Shannon Spencer, executive director of Asheville Poverty Initiative, announces her departure from the nonprofit

Press release from Asheville Poverty Initiative:

Please read this important message from Shannon Spencer, Executive Director of Asheville Poverty Initiative:

Grace and Peace, Y’all,

May this season of hope that comes to us in many traditions and names remind us of the joy and life that often comes in such unexpected ways.

I write this letter to thank each and every one of you for the ways you have participated in making Asheville Poverty Initiative all that it is. When I started API and 12 Baskets Café, I could not have imagined the joy that it would bring and the difference that it would begin making in Asheville. I also could not have predicted the ways I would be changed by all that we get to do. Which makes this next paragraph heart wrenching to write.

I have accepted the position of Chaplain of the College at Warren Wilson. I know this may come as a shock to many of you — it was a bit of a shock to me as I wasn’t looking to leave. The situation and direction of API is so full of life and possibilities that leaving seems somewhat unimaginable. Yet I fully trust our board of directors and staff to continue holding and deepening the mission of building community and deconstructing stereotypes in the creative and important ways we always have. Because I believe in the truth of abundance, I know that API is bigger than any one person — even the founder. And that’s as it should be.

When I started API, it was just a dream and a card table from my basement in the back of my minivan. But now look at what YOU have made it into. You are API. Thornne is API. Tatter, Kiva, and Jim are API. I will forever be grateful for the ways you’ve joined me on this journey. Just because my job will be different, you will still see me around. I will continue supporting API and the Café in all the ways that I can. You know, now I get to come and eat lunch without it being my job! :) Besides, what could be better than bringing out a group of students to introduce them to our friends living in poverty. Can you imagine how that will influence what they do with their lives? More and more folks with awareness means more and more policy and systemic change!

Please know that API is in great hands — including yours. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m excited about this next chapter and though these chapters may be different, they belong in the same book. Blessings, y’all, until we see each other again!

In Deep Gratitude,


From the Board of Directors of Asheville Poverty Initiative:

Dear API/12 Baskets Café family,

As we share the news of Shannon’s decision to move to another chapter of ministry at Warren Wilson College, our eyes have filled with tears and our hearts with gratitude for all she has given to us these past five years. Shannon’s vision of creating a beloved community that celebrates mutuality, abundance, and justice has taken root in West Asheville through the love and commitment of so many of you. Shannon will be the first one to say that API has never been about her, and though we are sad to see her go, we wish her the best as she follows her call to serve in a new way. Yes, we are sad to see her go, but we know that API stands on a strong foundation built by her and many others who are committed to the work of hospitality, justice, and transformation. Shannon will be working with API until mid-January when she will transition to her new position at Warren Wilson.

During this time of transition (even in the midst of this pandemic!) we want to share with you some exciting signs of abundance and vitality:We have just completed a strategic planning process that will help us advance our mission of building community and promoting economic justice. You can read highlights of API’s strategic plan here.

We have identified the goal of finding a new space that complements and expands API’s mission and programming, including the Poverty Scholars education program.

We are in a healthy financial position, allowing us to expand our staff. Emily Fox is graduating with her master’s degree in social work this month and will be expanding her role as our Community Development Director.

We are blessed to have the continued support of Donna and Klari who have kept the Café operating in a modified way because of the pandemic. Our partnership with Homeward Bound will continue as we coordinate meals for those housed at the Red Roof Inn.
As members of API’s Board of Directors, we want to let you know of our commitment to guiding this vital non-profit into the next chapter of its life. Since the first days of API, when we served food on picnic tables at Pisgah View Apartments, we have trusted in the narrative of abundance. This narrative tells us there is enough for all, that we are better together than apart. So we ask for your continued support and welcome your ideas and dreams as we move into a new chapter together. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to any of us.


Samantha Gonzalez-Block
Missy Harris
Phil Leonard, Treasurer
Michael Poulos, Chair
Kim Wells
Betsy Wilson, Secretary

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