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story.lead_photo.caption Kim Carter is the new executive director of Cooperative Christian Ministries and Clinic in Hot Springs. She replaces Lynn Blankenship, who retired to move back to Oklahoma City to be closer to family. CCMC is a nonprofit organization that focuses on poverty reduction for under-resourced people in Hot Springs and Garland County. - Photo by Sam Pierce

Kim Carter was happy where she was and was not looking for a new job.

“It was kind of serendipitous how I found this position,” she said. “I’ve been part of a camping retreat ministry in the United Methodist Church all my life, and I was serving as executive director at Camp Tanako.

“I was happy in my job.”

Carter was online looking at an advertisement she had placed, when she saw the ad for the executive-director position at Cooperative Christian Ministries and Clinic in Hot Springs.

“I immediately thought, ‘What a job that would be,’” she said. “I wasn’t looking to make a move, but the more I thought about it, the more it stirred around in my brain — I could say it was nothing less than the Holy Spirit wouldn’t leave me alone.”

Carter was hired at the beginning of October as the new executive director for CCMC. She replaces Lynn Blankenship, who retired to move back to Oklahoma City. Carter said Blankenship has a new grandbaby in the area, and she wanted to move back to be closer to family.

“I am incredibly thankful for the leadership of Lynn Blankenship,” Carter said. “Her vision and dedication have changed the lives of the underserved and marginalized in Hot Springs.”

Prior to her being hired at CCMC, Carter spent seven years as executive director at Camp Tanako, an extension ministry of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. She said her new job is way outside her comfort zone.

“I was in a job where I was comfortable, and I knew what I was doing and had lots of experience,” she said. “Now I’ve transitioned to a job where I have had a lot of learning to do, especially in terms of the medical side.

“CCMC has many spokes that spin out from it, but those spokes are what allow us to impact lives and allow us to collaborate with other agencies working in the same arena.”

According to its Facebook page, CCMC is a nonprofit organization that “exists to improve the physical, spiritual and social well-being of those who are underserved in the Hot Springs area.”

Carter said CCMC is governed by a board of directors and is supported by donations of individuals, congregations, businesses and foundations.

“When you live in poverty, you live from one crisis to the next, and it makes it difficult to plan ahead for the next thing to happen,” she said. “Many of the individuals who enter our classroom have no checking account and no plan for how they are going to pay their bills — [things that] many in the world take for granted.

“We work with people to help them plan ahead, learn how to budget, learn about debt-to-income ratio and how to start a checking account. … Amazing things happen when the community collaborates.”

Jack Porter, the board chair for CCMC, said Carter is “the perfect fit to continue the work of CCMC.”

“With her proven record of successfully leading another faith-based organization, Kim possessed the expertise, as well as the managerial and interpersonal skills, to lead our organization,” Porter said in a statement. “Her fresh insight, energy and creativity will ensure that the mission of CCMC will continue to have a meaningful impact within our community.”

Carter graduated from Lakeside High School in 1986. She earned an undergraduate degree in special education from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway in 1990 and a master’s degree in early-childhood special education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1993.

Carter and her husband, Terry, spent 13 years as foster parents, adopting their son, Cameron, in 2008. Carter said Cameron has significant disabilities, including fetal alcohol syndrome, reactive attachment disorder, autism and “all types of issues that come with early-childhood trauma,” she said.

“Our family was a foster family for 13 years, and we fostered 54 children and adopted one,” Carter said. “We encountered, firsthand, generational poverty, and we saw the impact that poverty had. … We never planned on adopting, but I was always passionate about school-age children, infants and toddlers with disabilities, and I saw the effects [of fetal alcohol syndrome], even before Cameron.”

Carter said one of the things that drew her to CCMC was its initiative to reduce generational poverty in the community through the organization’s Bridges Out of Poverty framework.

“The more I learned about this framework, the lens through which I viewed so much of my time with impoverished families was altered,” she said. “I look forward to collaborating with other community agencies and individuals to continue our mission of reducing generational poverty and serving others.”

CCMC will host a Chocolate Festival, which benefits the mission of CCMC, on Feb. 2 at the Embassy Suites in Hot Springs. General-admission tickets are $20 per person, and VIP tickets are $50. Tickets may be purchased online at ccmchs.org or at CCMC, 133 Arbor St. For more information, call (501) 318-1153 or email sculbreth@ccmchs.com.

“Bridges is the framework in which everything else is built,” Carter said. “… We really want to start working with employers and businesses in the area because there is a workforce shortage. Hiring good people and stable employees is a tough thing to do, and the turnover cost is about $5,000 every time they hire a new employee. … It benefits our community when our businesses and industries do well.”

Julie Smith, who serves as the board president of Camp Tanako and has known Carter since they were both in the fourth grade, said Carter is a “glad-hearted servant for sure.”

“She is always happy about what she is doing,” Smith said. “She was wonderful to have worked for us, and we will miss her, but we wish her nothing but the best. … There is no doubt in my mind she will do well.

“I know her organizational and administrative abilities are certainly perfect for that job.”

When Carter told Smith she was considering leaving Camp Tanako, Smith said, “You aren’t really changing jobs, just changing mission fields.”

“I think her faith will play a very strong role in this position,” Smith said. “I don’t think you would be able to do something like this without it. It will be what brings you through. She has the heart to understand the needs of the community and the people — she is just the perfect person for it.

“We will be at a loss at Tanako, but we will make it work for us, too.”

Geoff Fielder will serve as the interim executive director at the camp. He has worked with Carter for about four years. Smith said he is going to step in and keep everything running smoothly until a new director is hired.

“We already have some very capable candidates, and I look for that to be filled very quickly,” Smith said. “It will definitely be business as usual; we plan not to miss a beat.”

Carter’s dad, Terry Everett, was the director of Camp Tanako for 34 years before he died in 2010. A few months after he died, Carter was asked to serve on the board of trustees for the camp — a position she thought was a nod to her dad.

“But two years later, they had a changeover from the new director, and there was no one on the board who knew how to run the camp,” Carter said. “When someone asked me if I was going to apply for the position, I said, ‘Heavens, no.’ I knew what this lifestyle looks like and the immense responsibility it takes.

“I never thought I would have applied for that job. Without a doubt, both of these positions that I have come into were not things I foresaw on the horizon for myself. I never thought I would be sitting here today — it wasn’t in my plan to look for a new job.”

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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