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Hagerstown Rescue Mission celebrates 50 years

September 24, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

The family-owned Hagerstown Rescue Mission is celebrating 50 years of community service this weekend with a series of events throughout Hagerstown.

The rescue mission kicked off the celebration Friday with a comedy show at North Hagerstown High School. The celebration continues today with a dinner-concert featuring gospel singers The Pfeifers and ends Sunday with the Rev. Jerry Falwell as guest speaker.

"It hasn't always been easy," said Ellen Resh, wife of the late Jimmy Resh, the mission's founder. "We've had rough times, but we've had our good times, too."

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Hagerstown Rescue Mission opened at an old dance hall on Jonathan Street in 1955.

"I remember four or five men came to the first service and stayed at the mission," said Becky Shank, who was 1 year old when her father founded the mission.

Today, Becky's husband, Bruce "Sonny" Shank, has taken her father's place as the mission's executive director.

The mission, now at Prospect Street, has programs for children and teens, a women's ministry and a television studio.

Jimmy Resh founded five missions in the Tri-State area before he died in 1996.

Last year, the Hagerstown Rescue Mission served 51,924 meals, said Chris Shank, director of the mission's Wildside Kids program and Becky Shank's son.

"I've been doing this my whole life," Chris Shank said. "There's so much family here that it felt more like hanging out with family than work."

It was a family affair Friday night at North High, where Christian-themed comedian Ken Davis performed before a sold-out audience.

"I'm not right," Davis said above the guffaws - a "warning" to the audience early in his set.

Like the Friday show, today's banquet at the mission is sold out, Becky Shank said. But Sunday's events still are open and free to the public.

Becky Shank said a large crowd is expected Sunday for Falwell. She said Falwell was a family friend who spoke at her father's funeral.

"I'm glad he said he'd come," she said. "He knows about the ministry and he's always been supportive with advice or anything he could be for us."

She said the mission's greatest accomplishment is being able to stay true to her father's purpose.

"The greatest thing is that God has allowed us to be here," Becky Shank said. "As I look back over the years, I could pull up name after name of the men who were wrecked by alcohol, and to see how they transformed."

Resh said after 50 years, she couldn't imagine doing anything different with her life.

"It's all but still new to me," she said. "I wish my husband could be here, but he's in a better place."

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