Help Rescue Mission better help those in need in Valley

Posted November 21, 2016

For more than a century, The Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley has been saving the lives and souls of tens of thousands of down-on-their-luck men, women and children of Greater Youngstown.

Whether it be to treat hunger, homelessness, drug addiction or any of a myriad of social ills, the nonprofit agency has always been there to extend a helping hand and guide many through an amazing transformation of their lives and livelihoods.

Today, however, the mission is reaching out to the community to help save it from some of the crippling obstacles that prevent it from performing its praiseworthy mission to maximum benefit.

The agency last week launched a fundraising drive to build a $9.5 million shelter and service center on Youngstown’s South Side to replace its aging and increasingly inefficient headquarters in the 85-year-old former African-American YMCA on Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard on the fringe of the city’s downtown.

The campaign seeks to finance construction of the new center on a 17.5-acre parcel behind the former South High School. The Move Our Mission drive deserves the overwhelming support of individuals and businesses throughout the Mahoning Valley.

Clearly the need is great, judging by the bricks falling off the 85-year-old structure’s facade and slate pieces tumbling from the building’s roof.

Families as large as eight members must crowd into very small rooms. Plumbing problems mean dedicated shower facilities for women no longer function. Leaks have caused substantial deterioration of interior walls and ceilings.

Aside from the structural deficiencies, the four-story building long ago outgrew its optimal usefulness.

Back in 1962, the mission served a total of 15,425 free meals. By 2014, that total grew more than tenfold to 165,504 meals.

Over the past decade alone, the number of overnight stays has nearly doubled from 23,000 to 45,000 annually.

Just as we are seeing vastly increased demand for services from Second Harvest Food Bank and other food-assistance agencies, no end is anywhere in sight for the critically important services provided by the Rescue Mission.

The faith-based mission not only provides clients a bed to sleep on and a meal to dine on, it offers hope for a rebound in their lives that encompasses counseling, training and preparation to become productive and self-sufficient workers.

Cramped Quarters

But the cramped quarters of the current facility limits the scope and effectiveness of its needed social services.

And those services are indeed needed and greatly appreciated. Just ask Doug Gough, a Newton Falls man who turned to the mission five years ago with injuries from a head-on collision, drug addiction and no permanent home.

After taking part in the mission’s programming, his life has taken a 180-degree turn. Today he serves as client adviser, supervisor of men’s services and the discipleship coordinator at the mission.

“I came here in 2011,” Gough said at a press conference last week to announce plans for the move and the campaign to fund it. “I just want to say this: Thank you for saving my life.”

Details of the planned 50,000-square-foot Rescue Mission campus, twice as large as the current facility, illustrate the potential to save many, many more lives.

The modern, energy-efficient building would house overnight shelter and dining facilities as well as the mission’s educational and personal and professional development programs. It also would allow for expanded volunteer on-site activities.

To their credit, organizers of the Move Our Mission campaign already have logged noteworthy success behind the scenes. To date, an estimated $2.4 million has been raised from supporters.

An additional $4.5 million of the project cost can be financed through a hodgepodge of grant programs – but only if the remaining $3 million of the total cost can be raised or pledged by Dec. 31.

Campaign officials stress that only a donor’s pledge is needed now. Actual donations need not begin anytime soon and can be made over the next five years.

If all goes well, Rescue Mission officials hope to break ground next spring for the new complex with completion expected by early 2018. Things can only go well, however, if the campaign achieves success over the final five weeks of this year.

Compassionate residents can do their part to make that happen by contacting the Rescue Mission today to make a monetary pledge and a promising investment in the human capital of our region.