Rescue Mission Kicks Off Campaign for New Home

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Some of the problems with the building that Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley calls home are easily seen as you drive by. Loose bricks are falling from the façade and the slate shingles slide from the roof put up in the 1930s.

Inside, when it rains, the ceilings leak.

Other problems, no less serious, aren’t as noticeable. Water seeps up through the foundation. Bathrooms and showers are unusable and beyond repair. The windows allow drafts in the winter and trap heat indoors during summer. The electrical system is at capacity.

John Muckbridge III, deputy director of the Rescue Mission, described it Thursday as a “duct tape and bubblegum” operation to keep the building functional.

“We luckily haven’t had to use any bubblegum, but there is a lot of duct tape,” said Brad Engler, the head of maintenance, with a laugh. “There are so many things that I don’t know where to start or where to stop. Everything is an issue. We’re ready to move.”

With the help of a capital campaign announced Thursday, “Move Our Mission,” Engler and the rest of the staff and volunteers at Rescue Mission will get their wish. The campaign’s ultimate goal is “as close to $3 million as we can get,” said mission Executive Director Jim Echement at the kickoff press conference, before the end of the year.

“We understand that’s only six weeks,” he continued, noting that the goal is “to begin with at least a small amount moving forward.”

Cost of the new building is $9.5 million, with $2.4 million already pledged. An additional $4 million is available through New Market Tax Credits and a federal Home Loan Bank grant if Rescue Mission can secure the remaining amount in pledges.

The money doesn’t have to be given today, Echement said during the announcement; it needs only to be pledged. In some cases, the donations can be planned up to 60 months in advance.

At a dinner set for March 31, the results of the Move Our Mission campaign and a groundbreaking date should be announced, he added. Construction will “ideally” be done by the end of 2017, but could take until mid-2018.

Planning for the new building began more than a decade ago, when issues with the current building began to arise. Officials from Rescue Mission visited shelters throughout the eastern part of the country and by 2008 were working with architects to develop a blueprint for a new space.

“And then we all know what happened,” Echement said, alluding to the Great Recession.

The campaign has had a few starts and stops since then, he continued, but this time, the finish line is in sight. Once the Move Our Mission campaign is completed, work can begin.

The site for the new building, 17.5 acres bounded by Erie Street, East Delason and East Warren avenues and Interstate 680, was deeded to the Rescue Mission in 2010. It’s currently a vacant parking lot behind the former South High School.

The new building will have 50,000 square feet and room for 168 beds as well as 50 emergency beds. Right now, the building erected in 1931, has a maximum capacity of 200, with about 165 fitting comfortably.

The first floor will house offices and the public services areas, such as classrooms and social services meetings, both of which are severely constrained by small spaces in the current building, Muckbridge said. The social services area for visiting agencies uses a table and two chairs set up in the lobby.

“There’s no privacy but we just don’t have the space to do it,” he said. “We’ll have that space for partnering agencies who come here to meet with clients and help them transition out. We’ll finally be able to set aside individual offices for them.”

A new kitchen is also on the list of features at the new building. So are reliable heating and air conditioning. All of the additions and upgrades, Echement and Muckbridge said, will make the job of the Rescue Mission ­­­– taking in people off the street, helping them find work and helping them move into a stable living situation – easier.

“We have a lot of projects that we want to do, but something always breaks, so Brad [Engler] can’t do it,” said Brad Weber, mission support services manager. “It’s hard with all the people we have, what little storage space we have, what little classroom space we have. The new building allows us to do everything in the ministry more effectively.”

During the announcement, both relayed several examples of those who have been helped by the mission in ways big and small, including Weber.

“This is a place that saved my life. Jesus Christ saved my life, but he used this building to do it,” he said. “I’m forever grateful for the building, the relationships, the opportunity to work. It’s not something I can really put into words.”

Weber came to the Rescue Mission in October 2013 after leaving a drug rehab center in West Virginia. After spending time on the streets, a ministry there bought him a one-way bus ticket to his hometown. The trip took 21 hours.

“It’s West Virginia, so if you’re going anywhere, it’s winding through the mountains. I had time to reflect and think, but it wasn’t until I got here that I really thought about it,” he said.

Halfway between the downtown bus station and the Rescue Mission, he sat down on a curb and thought, “I’m better than this. I don’t need to go there,” Weber said. He started thinking about whom he could call for a ride or a place to sleep.

He came up empty.

“I realized that was my rock bottom. There was no one to call, no money, nobody willing to help me. That was the moment I knew what I needed to do,” he said. “I knew I had to go to the mission, get my life on track, and it has exceeded all of my expectations.”

Weber graduated from the mission’s discipleship academy in June 2014, concluding his residence at the shelter, and was immediately hired on as a staff member. Part of his job is dealing with the stereotypes of the homeless, most commonly that they’re uneducated or wasted any opportunities they were given.

“I went to high school. I went to college. I had a good home. I didn’t rebel or anything, I just made the wrong choices. The Rescue Mission helped me see that,” he said, adding that he started abusing drugs when he was 15. “When people can get an understanding of who a homeless person is or what a shelter does, it changes that perception.”

With a new building going up, the jobs the staff at Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley take on – both inside the shelter and out – are sure to get easier, the staff agree.

“It’s relief. We’ve had to keep this sort of under wraps and the community has heard us talk about this for eight years. They ask when we’re going to pull the trigger,” Echement said. “Well here we are. We’ve pulled it.”

Pictured: Jim Echement, executive director of the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley, announces the capital campaign for the agency’s planned new home.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.