Farragut man handed ‘gavel’ from Thompson to lead MOH

After 23 years heading Mission of Hope as executive director, Emmette Thompson recently named his successor — a Farragut resident — to fill that role upon Thompson’s recent retirement.

“We feel He’s directed us to a wonderful, young, Christian man named David Heatherly, who has been a friend of Mission of Hope, a supporter and a board member — and his family heritage runs deep where we serve,” said Thompson, crediting the hand of God as leading Heatherly to become the new MOH executive director.

“Our whole team, six of us, felt that David had a passion, No. 1, for this ministry, which is really important,” he added. “God’s blessed me with that, and it’s certainly been important for me.

“We felt like David’s desire to serve in an area where he had strong heritage was pretty special … it just seemed to be a good fit. We were all in harmony on the matter of selection.”

Heatherly was born in LaFollette in Campbell County, “one of the areas (MOH) serves,” the new executive said. “My dad’s from that area, and my mom is from Clay County, Kentucky (another area served by MOH).

“She’s the youngest girl of 15,” he added. “My grandfather was a coal miner, and some of my uncles. When I was younger, I played with my cousins in the tunnels under Hal Rogers Parkway, the very parkway we now use to take supplies to the areas we serve.”

While tipping his hat to Thompson’s 23 years of service, Heatherly said. “I’m honored to be given this opportunity to continue the great work of the people before me and to serve my family and friends in rural Appalachia.

“Once I got to know Emmette and more about this ministry, that drove me to be here,” he added. “I had the opportunity to help the very people who are my family and who I grew up with.

“Having time on the board, volunteering, really gave me a more detailed view of what all Mission of Hope was about. It’s far beyond the Christmas program.”

“David and I met, probably, 10 years ago,” Thompson said. “He became interested in what we do several years ago. He’s been very involved with us.”

Starting his new role Sept. 1, Heatherly currently is in training mode. “Our board and personnel team have asked me to stay to the end of the year,” Thompson said. “We’re trying to meet as many people who have been friends to Mission of Hope as we can.”