Mission plans move, growth

October 23, 2005|By CANDICE BOSELY


A quote on the business card for Dean Shewbridge, personnel administrator for the Martinsburg Union Rescue Mission, reads: "If you do not have a friend in the world, you can find one here."

For Reeves Shambley, it wasn't necessarily a friend he was seeking when he started living at the rescue mission on May 22, 2002.

He ended up finding a family.

"This is my family," said Shambley, 55. "This is not a place where I stay. This is my home."

Shambley is not the only one who calls a rambling yellow Victorian house on West King Street home, and Shewbridge estimates the number of men who will need to live at the mission isn't going to decline.


To keep pace, the mission wants to build a new 100-bed facility that could house up to 200 men if beds were bunked.

Currently, the mission's yellow Victorian home can house up to 64 men.

'A dose of structure'

The new shelter would be built on a vacant lot at the corner of King and Elijah streets. It would have a modern kitchen with a serving line, air conditioning, office space and a separate chapel.

Those who stay at the mission must agree to attend two in-house church services a day, one at noon and the second at 7:30 p.m.

"It's a dose of structure and nondenominational Christian teaching to try to get them back on their feet," Shewbridge said.

Along with attending services, men also must work at the mission. Jobs including doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, working in the mission's thrift store, driving vans to pick up large donations for the store or helping to run recycling programs for newspapers, clothes and metal products.

Men can stay as long as they feel they need to, with 33 currently in the mission's program. Transients can stay for up to seven nights.

On one recent night, 21 men Shewbridge described as transients spent the night.

"And that's in a time when the economy in this area is pretty good," he said.

As the number of people moving to the Eastern Panhandle increases, the number of homeless people will grow as well. Plus, Shewbridge said, the economy could take a downturn.

Building a new facility is a way to plan for the future, he said.

"Will we need 100 beds five years from now? It's certainly possible. Ten years from now, will we need 100 beds? Certainly," Shewbridge said.

The mission's future

Shewbridge said he hopes the new facility, expected to cost between $2.5 million and $3 million to build, will open in the year 2010. Fundraising will be done over the next two years, with construction expected to take 18 to 20 months.

Attempting to allay some voiced concerns about opening a 100-bed homeless shelter in downtown Martinsburg, Shewbridge said the Rescue Mission always has been a good neighbor.

Grass is mowed whenever needed, leaves are raked and snow is quickly shoveled off of its sidewalks.

The new shelter will be a modern, nice-looking building, Shewbridge said.

And the fate of the yellow home after the new center is built?

"We're not 100 percent sure yet," Shewbridge said. "That's still to be determined."

It could be sold or might be leased to a group interested in using it for transitional housing. Shewbridge said nobody has seriously talked about tearing down the house, which is about 100 years old.

It has been the site of the mission for 35 of the mission's 45 years in existence. Before that, the mission was in another downtown Martinsburg location.

A crowded house

A Christian organization, the mission does not accept any government funding. Its funding is derived from donations and proceeds from its thrift shop.

Rarely is someone refused service.

"We don't turn anybody away as long as they behave themselves and they're sober," Shewbridge said.

In the mission's television room on a recent overcast afternoon, folding chairs and more plush ones were arranged around a television set.

"It gets a little crowded," Shewbridge said.

A bedroom for transients contained sets of bunk beds. Longer-term residents sleep upstairs, six or seven per room.

Lunch was being prepared in what Shewbridge sarcastically called "our huge kitchen." It is smaller than some home kitchens, yet is used to prepare 150 to 200 meals a day.

An adjacent building has six bedrooms, which offer more privacy for men who have earned it.

In the thrift shop, clothes, dishes, furniture, toys and other items lined shelves and racks.

Forty thousand pounds of clothing is collected and shipped every six weeks to Third World countries, Shewbridge said, while enough newspapers to fill a tractor-trailer are collected once a month to be recycled.

Enough work still will exist for men at the facility when the new building opens.

Metal to be recycled could be sorted, which is not now done, and merchandise in the thrift shop could be rotated more frequently. Maintenance work will never cease, Shewbridge said.

Services such as holding Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings could be offered, as could GED courses, Shewbridge said.

One man's purpose

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