The CEO of Harbor House Inc. was honored for her contributions to both the Fort Smith community and the state during a special event Tuesday.

Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders proclaimed Tuesday to be "Jimmie Wooding Day" at the Fort Smith Convention Center that morning.

In his proclamation, Sanders stated Wooding has been in the substance abuse treatment field for 40 years and has served as the CEO/executive director of Harbor House for the past five years. She grew Harbor House from a substance abuse treatment center to a certified behavioral health facility. She began the recovery coach program and services in Fort Smith, and from there expanded them across the state. Wooding has also been responsible for establishing family recovery systems for family members.

When asked about the significance of the honor, Wooding said there would be no Jimmie Wooding Day without Harbor House, so she is very grateful. Wooding joined Harbor House five years ago because she was looking for a challenge. Wooding had known about the organization for a number of years, and after going inside it once, thought it had a great deal of potential it was not pursuing.

"And so, I was on vacation as a matter of fact, and had applied for a counselor position, and one of the board members ... called and said, 'The board would like to interview you for executive director,'" Wooding said. "I said, 'Oh no, I want to be a counselor there,' and she said, 'Oh no, my dear, the board wants to interview you for our executive director position,' and so I cut my vacation short and ran home and got the interview and got the job."

Wooding said she was inspired to continue working at the organization by the Harbor House team, which she called the most passionate, hardworking team with whom she has ever had the privilege to work. The members of the team inspire her to do both better and more every day.

Cindy Stokes, CCO for Harbor House, said the amount of growth and the opportunities the organization has seen under Wooding’s guidance have been tremendous.

“We’ve seen growth, we’ve seen our organization go from … two facilities to 18 across the state, our staff has almost tripled, and the opportunities that she has provided not only for treatment services, behavioral health services, but for recovery coaching in the area is unprecedented,” Stokes said.

Stokes said Harbor House offers residential and outpatient treatment services for men and women. It also has specialized women’s services for women who can bring their children with them to treatment. The organization’s newest endeavor is recovery coaching, in which it provides and trains coaches to work with clients not only while they are in treatment, but once they have completed treatment.

“At that time, when somebody’s completed treatment, there can be a lot of issues, a lot of things that go on in the community, in their circle, that can be detrimental to their recovery, and so coaches continue working with them past treatment to be a support system,” Stokes said.

Harbor House was one of the first organizations in Arkansas to hire recovery coaches, Stokes said.  

Stokes believes Tuesday being proclaimed to be Jimmie Wooding Day shows Wooding is a hard worker who is dedicated to the process, Harbor House and her team.

“Jimmie doesn't like to take credit herself, so she will always talk about her team members, her staff, the folks that she works with and how they are instrumental in what happens,” Stokes said. "But we always need a good leader to make things happen, and so Jimmie is a perfect candidate for leading this team, and we work well together."

Harbor House, Sanders said, provides a service to the Fort Smith community to truly help people who have problems with alcohol, gambling and tobacco.

“It works with the families who provide support so that people can overcome those addictions, and it plays a very important role in the community,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the community, unfortunately, has a number of people who face these kinds of challenges.

Sanders’ proclamation states that Wooding continuously advocates for continuing education for Harbor House employees. She is also a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, a licensed certified social worker and a certified clinical hypnotherapist, motivational interviewing trainer, compulsive gambling counselor and tobacco treatment specialist. Wooding is also a veteran of the Navy.