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Mission spreads hope through new program

May 31, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN -- Nearly 55 years ago, the Hagerstown Rescue Mission was created out of thin air by the late Jimmy Resh and his wife, Ellen.

Their goal was to rescue men abandoned by their families, friends -- even society -- because of poor choices they made in life.

Even though one of the goals for the men has always been hope for a better future, the mission is now stressing the "hope" factor through its existing and new programs.

"We're more focused now," said Bruce L. "Sonny" Shank, executive director of the Hagerstown Rescue Mission and The Hope Center at 125 N. Prospect St.

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Recently, three mission residents successfully completed the 13-month Christian Life Recovery program, which is called Foundations.

They won't be the last, Shank said.

All three were professional men -- Tom Adkins was a business owner, Frank Gall was a teacher and Donnie Green was a professional football player -- before they were sidetracked by addictions.

"We're hoping the other guys will see this and want to accomplish it, too," Shank said.

He said he believes the men have taken the challenge of making changes in their lives.

"We want to tell people what we really do here," he said. "The new name is necessary because hope is what the Hagerstown Rescue Mission provides."

The mission's beginning was to simply rescue men down on their luck. And while that is still part of the work, the Christian Life Recovery program is much more dynamic than anything offered before.

"We are very excited about this," said Becky Shank, daughter of the mission founders and Sonny Shank's wife. Both said the mission staff has been learning as it goes through the first year of the new Hope Center program.

Matt Sargent is the ministry director who is working closely with the men in the new hope-based program.

Before, the mission took in men, provided them with room and board, and some programs designed to help them turn their lives around.

The Hope Center will expand on that premise by reviewing the men's progress every three months.

"If they aren't making progress, they are either held back or released from the program," Shank said.

Some men don't make it through the 30-day trial period, Shank said.

"If they do make it through, they have a chance," he said.

Becky Shank said some of the men who made it through the mission program have turned around and now donate to the mission.

"We still hear from folks we didn't think had made it," Shank added.

Still, the mission is committed to meals and lodging, and always will be. In 2008, a total of 58,468 hot meals were served and 18,107 lodgings were provided in Hagerstown alone.

Through the years, the mission in Hagerstown seeded five new missions in Martinsburg, W.Va., York, Pa., and in Frederick, Cumberland and Westminster in Maryland.

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