Valley Rescue Mission celebrates 50 years - WRBL

Valley Rescue Mission celebrates 50 years

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Valley Rescue Mission the day it opened Sept. 6, 1963 Valley Rescue Mission the day it opened Sept. 6, 1963
Jamie Thompson works in pantry as part of recovery program Jamie Thompson works in pantry as part of recovery program
Recovery program participants work in the kitchen to feed hundreds Recovery program participants work in the kitchen to feed hundreds
Thousands of people benefit from clothing donations to Valley Rescue Mission Thousands of people benefit from clothing donations to Valley Rescue Mission

Valley Rescue Mission has been helping people in need for 50 years, gaining recognition from the city with a proclamation in its honor, and the organization continues to grow.

50 years ago Friday traveling salesman Howard Mott incorporated the Valley Rescue Mission. During his travels he found a number of transients with no place to stay, and he decided that needed to change.

The Valley Rescue Mission began as a chapel and three shotgun houses in 1963. It provided shelter and faith-based services for those in need. Today the ideals behind the mission are the same.

"I came here for rehab for drugs and alcohol," says Seth Markham, who is currently in the mission's substance abuse recovery program, "and it's funny because I've had people with a college degree send me to $50,000 rehabs and I couldn't afford it, and this is the best place available, and it's free."

Program participant Jamie Thompson agrees, saying, "I didn't think there was anyone out there that really cared if you was using drugs. They had a tendency to shy away from you because they think you're a bad person, but that's not the case here."

The people who enter the substance abuse recovery program don't pay in money, but work different jobs within the mission to learn skills they can use when they graduate while finding themselves in the Christian faith.

Program graduate Heather Johnson says, "It's been transforming. I'm not the person I was when I came in. I was so broken and I didn't recognize myself. The program there changed me in ways that I've evolved."

After completing the program Johnson stayed with Valley Rescue and now works as a receptionist.

"The folks that graduate from this program are never going to be on the cover of Forbes magazine," says director of development Donna Pearce. "They're never going to be CEO's. Success for them is that they are going to go on and live normal, ordinary lives, but they're substance abuse-free, and that's what makes the difference."

Valley Rescue Mission has grown over the years to be more than just a shelter. They now have a donation center and are about to open their third thrift store in the Columbus area.

Donations provide food and clothes for thousands of people. The pantry gives out about 15 bags of groceries per day and the kitchen feeds around 340 hungry mouths, all with less than 40 employees on staff.

"Each of us would say that it truly is a team effort," says Pearce, "and that we work together, and just to have the joy of knowing that God has used our day and our work for something that's going to bear fruit for eternity, and that's a wonderful, wonderful feelings."

Thompson says, "I have a 21 year old daughter and I'm thankful that I have the second opportunity because I had a wonderful relationship with and I started destroying that two years ago, and this has given me a chance and an opportunity to rebuild that relationship."

Since its inception, Valley Rescue Mission has provided $3.7 million meals and over one million nights of lodging.

At least 6300 people have gone through substance abuse recovery programs and turned their lives around with the mission's help.

Valley Rescue Mission also runs Camp Joy, a one week summer camping experience that has served 12,000 kids over the years.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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