did. She's no longer with us but that was her heart, doing that. Even when she wasn't a social worker, she was always helping people."
Since he was already involved with the organization, Rogers has gotten to know the employees and the employees, him. He described them as a phenomenal team of people that bring their own unique contributions to the table, such as caseworker Lisa Burch, who he considers "heart and soul" of the organization because of the patient, respectful and thoughtful demeanor she practices when interacting with clients.
Rogers also commended Scott Blaha for his efforts in keeping the shelter's finances organized, and Mike Velo, who manages a considerable amount of the day-to-day operations. If it were the Army, Velo would be referred to as the group's "hard-charging NCO, or hard-charging sergeant" because of his ability to get things done, Rogers said.
"So, yeah, the staff, the chemistry there, is phenomenal," Rogers said. "For me, I see myself as someone who's going to be, number one, their greatest cheerleader. I'm going to try to do everything I can to make their lives easier for what they do because there's nothing on that staff that is broken. I'm just really proud to be among them and to know them.
"I also really want to mention that we have a robust team of volunteers. They go over and above the hours that they're supposed to be there and over and above the required effort to create ways to help. I can't stress that enough."
As for what's next, Rogers said one priority will be to find a better funding source for many of the day-to-day expenses such as utility costs because many of the larger projects -- such as the tiny houses -- can often be quick to receive funding, while smaller, less noticeable expenses can sometimes be more difficult.
Other priorities include expanding the shelter's restroom facilities and finding a way to repair or replace the two vans currently in use, Rogers said. The ultimate goal is to open an overnight shelter, as opposed to the current facility which can only serve as a day shelter, but that will remain an ambition for the long term, Rogers said.
The Genesis House is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for walk-ins and 1 to 3 p.m. by appointment. It is located at 1402 N. Inglewood Drive. For more information, visit genesishousesiloam.com or call 479-549-3438.General News on 01/09/2019
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