A year ago in April, Jason Quintrell stepped into the role of president and CEO of the Union Mission, only the fifth person to hold that position in 106 years.
That’s interesting, but not nearly as intriguing is the story that landed him here. You could call it divine intervention, like a bolt from the blue. Or maybe that convoluted journey was all part of God’s longstanding, complex and predetermined plan.
In one way or another, the new CEO credits God for directing him to his destiny.
A 43-year-old St. Albans native, he thought he’d found his niche in sales. Money rolled in to finance the life of his dreams. Still, something was missing. He ignored it because he didn’t know what it was.
Finally, coerced into attending church, he discovered the missing link. That Sunday, in that pew, God called him. Seminary and a series of pastorships followed. A quirky encounter (God’s work again?) brought him to the Dunbar First Baptist Church, where a member pressed him to consider leading the Union Mission.
Now, he uses his business and sales acumen to run the mission and still preaches somewhere almost every Sunday. No doubt God had that ideal combination figured out a long time ago.
The energetic mission chief has initiated a sustainable agriculture program, raising organic pasture-fed chickens and hogs to bolster a massive program to feed the hungry. A vocational advancement program ups the success odds for recovered addicts in mission rehab programs.
Fresh ideas and goals keep coming. Apparently this was, indeed, a match engineered in heaven.
“I grew up in St. Albans and had an awesome childhood. You played until 10 or 11 at night and everybody was out on their porches.
“My dad was an operator for Union Carbide for 43 years. Mom worked at a bank until she had me. I have two older sisters. I guess she thought I was too much to handle so then she stayed home.
“I wanted to be an NFL football player. I loved football, ate it, slept it, breathed it. That’s all I cared about. I played basketball, but I got sick of it and was so engulfed in football.
“I went in the Navy, but it didn’t work out. I had an asthma attack and they sent for my records. I’d had one 10 years prior, so they sent me home. I came back and worked a couple of construction jobs and decided I needed to go back to school.
“I got a four-year B.S. degree in criminal justice at West Liberty. I got to my senior year and you had to do internships. I did an internship with the Jefferson County jail my first semester and I knew this was not for me. I just couldn’t work in that atmosphere. It was dealing with rough people all time. They were always fighting.
“I’d worked a little on a minor in education. I went to Myrtle Beach and taught high school special education and coached football. I loved coaching.
“But I couldn’t handle the $24,000-a-year paycheck, so I got into insurance sales. I did pretty well and they moved me to Greensboro, North Carolina. Before that, in 2000, I married Erin, who was from St. Albans.
“I made 60 to 80 cold calls a day. That was my life. It didn’t bother me to get rejected because every call brought me closer to a yes. Sooner or later, somebody said they would meet with me.
“Then I had an opportunity to work with Ralph Lauren in their golf department selling the golf line to country clubs out west. I loved golf, so I jumped on that. I did that for almost five years.
“I had an opportunity for an account executive position with AT&T, business sales with wireless products, cell phones, tracking devices, all kinds of stuff. I enjoyed that, but I was never satisfied, and I knew God was calling me to do something else.
“When I got married, my father and my wife’s grandfather passed away later that month. We came in for the funeral on Saturday. Erin’s family said I was going to church that Sunday. I said, ‘No, I am not. I don’t want anything to do with church.’ But my wife has a way of getting me to do things. So I went to the Ripley Tabernacle, a Baptist church, that morning, and it was the greatest day of my life because I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal savior.
“I sat in the back pew and it was unbelievable. I felt the message was directed right at me. I told my wife, ‘I have to go forward. I know I’m lost and need a savior and that is Jesus Christ.’
“I had been searching for money. I was the guy who wanted the big house and the 745 [model] BMW and the house at the beach and the mountains and it never made me happy. When I found Christ, it filled in the gaps of my life.
“We had moved to Greensboro. Within weeks, a pastor and his son were out knocking on doors, inviting people to come to church, and we went, and it was the beginning of a wonderful, amazing journey.
“I worked for five years trying to get us out of debt so I could go to seminary. I ended up going to Hyles-Anderson south of Chicago. I got another bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in theology. I left there in 2009 and went to a church in New York.
“The health of my mother was declining. I started praying and asking God to open some doors back here.
This part is crazy. A church in North Carolina asked me to preach a youth revival for them. They said they would rent a van for us if we didn’t mind driving down. I asked if we could stop off and see my parents on the way.
“Mom had a cardiologist’s appointment and we were talking in the waiting room about me wanting to come back here to help take care of them. A couple walked over and said they heard me say I was a pastor and wanted to move closer. They asked about my denomination. I said I was a Baptist. Their jaws dropped. They were from the Dunbar First Baptist Church and said they’d been looking for a pastor for years.
“They asked for my card. Six weeks later, I got an email up in New York from this church wanting to talk more about the situation. Within six months, I was their pastor. I knew it was God’s leading because since then, my father has passed away and my mother has dementia and lives with us in Poca.
“Do you know Bud Young of Bud Young Toyota? He’s on our board. He would come to church on Wednesday night. After about the third Wednesday, he said he wanted to talk to me in my office. He said God was telling him that I am the next president and CEO of Union Mission. I said, ‘No, I’m not. I’m in my first year as pastor of the Dunbar Baptist Church. I don’t know what God is telling you, but it ain’t me.’ But now here I am.
“I’d never heard of Union Mission and had no desire to be anything other than a pastor because that is what God called me to do. But now I get to pastor and use business. There aren’t many Sundays when I’m not preaching in a church somewhere.
“I started April 3, 2017. I’m the fifth CEO in 106 years. That’s a lot of pressure, huh?
“We have a hard time getting the amount of food we need. We feed anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 people a month and that is a daunting task. We serve 22 counties in West Virginia with food. We provide food in our homeless shelters and our rehabs. We feed a lot of people in a lot of different ways through county soup kitchens and things of that nature.
“We don’t get the donations we used to get. Budgets are so tight now. Places like Kroger have to be careful what they order so they don’t have that much left over. That makes it difficult on us because we don’t get the leftovers we used to get.
“I had to figure out a way to feed people without the amount of food we’ve gotten in the past. So, we have a sustainable agriculture program. We have 300 acres here. We’ve raised 300 chickens so far and it will be over 1,000 by the end of summer. We’re also raising pasture hogs to provide good sustainable proteins for hurting people of West Virginia. We started that in April.
“We sell our pasture-raised chickens and portions of our pasture-raised pork to help raise funds for our rehabs. There is a smaller market here.
“When I pastored in New York, everybody was health-conscious. Everybody wanted organic, not any type of processed food or injected meat. Here, it’s a much smaller market. I’m in the process of trying to find that market.
“I have a lot of goals. In our rehabilitation centers, people go through a 10 or 12 month program and graduate and we put them back into the world. They don’t have a drivers license because they owe hundreds and thousands of dollars in fines from their past life. They don’t have relationships built with family members they’ve hurt because of the drug use.
“So they can’t get a driver’s license and don’t have a vehicle, so they can’t get to work and can’t find a job because they don’t have the computer skills or a computer to go online and apply for jobs. And we wonder why they keep falling back into the same thing. The only thing that’s comfortable to them is having a needle in their arm. [They ask themselves] ‘What future do I have?’ So they go back to what’s comfortable to them.
“We now have a vocational advancement program. We still start them with biblical training. We are a faith-based program and will stick closely to that. Now we also entwine vocational classes, teaching them to hold a job, how to dress for interviews and fill out applications and how to write a resume and use Microsoft products.
“We are beginning to partner with companies here in Charleston. They want us to take their training material and we can train people for them and when they graduate, they will take them. One company is so excited about this because they have so many jobs but can’t find anybody to pass a drug test. If we are already drug testing and training them, it is a win-win situation.
“I often wonder how a dumb country boy from St. Albans got to experience the life that God has allowed me to experience.
“I used to say, ‘I’ve got to get out of here, nothing is going to happen here.’ When I found myself out [of state], I found myself praying like crazy to get back. It’s nice to be home. I’m a West Virginian. My heart is here.”