United Ministries’ Executive Director Tony McDade has not always worked in the nonprofit sector, but it seems like his life was destined for it. Tony found his calling for compassionate work while in the church system. As a minister at Baptist churches in the Carolinas, he grew to love bringing out the best in the congregations he served. That’s why, 13 years before he joined United Ministries, he joined GAIHN: Greenville Area Interfaith Hospitality Network. The nonprofit was on a mission to fill a niche needed in the community: to give shelter and hospitality to any family, regardless of gender or age makeup. Tony points out that many “families have both literal luggage and metaphorical baggage,” and GAIHN could help unload that baggage through community partnerships. Although some of the luggage that the families have needs to go, Tony emphasizes that “There are some things in a family’s luggage that can move them forward.”

Knowing that building relationships can benefit everybody involved, GAIHN focused on partnering with congregations who had members looking to share hospitality by serving families who found themselves homeless at the time. Tony watched interfaith volunteers share their compassion with participants by creating a shelter in their congregations at night, and then often saw those same participants pay hospitality forward when their situation improved. GAIHN relied heavily on the congregations’ volunteers and could not have helped so many families without them. Tony is a firm believer that “Volunteers are the heartbeat of nonprofits.”

Tony’s mission of spreading hospitality was carried over when GAIHN joined the United Ministries (UM) family in 2016. Tony became the Executive Director of UM, and GAIHN became IHN, one of 5 programs of our organization. When asked how the IHN program changed under UM, Tony replied that, “The core model [of IHN], with the congregations…has stayed the same. The Transformation Track has been a wonderful addition. It really codifies the mutual expectations for families as they move forward. And I think it maximizes the benefit of interim houses.”

Tony refers to IHN’s Transformation Track, which is the phase of IHN that focuses on providing social work to the IHN families who qualify for permanent housing. After joining United Ministries, IHN gained the resources to dig deeper and assist more families to move towards permanent housing. This is made possible by the integrated services UM provides, which focus on interlacing the programs together to empower our participants as well as possible.

All this fits into the future-focused attitude that Tony encompasses.  He believes that while it is important to “celebrate the past, [we can] not let it dominate the conversation.” United Ministries has grown significantly over the last five decades and Tony has a vision for what the NEXT 50 years may look like in terms of growth as well. He envisions United Ministries building on the framework that’s already in place. United Ministries has recently invested in financial coaching and mental health services for our participants, which is a huge need that is sometimes overlooked in the Greenville community. Building on these services will allow our participants to benefit in a more holistic way. While a solid foundation is necessary for any organization, it’s imperative to hear the opinions of our constituents in order to make the appropriate growth for the future. Tony stresses that so many of United Ministries’ participants exemplify amazing resiliency, so having their input is the only way that our organization can grow well.

Through his nonprofit work, Tony has helped bring out the best in Greenville’s faith communities. He sees hospitality and forming relationships as the best way to empower participants. Thanks to Tony, United Ministries has been shaped so it can continue prospering and growing in the future!