Union Rescue Mission changes are underway

June 27, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

Hagerstown Union Rescue Mission officials have authorized a plan to borrow $250,000 to complete an ongoing three-phase renovation project at the facility.

"The building is telling us that it's time to finish as soon as possible," said Bruce "Sonny" Shank, executive director of the mission/homeless shelter at 125 N. Prospect St.

The loan will bridge the gap between $600,000 in donations collected for the renovation and the $850,000 needed to complete the final two phases.


"While we still don't have enough, we just hope the contributions will keep coming in," Shank said.

Businesses and individuals have been approached but response has been less than expected. Shank said he is hoping for a surge in donations so the mission can continue its work uninterrupted.

"Through all the work, we will remain open and provide all services," Shank said.

That pledge has had an impact on the speed of the construction and on the disruption of the lives of the men who call the mission home.

Dennis Dalton has worked in the mission kitchen since he came there five months ago. He's convinced that things will come to pass at the mission.

"The residents are all pulling together," said Dalton, 48. He said the mission's staff and programs saved him from his former life and he's willing to endure a great deal for that reason.

Erik Meister's pastor took him to the mission two months ago in hopes he would kick his drug habit.

"I found Jesus here and I stopped smoking cigarettes and using drugs," said Meister, 23. "It was the best trade-off of my life."

So far, the construction hasn't had too much effect on Meister and some of the others at the mission, but for the transients, it's been a different story, Shank said.

"We average between six and 24 transients a night," Shank said. "They had been staying in a different area from the regular mission residents."

Bunking those two groups together can be difficult since one group is heavily involved in the mission programs while the transients are often actively addicted and just looking for a place to sleep a night or two, he said.

"They talk different talk and have very different experiences," Shank said.

Shank said the renovations will not affect the shelter's capacity, which will remain at about 60 men.

The mission is home to about 45 men on a daily basis, Shank said. Many of those are involved in the mission's substance abuse rehabilitation program. Hot meals for between 15 and 40 people a day are provided, with more served on the weekends.

A plumbing and wiring refit for the aging building is under way. The ancient coal furnace is gone, and the installation of a gas furnace and an electric rooftop air conditioning system will be finished in the coming months, Shank said.

Phase I, which was a new entrance way and office complex, is in operation. The new two-story structure connects two of the existing buildings in the mission complex.

Construction has begun on the Dr. Jimmy Resh Memorial Chapel. Resh founded the mission with his wife, Ellen, more than 46 years ago.

The mission is a private, nonprofit organization. Contributions are tax deductible.

For more information, call 301-739-1165.

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