Our Towns

New Site Called a Blessing for Rescue Mission

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – After a decade of planning, Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley is a step closer to moving into its new home next year.

The capital campaign for a new home began in November, the shelter is about $3 million from its goal, and Rescue Mission officials are eyeing a groundbreaking for this autumn. On Thursday, its longtime spiritual leader, William “Doc” Finnigan, blessed the site on the South Side.

Donors, supporters and community leaders joined Finnigan in a rally and in prayer at the site just behind the South High Fieldhouse.

“You know the need that is right under our nose in Youngstown, Ohio. Encourage and strengthen those on the board, those who labor on the staff, those who labor in the community,” Finnigan said during the ceremony. “We pray, God, that you bring this to pass and put your hand of blessing and power on this piece of land today that it might be used in eternal glory.”

He also read from the opening verses of 2 Timothy 3, a section he chose because it ties closely to the purpose of the Rescue Mission to provide not only shelter and help to those who need it, but the tools to overcome their problems as well.

“We’re interested in where people live on the inside because of the biblical conviction that you have to have a change on the inside if you want change on the outside,” Finnigan said. “Rehab begins on the outside, but transformation begins on the inside.”

So far, the fundraising campaign has brought in about $4 million, said Executive Director Jim Echement, leaving about $3 million to go. With a price tag of $10 million, New Market Tax Credits and a mortgage will cover the remainder.

To help the campaign, a surprise donation during the ceremony was made by Ryerson Dalton of the Neckerman Foundation. The foundation had pledged $100,000 in January, Echement said, but receiving the money at the site blessing was unplanned.

Donations continue to be accepted through MoveOurMission.org and can be set up to be paid over as long as five years, the director said.

The new building, to be constructed on a 17.5-acre site bordered by Erie Street, East Delason and East Warren avenues and Interstate 680, will have room for up to 200 residents, a section for social workers, offices, classrooms and, in the center of the first floor, a chapel. At the current building on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., almost every room serves more than one purpose and there isn’t enough room for all who need to stay at the Rescue Mission.

In 2008, when planning began, Echement said, the mission saw about 65 people per night. Today, that number is as high as 135.

“It became much more of a necessity to build something new than to stay where we are or turn people away, which is not an option for us,” he said. “We do everything in our power to take care of whoever comes through the doors.”

Beyond the number of people Rescue Mission serves, the building itself is an issue. Built in 1931, the former YMCA building has faulty heating, leaky pipes, loose shingles and drafty windows.

“It’s imperative that we start construction as soon as possible. We’re going to squeeze one more winter out of that old girl down there and hope for the best,” the director said. “If we begin construction and at least start moving dirt here in the fall, we’ll be able to complete and move in next year while celebrating our 125th anniversary.”

For those who work at the Rescue Mission, a new building will be a most welcome change. Brad Weber, a support service manager, is most looking forward to the new chapel – housed in the dining hall when meals aren’t being served – but is excited for new systems that should make his job a bit easier.

“There are so many little details that we could say will be great, but I’m a network and IT guy. So [discussing] the Cat 5 cables is nerdy but it’s really a benefit,” he said, referring to the cords used to provide internet access to computers. “We have to chase wires all over the building. Stuff like that is a pain.”

For client adviser David Mungai, who came to the Rescue Mission as a client himself in 2015, having a new building stands only to help the organization reach more people, which in turn will improve the community.

“Every man who comes through our doors is a reflection of who I was. Having gone through what they went through, I’m able to give them courage,” Mungai said. “Coming to a homeless shelter isn’t the end of the world. As long as they take our reach and accept the help we’re giving them, everything will be all right.”

When the new center opens next year and all the staff and clients are settled in, Echement said, he hopes to extend the social services the Rescue Mission offers community, reaching beyond residents.

“It’ll be a one-stop shop for services on the South Side,” he said.

Pictured at top: William “Doc” Finnigan looks on as Jim Echement addresses donor and Rescue Mission residents.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.