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End of an era: Jim Kizer reflects on a decade of leadership at Great Falls Rescue Mission

GREAT FALLS — Jim Kizer’s career has taken him from the Air Force to the police beat to helping the homeless at the Great Falls Rescue Mission.

Now it’s time for him to embark on the next chapter. He’s stepping down from his current role as executive director to help take care of his wife, who is undergoing some serious medical issues.

After a decade at the mission, he says it’s the people he’ll miss the most.

“You know it’s not about the buildings, it’s about the people,” said Kizer.  “It’s about the people you serve, and it’s about the people who are called here to minister to the people we serve.”

Kizer remains a man always helping others, from all walks of life.

“I’ve had pastor’s kids here. I’ve had an engineer here. I had a professor from Great Falls College MSU,” said Kizer.

10 years ago, he left his job as a master sergeant with the Great Falls Police Department.

“Actually, I retired from the police department on June 10 and started on June 11 of 2009,” said Kizer.

Kizer says he didn’t have a grand vision when he took over at the mission. He simply answered a higher calling.

“One by one different things came into place, and it’s just been an amazing journey,” said Kizer.

The Great Falls Rescue Mission has expanded the services in both its men’s and women’s shelters during Kizer’s tenure. The biggest change under Kizer’s watch was construction of the Cameron Family Center, a one of a kind shelter housing more than 30 families. It came with a price tag of more than $9 million, but Kizer is proud that none of that was government funded.

“We believe it’s our responsibility as citizens to take care of the poor,” said Kizer. “It’s not Uncle Sam’s job.”

The original design of the Cameron Family Center had four stories, but Kizer was concerned about the message that might convey to residents

“I didn’t want to be above my people,” said Kizer. “I didn’t want the administration offices to be on the top floor and the people I work with helping on the floors underneath me.”

His time at the mission hasn’t been without challenges. There have been financial struggles and a since settled 2016 sexual assault lawsuit involving a summer camp volunteer.  Kizer says the incidents can serve as an opportunity for the organization to improve.

On equal ground with the people he helps, Kizer never misses an opportunity to lift others up.

“When I take people on a tour, I want to take them to the third floor, and I want them to look out the window there and realize that you have a person that’s homeless, that’s just been beaten down their whole life, they’ve struggled their whole life, and one of the things they need to know is that they’re worthy.”

Kizer’s last day on the job is June 17.  Longtime Great Falls Rescue Mission employee Jim McCormick will take over as executive director.

Tim McGonigal

Tim McGonigal

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