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'Mom' keeps rescue mission moving

February 25, 2001

'Mom' keeps rescue mission moving



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY -- andreabh@herald-mail.com

Ellen Reshphoto: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

They still call her "Mom" at the Hagerstown Union Rescue Mission.

Ellen Resh has striven to be a positive, Christian role model for the hundreds of men who've found support at the mission since 1955, she said.

"I've tried to be a mother to them," said Resh, 84, who has continued to work at the gospel mission daily since founding the help center with her late husband, James "Jimmy" M. Resh Sr., nearly 46 years ago.

"They're not homeless at the mission," she said. "We try to make it like a home."

The Union Rescue Mission at 125 N. Prospect St. is a 40-bed facility with room for an additional 30 transient clients. It's a haven for men who are destitute and homeless or who have been broken by drugs and alcohol," according to a mission brochure.

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But the Christ-centered mission's goal is not just to feed, clothe and shelter men in need. The goal is to change lives through the power of God, Resh said.

"I've seen hundreds of men come through and change their lives," she said. "It's a real thrill when you see that."

Resh said the rescue mission's many success stories have made worthwhile the risk that her husband took when he gave up a good job at Fairchild Industries, moved his wife and five children from a new house at Pen Mar to a shabby apartment above a former dance hall on Jail Alley in Hagerstown, and began running a new rescue mission.

"Jim was a restless kind of person. He was never happy with what he was doing until he got into mission work," Resh said. "When Jim started, I followed. I didn't know anything about this side of life. But I learned. I learned pretty quick."

Reluctant at first, even the Reshes' five children got involved with the mission work. Many of the couple's 12 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren have also helped out, Resh said.

The family's dedication has spurred the success of Four States Christian Missions Inc., which includes the Union Rescue Mission, Good Samaritan Lodge near Clear Spring, Just Kids children's ministry, three thrift stores and the Free Press Christian newspaper.

Resh, who didn't know what to expect when the mission started, said she isn't surprised by the success because "the Lord can do anything."

The mission's clientele has shifted from mostly older men with alcohol problems to a majority of younger men with drug dependencies. Regardless of age or addiction, they all "cry out for love and acceptance," said Resh's daughter, Rebecca Shank.

Her mother remains up to the challenge.

"We have to keep after her all the time to slow down," Shank said.

Fund-raising and overseeing the Union Rescue Mission Thrift Store now occupies most of Resh's work day. She has for years recycled other people's discards into dividends for mission clients, saving donated collectibles and antiques for annual auctions.

"That's one reason I keep working - to help the money keep coming in," Resh said.

The sale of thrift store items covers at least 40 percent of the mission's operating costs, and the last auction raised about $4,000 to help pay for the $750,000 mission renovation that began in 1999 and is now two-thirds complete, she said.

Her commitment to helping others, strong work ethic and positive attitude make Resh "a joy to be around," said thrift store employee Jim Shifler. "She goes out of her way to make residents and volunteers happy."

And she doesn't plan to stop helping the Lord change lives, Resh said.

"It's His work and when Jim passed away I wasn't going to sit and do nothing. I'll do my little part to keep the mission going," she said. "I'll never retire. It's my life."

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