Thornwell is proud to have a cohesive team of professional, highly trained, and dedicated individuals who are committed to working together for the good of the children and to bring glory to God.
The Rev. Elliot M. Smith, President
Ms. Lindy Scott, Executive Vice President
Ms. Louise Cooper, Vice President for Advancement
Mr. Norman Dover, Vice President for Educational Services
Ms. Sonya O’Neal, Vice President of Programs and Clinical Services
Ms. Finley Sutton, Director of Faith Formation and Christian Nurture
Ms. Vicki Rhodes, Communications Manager
Ms. Chandra Coleman, Advancement Officer
Ms. Sherri Bozardt, Georgia Regional Advancement Officer
The Rev. Dr. Dennis Reid, Florida Regional Advancement Officer
Ms. Ashley Smith, Coordinator of Mission Groups and Volunteer Services
Click here for our Building Families Program staff directory.
The Rev. Elliot Smith
As a graduate of Penn State University, Elliot spent the early years of his career as a small business owner. In 1987, he heeded the call to ministry, sold the family business and enrolled in a double-competency degree program at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Bellarmine University, earning an M. Div. and an MBA.
In 1992, Elliot was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and served as an associate pastor at Wekiva Presbyterian Church in Longwood, Florida. In 1996 he was called as Thornwell’s first director of church relations for south Georgia and Florida. Elliot traveled throughout the region speaking to individuals, groups and church congregations inviting them to “share in the joy that is Thornwell.”
Elliot and his wife, Jill, come to Thornwell from Austin, Texas, where Elliot served as Vice President for Development for Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services since 1998. They have two adult children, a daughter and son (twins).
Elliot began his current ministry position as Thornwell’s 9th president in June of 2011. His passion for children and family ministry runs deep as does his commitment to providing a joyful, Christian community within which to nurture all God’s children.
“Children are a wonderful gift from God. Sadly, child abuse, neglect, abandonment and other family crises threaten that gift. You and I are blessed to share in Thornwell’s ministry, for it is by God’s grace and working together that we are able to keep the promises we all make in Baptism and heed Christ’s call to serve the least of these.”
Executive Vice President
Lindy received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Erskine College and a Master’s Degree in Student Personnel and Counseling from Clemson University. She began her professional career at Thornwell in l977 as a campus Social Worker, and in 2002 became the Director of Training and Social Work. Lindy now serves as the Executive Vice President and considers it a privilege to be a ministry leader to the children and staff on Thornwell’s campus. She has lived in Clinton, SC for 28 years and is an elder at Bethany Presbyterian Church.
When asked, after 30 years of service, what keeps Lindy motivated to care for Thornwell’s kids, she said, “It really is my calling. I’ve watched hundreds of kids arrive on this campus feeling heartbroken and hopeless. But something remarkable happens, and usually within a short period of time. I begin to see something in their eyes that may not have ever been there before – hope. Having the privilege to watch children’s lives being transformed on a daily basis; that’s my motivation.”
Vice President for Advancement
Louise brings 22 years of child advocacy and program leadership experience to her role at Thornwell, having served most recently in the Governor’s Office as Director of the South Carolina Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program. Under Louise’s leadership, the GAL program nearly doubled in size to 2,400 volunteers, providing every child in the child welfare system with an adult volunteer to advocate on their behalf. At Thornwell, Louise leads a comprehensive fundraising, marketing, communications and church and public relations program to maximize awareness of and philanthropic support for Thornwell’s mission.
A South Carolina native, Louise is a graduate of the University of Louisville. She is a life-long Presbyterian, an ordained Elder, and is currently a member of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC. She and her husband, Ron, have been married for 34 years. Ron and Louise have two children, a daughter and a son.
“Growing up, I heard my mother say that we must care for children first because they cannot care for themselves. As a Presbyterian, I cannot recall a time when I was not aware of Thornwell’s ministry,” says Louise. “As an advocate for many years for children whose lives have been impacted by abuse and neglect, I have seen firsthand how children receiving care at Thornwell have progressed and healed. I am grateful for an opportunity to be part of Thornwell’s amazing ministry that is child-focused and effective for both children and families.”
Vice President for Educational Services
Norman earned his B.A. in religion and fine arts at Presbyterian College in 1981. He went on to earn both a Master’s Degree in education, and an Ed. S. degree in educational administration from the University of South Carolina. He worked as an Admissions Counselor for Presbyterian College before accepting a position as Drama Teacher and Assistant Principal at Thornwell High School. From 1995-2007, Norman held the position of Principal of Hartness-Thornwell Elementary School before accepting a position as the Director of Thornwell Learning Center. He is very active in his community and serves as a member of the Workforce Development Committee of the Laurens County Chamber of Commerce, and as a board member of the Joe Adair Outdoor Education Center. Norman is also a member of the Presbyterian College Educational Advisory Committee, a YMCA youth coach volunteer, an ordained Presbyterian Elder, and a member of Bethany Presbyterian Church. He and his wife, Robin, have three boys. Norman loves to spend time with his family. He especially enjoys taking hunting trips with his boys.
As a long-time staff member at Thornwell, Norman has had the opportunity to see first-hand, the positive impact Thornwell is having on the lives of children:
Norman says, “As a Thornwell teacher and school administrator for almost three decades, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of seeing our children grow over a long period of time. I find it especially gratifying to see them return as adults and share their thoughts concerning the tremendous influence growing up at Thornwell had on their lives. This long-term perspective enables me to understand how God is using the efforts of all His servants on this campus to establish a strong foundation for our children that will have a major impact on them and their families for their entire lives.”
Vice President of Programs and Clinical Services
Sonya holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Erskine College and a M.S.W. from the University of South Carolina. With over 25 years of experience working with children, adolescents, adults and families, her trauma experience includes working with families as a Crime Victim Counselor and as the Clinical Program Director for SAFE Homes Rape Crisis Coalition as well as providing therapy for the Children’s Advocacy Center’s in Spartanburg and Greenville, SC. Sonya has also provided school based therapy and family reunification work through Family Preservation. She is trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Child Centered Play Therapy, EMDR and IMAGO Therapy, and has provided individual and family therapy at Thornwell since 2007.
Sonya is married to Scott, who teaches 6th grade Science and Robotics at Phinney Fisher Middle School in Greenville, SC. They have a son, Taylor, who is in high school and runs Cross Country. Sonya enjoys cooking, vegetable gardening and hiking.
Regarding her role as Vice President of Programs and Clinical Services, Sonya says, “I am excited to join the staff at Thornwell in this ministry of healing children and families.”
Director of Faith Formation and Christian Nurture
Finley lives in Moore, SC, where her husband David is the pastor of the Nazareth Presbyterian Church. She is a graduate of Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA; and she has a Master’s Degree from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, VA. Not only is Finley a Presbyterian Elder, but she has also worked as a children’s work educator, a director of Christian Education in two churches and a teacher in preschool programs. She is a trained care-giver in the Stephen Ministry; and has been involved in Sunday school programs, the Montreat Music and Worship Conference’s Children’s Bible Teaching team and other local church ministries. In addition, Finley has worked with groups at the Montreat Youth Conferences and the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, as well as with confirmation classes.
In her spare time, Finley loves to collects thimbles and practice perfecting her calligraphy skills. She also loves to draw and make things. A little known fact about Finley is that she is quite the adventurer. She once backpacked all alone in Europe to see first hand the artwork she had studied while an art major at Mary Baldwin College. She and David also lived in Libya for three months while David served an expatriate church for employees of an Exxon oil camp in Marsa Brega.
When asked to describe what it means to be a part of the Thornwell ministry, Finley replied:
“There is a sense here that everybody is trying to make a difference for the kids. I feel that my work here is a part of a much bigger ministry.”
Before coming to Thornwell, Vicki served as the Associate Director for the Center for Developmental Services in downtown Greenville, SC, which is a partnership of six nonprofit entities that provide developmental services for children and families. During her tenure there, she handled fiscal management, human resources, various resource development efforts and organizational communications. Vicki began her nonprofit career at the Clemson Area Chamber of Commerce as the Tourism and Events Manager where she cultivated community relationships, raised programmatic funding, and managed Chamber communications.
Vicki received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from Clemson University in 2005. She went on to complete her Master of Arts degree in Professional Communication in 2008, and coauthored a book chapter on technical communications published in 2010. She continues to present at various academic conferences and also offers freelance consulting for a variety of organizational communications. Vicki and her husband, Phillip, have been married since 2003 and live in Laurens. They have three children, sons Damion and Lochlan, and daughter, Bright.
“Thornwell is such a remarkable place!” says Vicki. “The way children are nurtured here through the Teaching-Family Model, the beautiful campus, and a philosophy of giving back, is truly an example of God’s love demonstrated on earth. For me, there is no better calling than that of service, and I am thankful to be able to answer that call at Thornwell.”
Chandra grew up in the Presbyterian Church and recalls placing her coins in the Thornwell turkeys as a youth. She has served as youth leader, Sunday School teacher, PW Moderator, as well as a member of the Pastor Nominating Committee. It was during the latter that she felt the “nudge” to put her faith into action. Acting on faith and trust she quit the corporate world, left the big city life, and joined Thornwell as a houseparent to the youngest residents, which she claims is still the most rewarding job she has ever held.
Chandra currently serves as an Advancement Officer focusing on sponsorship and church relations, where she continues to work with the children and youth while building relationships with the donors and sponsors for these children.
Chandra explains, “Having grown up in a large family I can appreciate the ‘family style’ of living that Thornwell offers to the children. I am especially grateful for Thornwell’s work in keeping siblings together.”
Georgia Regional Advancement Officer
Sherri comes to us with a B.S. in Business Administration and Management from the University of South Carolina. She brings more than twenty years of sales and marketing experiences to the Advancement office along with a passion for ministry. Originally from Orangeburg, SC, Sherri has lived in Roswell , GA since 1997. Sherri is a member of Northminster Presbyterian Church, Roswell, GA., where she serves as an ordained elder and Chair of the Mission Outreach and Evangelism committee. She is actively involved in many mission efforts at Northminster, both local and international. She has organized trips to Brazil each year to support a school in Manaus and provide for the needs of children in the surrounding poverty-stricken area. She has travelled to Brazil for nine years.
Sherri’s expansive ministry involvement with the needs of hurting people led her to seek the opportunity at Thornwell Home for Children to combine her gift for marketing with her love of children and her desire to bring Christ into difficult situations.
Florida Regional Advancement Officer
Dennis received his Master’s of Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary and completed his Doctorate of Ministry from Graduate Theological Foundation (in partnership with Oxford University.) He is an ordained Teaching Elder with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and has served churches in Bonita Springs, Florida, Sarasota, Florida and Clearwater, Florida where he still resides along with his wife, Darleen. In his spare time, Dennis enjoys sharing the stage with his son, Brandon, as they have performed five shows together in local community theaters.
Dennis says, “Joining Thornwell is a new adventure. I am truly excited to answer God’s call and become a part of a ministry that does so much to provide hope and wholeness to children and their families.”
Coordinator for Mission Groups and Volunteer Services
A Midwesterner by birth, Ashley Smith is proud to call Clinton, South Carolina home. Ashley, along with her husband, began her career at Mooseheart Child City and School outside of Chicago, Illinois, before coming to Thornwell in 2007 to serve as Family Teachers. Ashley has worked with volunteers on campus since 2012, and she enjoys getting to see old Thornwell friends and meeting new ones!
Ashley is married to Danny Smith, who works in the Children and Family Ministries building as a Consultant. They have two children, Jack and Stella.
Ashley and her family currently attend Bethany Presbyterian Church, where she is the pianist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for I John 3 Ministries, a nonprofit that seeks to provide good quality, affordable housing to the working poor. In her free time, Ashley enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking.
“Thornwell has a vibrant and active community; it is truly a special place for all of us who are involved with this ministry. One thing I love about our beautiful campus is that it is a place where the children we serve can feel proud of. When they come home after school each day, they see the lovely homes, well-maintained lawns, and they begin to understand stewardship and that feeling we get when we know we are safe and cared for. It feels like home! That’s one of the many reasons I enjoy showing guests around Thornwell. Once you set foot on this campus, you’ll understand!”