The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 12, 2013

Mission complete: Director of Cambria City nonprofit ready to retire

Kelly Urban

JOHNSTOWN — It’s been a good run but after 25 years as executive director of the Cambria City Mission, Lois Smith is ready to call it a day.

The 78-year-old Upper Yoder Township woman, and her husband, Bob, are certified lay speakers in the United Methodist Church, and Smith got her start at the mission speaking at its services.

“There was always a different person speaking and the people didn’t have a permanent minister,” she said.

Around this time, the executive director was planning on retiring, and Smith was asked if she had any interest in taking over the position.

“I interviewed for the position. It all worked out and I got it,” she said.

The Cambria City Mission, located at 906 Broad St., was founded in 1930. Its purpose is to promote the Christian way of life and to build character by teaching the gospel of Jesus. The mission also works to promote spiritual inspiration through worship and educational activities and offer social and recreational activities to young people through clubs and camps.

Smith said one of the outreach programs she was instrumental in organizing and proud of is the clothing ministry that provides gently used clothing to babies, children and adults.

“We give away everything that comes, there is no charge,” she said. “I sort all the clothes, and my rule is if I wouldn’t wear it we wouldn’t give it out.”

The mission is open 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and people can stop in and look at what clothing is available on those days.

“We have people coming and going all the time,” Smith said.

The mission offers an interdenominational service each Sunday at 10 a.m. Smith and her husband alternate leading the service.

“We have about 20 to 35 people who attend. Most of them have some connection to the mission or grew up at the mission,” she said.

There also is a Bible study that meets Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

“I like the fact we’ve been able to turn this place around and make it more family oriented and not just a place used on Sunday for services,” Smith said.

She said over the years she has gotten to know many of the mission’s regular clients. Some stop by just to talk with her for some counseling.

“You can’t tell them you don’t have the time, otherwise we are not a ministry,” Smith said. “You never know who’s going to walk in and need help, so we have no schedule here.”

The mission, a nonprofit, is funded entirely by donations from individuals. It has had to rely more on fundraisers to bring in additional money.

Its biggest fundraiser is the annual dinner, which this year also will serve as Smith’s retirement party, that will be held April 22 at Christ the Saviour Cathedral. A reception will begin at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6. Tickets are $17 per person and reservations are required.

And even though it’s bittersweet to retire, Smith said it just feels like the right time to leave, plus health issues are making the job more difficult.

Her husband has assisted her at the mission for the past 12 years, since he retired from a sales job.

“I’d like to go at the end of April, but there is nobody in place right now,” she said. “I told the board that the end of June is the latest I’ll stay.”

Applications are being accepted for the position.

Smith said that she’d like to stay on and help train the new executive director on the ins and outs of the job.

“I’m not sure I want to retire in the traditional sense of the word, because I still want to stay active with the mission,” Smith said.

Her hope is that the new director will carry on with the current outreach programs and spread the word of the mission.

“I want people to realize this does exist and there is a lot going on here that most people don’t even know about,” Smith said.

She said her time spent at the mission has been more like a calling than a job.

“I had the desire to do this, and really, it’s been a good life,” Smith said.

For more information on

the Cambria City Mission, call 535-1035.

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