Chris Byrd, Executive Director

Chris began serving as Executive Director for Downtown Ministries in July 2018. For the last 32 years, Chris and his wife Catherine lived in Lexington, SC where they raised their four children. Over his career, Chris worked in leadership positions for South Carolina state government, and he most recently served as Vice President for Human Resources for the University of South Carolina, retiring in June 2018 in order to join Downtown Ministries. For their entire time in Lexington, they worshipped at Lexington Presbyterian Church where Chris served as an elder and was very involved in teaching and training other men.

Chris and Catherine have been long-time supporters of Downtown Ministries and are excited about their transition to Athens. Chris is committed to our vision of building consistent relationships with the youth of Athens and their families, deeply believing that the hope of the gospel is what brings hope to the city.

Cary H. Rivers, Director of Development

Cary and his wife Madeline come to us from Augusta where they have lived for 33 yrs. Cary worked and was an owner of Club Car for 21 years where he was Sr. VP of sales/Marketing. His last 15 years, Cary served as Director of Development/Admissions at two of Augusta’s top Christian College Prep Schools (Augusta Christian and Westminster Schools of Augusta). Cary is a retired officer in the US Army, and during his tenure in Augusta has served on many school, church, and community boards. He and Madeline have been members at First Presbyterian Church in Augusta for 31 years where Cary served as a Deacon and Elder. Cary has coached soccer and golf for much of his career. Cary holds a Business/Marketing degree from Seminole State, and attended Florida State University for 2 years. Cary has a passion that lines up with Downtown Ministries in such a way that “Knowledge, Character and Purpose” are the hope and prayer for inner-city Athens.

Cary and Madeline have been married 43 years and have 6 sons and 6 grandchildren.

Patrick Ennis, Head of School, Downtown Academy

Patrick holds a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of Georgia. His expertise lies in special education and autism studies. He taught middle school in Clarke County.

He became a Downtown Falcons basketball coach in 2009 and sees Downtown Ministries’ sports ministry as a meaningful and sustainable avenue for building and developing relationships with individuals, families and urban communities in Athens. His efforts in establishing Downtown Academy as the only private school option for impoverished communities pay off every day in the affirmation he receives from parents, community leaders and, most importantly, the children.

Patrick lives in Athens with his wife Rebecca.

Ben Farnsworth, Director of Sports and Community Outreach

Ben moved to Athens with his family in 1996 and graduated from Clarke Central High School in 1998. He attended and played football for Presbyterian College in South Carolina, graduating with a political science degree in 2003.

He first became involved with Downtown Ministries as a football coach, but his role and passion for the organization soon expanded. In 2009, he became Downtown Ministries’ first full-time employee. Ben met his wife, Karen, when she started coaching cheerleading for the Downtown Falcons. Karen teaches 8th grade math at Burney Harris Middle School.

Ben and Karen live in Athens with their daughter Mary Thames.

Kayla Oakley, Executive Administrator

Kayla earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Science from the University of Georgia in 2015.

She first became involved with Downtown Ministries through the After School Program in 2014. While serving as a volunteer, Kayla’s passion for the mission of the organization and the children involved grew tremendously. She completed an internship with Downtown Ministries in 2015 and finds great joy in being a member of the Falcons Family.

Her husband, Taylor, is a medical student at the GRU-UGA Medical Partnership. Kayla and Taylor live in Athens.