One Word: Leadership

1,177 volunteers. 135 interns. 52 staff. 19 board members. Donors. Clients. Our leaders are everywhere, and they help Urban Ministries of Wake County fulfill its mission every day.  

Leadership is defined as the action of leading a group of people or an organization. It is what brought UMWC to its existence. The numerous congregations of different faiths in Downtown Raleigh gathered in 1981 to discuss how they wanted to address unmet needs in the community: food, healthcare and shelter. They then took the initiative to establish programs in order to do so. 

Today, UMWC’s leadership is personified by directors who lead its programs: the executive director, the medical director, the director of crisis programs, the clinic director, the director of finance and operations, the director of development and the director of hunger and nutrition. Then there’s the program managers. Then the specialists and assistants. The volunteers and the interns. Every single person is a leader in his or her own right and contributes to UMWC’s functionality.  

Dr. James A. Smith, III was recently elected to the position of Board

Dr. James Smith, UMWC Board Chair

Dr. James Smith, UMWC Board Chair

Chair for UMWC. The retired psychiatrist is no stranger to leadership. His life of leadership began at a young age. He was a boy scout in grade school and served as senior patrol leader for Troop 314 in Springfield, Massachusetts. In college he found himself on the student council and serving as president for his pre-med group. In 1972, he even led a protest against Howard University, because African American men were ironically the minority at the historically black university’s medical school and struggled to be accepted.  

In terms of leadership, Dr. Smith appreciates the fact that UMWC is an excellent program that provides shelter, medicine and food, and is small enough to pivot to the needs of the community.  

“We have a track record of being able to get job done. The Lisa Jones’ of the world, the Kate Palmer’s have been greatly successful at ‘bringing in the bucks’”, he said. “I really do appreciate all the people on the board. We have great folks and a very strong and committed board.” 

Dr. Smith said that UMWC not only talks the talk, but also walks the walk.  

“There has been real commitment from the first day Urban Ministries opened up,” he said. “I could not have asked to be part of a finer organization. We rock and roll.”