A native of Cartersville, Dr. J. Eric Mathison is delighted to become Baptist Village Retirement Communities’ fourth president and chief executive officer. Assuming his new role Jan. 3, he initially joined the nonprofit’s corporate staff four and a half years ago.
“I’ve always had a great affinity for senior adults and making sure they are well taken care of,” Mathison said. “So being in a position that can help do that is a great, great honor.”
First housing five women in 1958, Baptist Village — an institution of Georgia Baptist Convention — has expanded its reach through the years, now featuring facilities and care in Waycross and Macon.
According to the Baptist Village’s news release, “In both these locations they offer independent living Villas and Personal Care Homes, and in Waycross the 254-bed J. Olan Jones Health Care Center offers skilled nursing care. The Baptist Village mission and pleasure is to ‘provide the opportunity for all residents to live at the highest level possible physically, socially and spiritually.’ More than 400 individuals are employed by Baptist Village and provide service and care to the 400 residents that call Baptist Village home.”
The idea for an organization, like the Baptist Village, emerged from a women’s Sunday school class, Mathison shared.
“They saw at that time that there was a great need in Georgia for housing and health care for senior adults,” he said. “In the ’50s and early ’60s and especially preceding that, you didn’t have a whole lot of options when a person was elderly and really could not take care of themselves.
“So those ladies made a recommendation to the Georgia Baptist Convention that there be a study to ultimately find a way to provide that for residents of Georgia. It just so happened that there was a piece of property in Waycross, Georgia, that was gifted to the convention from several businessmen who had ownership of that property.”
Prior to his latest appointment, Mathison served as Baptist Village’s vice president of administration and advancement, and — most recently — executive vice president. Attending Peeples Valley Baptist Church in Cartersville as a child, he delivered his first sermon at the age of 13 and was ordained at 19.
A 1977 graduate of Cartersville High School, Mathison pastored Friendship Baptist Church in Cartersville from 1979 to 1985; Norton Park Baptist Church in Smyrna, 1985 to 1995; First Baptist Avondale Estates, 1995 to 2003; and First Baptist Waycross, 2003 to 2015. While shepherding the Waycross church, he was introduced to Baptist Village and served three terms on its board of trustees.
“I had so many people that were helpful and supportive,” Mathison said. “Peeples Valley licensed me to the ministry a year after I had made my call to the ministry public.
“… To tell you how good Bartow County, Gordon County, Floyd, Cherokee and Cobb were, from the time I was 13 till I was 19, I think I had preached over 300 sermons and that was as a teenager,” he said, adding some of the Bartow churches were Tabernacle Baptist, First Baptist, Rowland Springs Baptist, Pine Grove Baptist and Oakland Heights Baptist. “There’s probably few Baptist churches in Bartow, Floyd and Cherokee and even Gordon County — particularly the south part of Gordon County — that I [did not speak] in one time or another during ’73 to ’79. A young preacher boy didn’t have the opportunities that I had without having a lot of good people, and Bartow County’s always special to me because of that.”
Now 60, Mathison and his wife of 38 years, Carol, reside in Waycross. Along with being the parents of two adult daughters, they have four granddaughters.