The widow of a man who led a successful effort to revive the historic Red Bird Mission in Clay County has taken over as executive director of the school, medical clinic and housing program.
Kari Collins worked as a social worker at Red Bird for nine years before spending nearly 20 years as director of child, adolescent and family services at a regional community health center, according to a news release. She later held positions in the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services and retired from the state in 2014.
Collins is the widow of O. Taylor Collins, who revived the school after directors voted to close it in 2010 because of money problems. O. Taylor Collins, 66, died suddenly in January.
Officials at Red Bird said Kari Collins is well-equipped to lead the mission's programs.
"She's got the vision. She's got the wealth of her own experience," said Tim Crawford, development director for the mission.
The Red Bird mission was founded in 1921 by a predecessor of the United Methodist Church in the steep hills where Clay, Leslie and Bell counties meet. It operates pre-school programs; an elementary and high school; medical and dental clinics; low-cost housing; and other programs, such as home repairs and low-cost clothing and furniture.
The school is private and combines academic and religious instruction.
Red Bird was once known for its boarding program for students, but directors voted to close the school in 2010 because donations had dwindled during the recession.
However, directors agreed to let O. Taylor Collins attempt a turnaround. Collins was a graduate of the school who was then heading a school district in Texas.
Collins reduced staff and programs to focus on core academics and get the school back in the black, boosted fundraising and brought in international students as part of re-establishing the boarding program.
Crawford said enrollment at the school hovered below 190 much of last year but is at 216 for the school year just underway. There are 39 students in the dorms, up 11 from last year.
An effort Collins started to expand dorm space to bring in more boarders continues, Crawford said.