When One Woman Has a Good Idea
And Follows Through…..
…an opportunity like Killingsworth can happen. Corrie Killingsworth was a woman who saw a need, had an idea for meeting the need, and did something about it.
In the mid-1940’s Corrie noticed many young women were moving to Columbia to go to work or school and were seeking help from churches to find places to live. Corrie though these young women would benefit from living in a safe Christian Community as a transition from their family’s home to living independently. She first enlisted the help of members of her own church, Washington Street United Methodist. Then she asked for help from Methodist women across the state.
In 1947, Corrie purchased a two-story home on the corner of Gregg and Senate Streets in downtown Columbia near the University of South Carolina campus. When the doors opened in late 1947 young women ages 18 to 25 came to live in the large clapboard house where they could board for up to two years. Rules from the early days of the Killingsworth community were restrictive by today’s standards: no fingernail polish allowed; no shorts could be worn downstairs; Bible study was held each day at 5:00 PM; and, the house mother was known to don a pair of white gloves and go through the house checking for dust! The only major change in the first 25 years of Killingsworth was the sale of the wood frame house on Senate Street and a move to a larger brick home one block away that faces on Pendleton Street.
There are wonderful stories of forging long-lasting friendships which continue to this day, and indications that the safe, Christian community Corrie Killingsworth designed for young women leaving their homes for the “cold cruel world” has exactly the effect she envisioned. However, many of those who happily tell of living at Killingsworth in the 1950’s or 60’s are also quick to say, ” lived there before….”
…Before 1972 when there were only 2 young women living in Killingsworth with a house mother, a part-time cook, a part time-maid, and a maintenance man…. more staff than residents.
…Before closing the door on that first chapter which had lasted for 25 years and the beginning of a new focus for ministry.
Most of Corrie’s ideas would remain:
Killingsworth would be:
a Christian Community
from all across South Carolina
who were going through major transitions in their lives…
The significant difference to Corrie’s dream from 1972 would be the kind of changes that these women were going through. No longer the “first home away from home” for young ladies. The changes that future Killingsworth women were navigating were of crisis proportions.
The new focus would be on women recovering from various traumatic situations that thrust them into crises. A crises has been described as a situation that cannot be handled with one’s normal healthy coping skills. Women who had tried to manage unmanageable lives with drugs or alcohol, those who were fighting the morass of mental illness, those who had been incarcerated and were trying to learn to live free and responsible, victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault and those who just had nowhere to go began to find their way to Killingsworth.
In 1972, under the apprehensive eye of the house mother, sever major shifts in the population occurred:
The first non-white woman moved in.
The first woman over 30 years of age moved in.
The first ex-convict moved in.
These women all had something in common; they were all Elizabeth Gray. During this time period, the house mother retired and in 1973, Gail West became the first Executive Director of the newly reorganized ministry. her job was to guide Killingsworth through the transition without a framework, secure funding or a staff.
Give this instability, the first several years were difficult. In the summer of 1976, Diane A. Mosley was hired as the fourth leader for Killingsworth in five years.
In 1976, Mary Jane Tullis, wife of Bishop E.L. Tullis, was the President of the Board of Directors. Her position and exposure at the side of Bishop Tullis was likely instrumental in solidifying Killingsworth as a stable institution. Mary Jane insisted on having a word before whatever crowd the Bishop was addressing, and she became well know for asking that least once everyday those assembled would say. “Killingsworth…Killingsworth… Killingsworth”.
The subsequent years saw a slow but steady growth as the program for residents, the number of staff and the budget expanded. Like most growing entities, Killingsworth has experienced times of peace and quiet growth and then times of turmoil and spiky growth. Buth through this second chapter of our ministry, Killingsworth has been blessed with wise, warm women who believe our mission: to support, to nurture, to advocate, to challenge, to share faith, to love.
There have been significant milestones since 1972. The most important ones have to do with our residents:
Hundreds of women have become stable responsible members of society.
Residents have embraced the life skills groups, Bible studies, and exercise opportunities.
Many mothers have been successfully reunited with their children and now take care of them.
Gamblers have quit gambling; alcoholics are sober; former crack addicts are now going to work regularly; violent men have been left; bodies have been respected, healthy relationships have been established; freedom is appreciated; grace has been given and received; a Higher Power has become personal and loving; God has been very good.
It was a fine idea, Corrie.