New director takes lead of Parish House
BUCKHANNON — As a member of the Upshur County Board of Education, Kristi Wilkerson learned more about the needs of children and their families in the area.
That along with a tug on her heart to explore other church-related work, led her to seek the position as director of Upshur Parish House and Crosslines, Inc.
Wilkerson graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College and earned a Master of Arts in instructional communication from Miami University in Ohio. She has held positions as director of alumni relations at WVWC, as associate director of West Virginia Independent Colleges and Universities as well as being a college instructor.
She most recently served as director of Christian education and programming at First United Methodist College, a position she left to move just blocks away to the Upshur Parish House.
Wilkerson said her time on the board of education over the last year and a half has led her to look at the challenges and obstacles students currently have to face.
The timing of Wilkerson’s calling to do different church-related work also coincided with a calling that past director, Rev. Alicia Rapking, was feeling to go back into full-time church ministry.
Rapking left in June and Wilkerson assumed the role July 1. Wilkerson is also the first lay person to be the director of the Upshur Parish House and Crosslines, Inc. but she said that with a shortage of pastors in the West Virginia Annual Conference, other conference mission projects are following a similar trajectory.
Although Wilkerson is new to the position, she has been in and around the Upshur Parish House and Upshur Cooperative Parish in various capacities. She left the director of Christian education role at First United Methodist Church to take her new position.
“In the past, I have served on Parish Council,” she said. “I co-chaired for many years the strawberry pancakes fundraiser during the festival and other things like that. So, I have been a little aware of what is happening, but certainly in the last few months I have learned that even what I thought I knew, there is much, much more happening here than even I ever imagined.”
Wilkerson also feels her background can bring a different skillset as a lay person for new perspective.
“I have worked for a nonprofit agency before so I have some of that expertise and that background,” she said. “The pastors do a tremendous job on pastoral care and showing compassion and those kinds of things but they may not have that direct experience that a lay person would have in their work history or background knowledge base.”
“I am familiar with most folks and they are familiar with me,” she said. “That has been a tremendous help so far so I am not starting at square one, but having some knowledge ahead of time has been helpful. Knowing some of the volunteers and staffs already, I have a sense of who to go when we have a question or have a problem arise. I know who does what and how they all fit together.”
Wilkerson is also learning all the agencies that use the Parish House as a home base.
“There are other folks who are based out of the Parish House and everyone works together to serve the community and help out as they can,” she said.
Wilkerson is continuing her education to learn more about all facets of the Parish House and Crosslines.
“Right now, I am in the absorbing information and learning all I can phase,” she said. “Soon, I really would like to sit down with several different stakeholders and start thinking about a strategic plan to envision where we want to be in five years or 10 years.
“My background on the nonprofit side is in donor relations, stewardship, fundraising and grant writing,” she said. “I would like to start looking at those areas a little more as well.”
Wilkerson came on board as the Upshur Parish House was beginning to organize for its annual back to school backpack and supply drive.
“We put a call out for actual backpacks themselves rather than the supplies,” she said. “We have a fair amount of supplies ready to go.”
Character backpacks were lacking for the younger kids but the community has responded well to that, according to Wilkerson.
A few backpacks for middle school and high school age groups are still needed.
The needs of the food pantry also have her attention.
“At this time of year, we always have a need for foods that are kid friendly,” she said. “That part of our pantry gets depleted in the summer when kids are home from school.”
Wilkerson said the noon meals served Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will continue. They are provided by churches, organizations and even individuals. All are welcome.
If there are others interested in sponsoring a regular meal on Tuesdays or Thursdays, they may contact Wilkerson at 304-472-0743.
Wilkerson and husband, Curtis, have two children, Rebekah and Grant, and have made their home in Buckhannon for many years.
Wilkerson said she is looking forward to serving the community in her new position.
“Through this, I am hopefully better able to provide a little hope to our neighbors in the community and at the same time continue my journey in trying to love my neighbor as my faith has always taught me to do.”