Leadership Transition at the Interfaith Alliance of Clemmons and Lewisville

Published 12:10 am Thursday, January 19, 2023

Dr. Vincent Howell retiring; Kathy Giff steps into role

By Sandi Scannelli
Shallow Ford Foundation

Rev. Dr. Vincent Howell, founding volunteer leader of the Interfaith Alliance of Clemmons and Lewisville (IACL), will retire from his role this month. Howell formed the alliance in 2018 in response to the needs of public school students identified by local school social workers. At the time, he served as pastor of Centenary UMC in Clemmons and knew the faith community could and would want to help the schools and students. He met with area faith leaders who concurred and agreed to work together. Since 2018, the school social workers, local school leaders, faith leaders, the Shallow Ford Foundation and other community representatives have met monthly, led by Howell, to discuss student needs and strategies to meet the needs. The group’s activities have included helping with school supplies, learning tools, and clothing; hosting community-wide movie screenings of “ANGST,” a documentary film about anxiety in students, which was presented alongside a panel discussion with mental health experts in partnership with CareNet Counseling, establishing remote school locations during COVID and teacher appreciation activities.
“The IACL is a dynamic and dedicated group committed to fulfilling the needs of students so they can reach their highest potential,” said Sheila D. Thorp, the director of social work for WSFCS. “They have been instrumental, proactive, creative and an invaluable resource in working with schools and communities in a collaborative approach for student success.”
With the full work schedules of IACL’s active members, Howell realized after its first year that it needed help to more consistently communicate and coordinate school needs and the faith community response. Howell applied for a grant from the Yadkin Valley UMC and the Shallow Ford Foundation to support a part-time community engagement coordinator. He further developed a partnership with FaithHealth Ministries of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist to hold and manage the contract for the new position.
Alexandra “Lexi” Scoggin of Lewisville was engaged soon thereafter.
“The partnership with IACL allows FaithHealth to move beyond efforts to connect the health system with the community to an opportunity to connect the school system with the community including faith and health systems,” said Jeremy Moseley, the director of community engagement with Faith Health. “We value the lives and well-being of everyone in our community, especially our young people. So, we are blessed that IACL gives us a chance to partner in a direct, innovative way with trusted faith communities that have a strong, compassionate presence in the lives of our students, families, and school staff.”

In the last year, IACL also formed a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winston-Salem to train volunteers recruited from area congregations by IACL’s Lexi Scoggin to serve as Big Brothers and Sisters to students from local elementary schools. Roughly 15 students and IACL-recruited “Bigs” have been matched or are in process with a waiting list of students eager for a match.
Howell’s leadership has inspired an impactful, collective response from the faith community over the years.
“It has been a joy to get to know Vincent Howell as he has provided leadership for the IACL,” said David Beaty, the pastor of River Oaks Church. “He has helped to bring churches together to serve our community, and we are grateful for his leadership.”
Howell’s retirement from his founding role might raise concern about the future of the alliance; however, like every strong leader, Howell sought and identified a successor. Beginning Jan. 1, Kathy Giff, well known for her long-time leadership of the Compassion Ministry of Clemmons United Methodist Church, has agreed to accept the call to lead the alliance. Giff has been an active member of the IACL since its inception and is excited about its future.
“Vincent’s ‘ask’ came during a period of discernment for me as I was seeking ways to be more involved in our community,” Giff said. “Having lived and worked in Clemmons for 28 years, I knew I wanted to find ways to be involved when I retire in a few years. I had already decided that I wanted to increase my involvement with IACL and work more closely with both Lexi and Vincent. As a woman of faith, the timing was divine. While I will miss working with Vincent as he moves away from IACL, I look forward to working with Lexi and all of the other dedicated church and school leaders in Clemmons and Lewisville.”
Among the many goals for the future is a reconsideration of the name for the consortium that might be more descriptive of its mission.
While Howell will be greatly missed, he steps away leaving the alliance in capable hands.
“Ministry in the times we are living is strongly rooted in collaboration,” Howell said. “Since starting the Interfaith Alliance of Clemmons and Lewisville in 2017 when my family moved to the area, I have been blessed to see how the faith community, area school leaders and staff, area community organizations, and towns have rallied to support our mission to help build student success. This has been a great example of community engagement of hands and heart. So I am excited about the next phase and Kathy Giff’s leadership as the alliance seeks to impact greater transformative change. This has been a labor of love and I give thanks to the members of Centenary United Methodist Church Clemmons for supporting me as their pastor in doing this important work.”

For more information about the Interfaith Alliance of Clemmons and Lewisville, contact Lexi Scoggin, community engagement coordinator,  at 330-881-0969 or ascoggin2@gmail.com.

Sandi Scannelli is president and CEO of the Shallow Ford Foundation.