Q&A with Joel Hamernick on chapter closing with sunshine

Last month, we announced the departure of President of Sunshine Gospel Ministries Joel Hamernick.  Joel has served Sunshine as Executive Director and now President for more than 20 years.  Joel will finish his time with Sunshine this coming Spring 2022.  We sat down with Joel to hear more about this decision and what the future holds.

 

 
In his early years with Sunshine, Joel worked to restore the facilities at the camp Sunshine owned in Union, MI.
 

How are you feeling about closing a chapter in your time with Sunshine after 20+ years?

Mixed emotions!  Sunshine has defined our lives and identities for so long!  I am reminiscent and humbled as I reflect on the many people, stories, joys, and sorrows that have come over the past two decades.  

And yet, as we begin to shift towards thinking about the future, the weight of responsibility begins to lift, and Paula and I are beginning to feel some stress fall away.  We’re excited to think about utilizing what we’ve learned and finding new ways to apply our leadership skills in this next chapter.  

 

What are a few of the things you’re most proud of about your time with Sunshine?  

In our early years at Sunshine, we really poured our energy into restarting the camp and infusing new vision into a place that had a legacy of service.  While we concluded in the long run it was best to honor those years of camp ministry and refocus on the city, we’re deeply gratified with the blessing of having served those years at camp.

Another highlight was initiating a new vision for the city ministry and working from concept to fulfillment. I’m so grateful for the many leaders who helped shape this vision- namely Dr. King, Dr. John Perkins, and Glen Kehrein.  Early on we had a vision to live out the concept of “beloved community”. We have seen many moments of human flourishing and God’s abundant love and grace.

It’s been a huge blessing to work alongside our staff who spend time with the kids, love the parents, teach the entrepreneurs and more.  I’m proud to have been able to have a role in equipping them and motivating them, but they all do the actual work and I’m immensely proud of them.  It leaves me very confident in Sunshine’s future because of the caliber of staff that are in place!

While I am very proud of all that we’ve accomplished in the past 20+ years, the more pressing feeling is that of deep gratitude.  

 

In reflecting on the many people who have stewarded Sunshine since 1905, do you see common areas of struggle and triumph?  

Much of Sunshine’s history has been very humble from an asset standpoint.  It has also always been led by very imperfect people, myself included, because that’s the only kind of people there are. 

I see “acts of faith” that are visible in the various physical moves, facilities rented, built, owned and borrowed.  But the story has more consistently been that the truest “acts of faith” in the ministry are reflected in the lives of the staff and students over time.

Sunshine seems to have always impacted both the folks in the community who were served and those who come alongside the organization as volunteers, seasonal staff and donors.  I’ve heard so many stories, dating back into the 1950’s, of people who found God redirecting their lives after an encounter with Sunshine. 

Sunshine seems to have always impacted both the folks in the community who were served and those who come alongside the organization as volunteers, seasonal staff and donors.  I’ve heard so many stories, dating back into the 1950’s, of people who found God redirecting their lives after an encounter with Sunshine. 

 

What strengths do you see in the new Executive Director, Kimberly Salley, as she steps into stewarding the organization? 

Kim has a deep and abiding love for and faith in Jesus Christ.  She values and invests in the personal, spiritual and professional development of her staff.  Her gifts of empathy, listening, and consensus- building combined with her connection having grown up on the south side gives Sunshine the right leadership for it’s next season.

Sunshine is in a season of substantial growth and is entering into a much more visible role in the community and city as a result of programming growth and facilities expansion.  Undoubtedly,  Kim’s presence will provide a valuable steadiness.

I also admire Kim’s integration of her faith into the purpose of Sunshine and how it informs her leadership at Sunshine.  She lives out the Gospel in a visible way that reflects the heart of what Sunshine’s mission and calling is about.

 

Tell us more about what led to your decision to leave Sunshine now?  

At this point we are very confident in the overall health of both Sunshine Gospel and Sunshine Enterprises.  Our programs, finances, staff, community reputation, and impact are all strong. These considerations gave us the freedom to think about moving into a new season of life, ministry and leadership. 

In the past few years, I have become more invested in the larger systemic work within the Woodlawn community and the city at-large.  I see opportunities for more work to be done to help influence positive change and knowing Sunshine is in a healthy place, allows me to consider new ways of using my gifts.  I am excited to explore other opportunities that may allow for a broader base of impact for me to live out my calling. 

 

So what is next for the Hamernick family? 

Our family remains deeply committed to the Woodlawn community.  We will still be living in the neighborhood and working alongside neighbors to invest in the health of the community.  We believe Sunshine continues to play a vital role in this beloved community and will continue to support their efforts. 

To that end, we really desire to finish well. Our focus will be on building off the current financial health of SGM, made possible by our many loyal supporters over the years, by securing future multi-year commitments. We’ll also continue to facilitate the construction of the upcoming $20M building project of a community center in Woodlawn, that will also house both SGM and Sunshine Enterprises.

We anticipate a couple months of sabbatical in 2022 allowing for some much-needed rest!  After that, we aren’t sure yet.  We have been asked to consider several opportunities and will wait to see how God guides our family.  We’re excited for our next adventure!