From 1986-88, he worked at a group home for juvenile delinquents in Jessamine County that was operated by the then-Lanacaster-based Christian Appalachian Project.
“I worked with kids 13-18 years of age, and I absolutely loved teaching them work skills,” he says. “I got a lot of satisfaction out of helping these troubled kids learn something useful. It was great seeing them not only learn useful skills but seeing them understand how those skills would help them in their lives and become excited about it.”
In the meantime, Payne was “called” to a second vocation, one he believed would complement his new career in human services and one that also would carry on a family tradition.
“I was called to the ministry in 1988,” he says. “I was ordained in the Church of God of America, a (Danville-based) Pentecostal denomination. Just like my dad, I had become a Pentecostal preacher.”
Payne, who currently serves as pastor of the Greater Harvest Worship Center, a nondenominational church in Danville, says he never thought about becoming a minister when he was a child. But he believes the notion may have planted in the back of his mind when he watched his dad preach.
“When I was a kid, I sometimes pretended that I was dad,” he says. “I’d get on an old tree stump and preach to the birds and squirrels. I was just playing pretend, but seeing my dad share God’s love and his word stayed with me. Any way, the pretend play eventually became the real thing.”
While he began pursuing his ministerial calling mostly on weekends, Payne continued developing his day job helping people.
When the group home for juvenile delinquents closed in 1988 because of a funding shortage, Payne remained with CAP, running a general education development program and then working with mentally handicapped people to help train them for work.
He left CAP in 1995 and got a job with Comprehensive Care Center in Danville. He launched a job training and employment program for Boyle, Lincoln and Mercer counties.
Then in 1997, he was hired to teach job readiness classes for First Step, a new program created under the federal and welfare-to-work laws.
In 1999, Payne went to work for the Urban League where he was involved with a welfare-to-work program and then with a program aimed at helping noncustodial parents pay child support.
“Most of the people in this program were not the so-called ‘dead-beat dads’ everybody thinks the people are,” he says. “Most just lacked the skills to get the jobs that could provide them the income to pay their bills, including child support payments, and my job was to try to train them in those skills.”
From 2001-2006 Payne worked at the Adult Learning Center in Danville, where he provided computer training and job placement services for local residents.
Then, in 2006, he was hired as community developer for the Boyle office of the Blue Grass Community Partnership, an agency that provides a variety of services to people in household economic crises. He replaced longtime office head Sherry Jo Carey.
Payne says it was a job that would draw on the experience he had developed over the years in providing a variety of help to largely low-income people.
Payne says his latest position where he give a hand up to “people who are down on their luck” has been so rewarding he has turned down better-paying positions, including one offer from Toyota in Georgetown.
“It’s a great fit for me,” he says. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people in emergencies and then helping them help themselves when the crisis is over, and there are a lot of different opportunities to do that here.”
Payne likes where he is at this stage in his life, not only with his careers but also as a husband and father. He and his wife, Teresa, a Campbellsville native who operates a day care center, have three children: Andrea, 20, who attends Hampton University; Chris, 19, who is in the National Guard; and Jessica, 18, who will be a junior at Danville High School.
“I am where I want to be career-wise, although years ago I didn’t think is where I would be,” he says. “When I was young I wanted to be in business,” he says. “And I am. I’m in the people business.”