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Mission renovations near completion

March 03, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

A little dab of paint is needed here and there, some additional hardware in places and a few tables came in too small. But otherwise, a $900,000 renovation project at the Hagerstown Union Rescue Mission is almost complete.

Mission Program Director Nancy Shank said the unusually cold winter strained the facility while work was going on, but everyone pulled together and came through the experience well.

"Our transient population is now back downstairs in their renovated rooms, new bathrooms and showers," Shank said.

While that section of the building at 125 N. Prospect St. was torn up, the transients were sharing space with the regular mission residents, who number about 45 on a daily basis.

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

The renovations didn't affect the shelter's overall capacity, which averages about 60 men.

"Our daily soup line provided hot meals for between 15 and 40 people a day through it all," Shank said. The soup line opens at 1 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it opens at 1:30 p.m.

Since the mission began more than 46 years ago, the men have handled all the cooking chores. Now, Shank said, a new part-time chef, Joel DaCosta, is supervising the meals.

"Already he makes sure the men always have a hot meal," Shank said. "He is also overseeing the planning of more healthy menus."

Work on the plumbing and wiring in the aging building has been completed. The coal furnace is gone, and a gas furnace and electric rooftop air-conditioning system were installed.

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

The final link in the chain is the Jimmy Resh Memorial Chapel, a grand opening for which is scheduled for April 27, Shank said.

Resh, who died in 1996, founded the mission with his wife, Ellen, who maintains a presence at the mission.

The work has been funded through donations coupled with a $256,000 loan taken out last summer to hasten the completion of the work.

Throughout all the work, the mission remained open and provided all services.

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

For more information, call 301-739-1165.

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