Mar 08, 2012 Neil Benjamin Jr. Uncategorized
It’s a big year for the city’s Rescue Mission.
Not only is the organization celebrating its 125th year as the city’s biggest help to those who need it most, but it also unveiled the new Mission District at a press conference last week.
Mission Executive Director Chasz. Parker opened the ceremony with some kind words about the Mission’s first 125 years, saying many more years will follow.
“This traces our lineage to New York City,” he said, referring to how the Syracuse Mission is an extension of the original.
The new district encompasses the Rescue Mission’s campus, from the Onondaga Creek and east, Granger Street and west, Dickerson Street to the north and Gifford Street to the south.
The Mission itself has helped the homeless find shelter and nourishment, but Parker also explained a little behind the scenes. He told the story of a man who thanked him because the man had recently been released from prison with nowhere to go. The Mission took him in, and he obtained skills not only to live on his own, but also some skills fit for employment. The man ended up with a job at the Mission, and told Parker he’d be dead if it weren’t for the services the Mission provided him.
“We like to welcome people we serve,” he said. “We tell them, ‘We’re glad to have you here,’ to those who come in.”
In 1887, the Mission formed with a goal to change the lives of the homeless, hungry and hurting people in Syracuse, with the main goal being independence. It started as an outreach program to Erie Canal workers and has expanded significantly since then. Surrounding communities have pitched in to help it become what it is today.
The numbers provided by the Mission for 2011 are staggering. It served nearly 225,000 meals, and provided more than 70,000 overnight stays to more than 1,500 people in Syracuse. It contains a 132-bed sleeping area and a Food Services Center that dished out more than 600 meals a day.
“We do a lot more than just help the homeless,” Parker added. “We try to help the isolated and alone people reconnect with the community.”
Parker added that with the new district, the Mission’s visibility is set to increase by a lot.
“For me, any way we can share about what the Rescue Mission is and does,” he said. “I think about the lives we touch everyday. I think that’s what got me into working with the homeless.
“This is a way to put it top-of-mind for people.”
What he and the Mission would like to see is more people from the community get involved in one of the many ways available.
“I would love for them to engage,” he added. “The real idea is to do something with the Mission, whether it’s volunteer, help serve a meal, maybe clean out your closets and make a donation. Go to our website and learn about what the Rescue Mission does. For 125 years, we’ve been part of the community and there’s been so many lives touched, families touched. Because someone in the family may have used the services of the rescue mission.”
The celebration will continue throughout the entire year, with events lined up. On March 21, many local restaurants will donate between $1 and $2 per meal served to the Mission.
On a date to be announced in May, the Mission will have Movie Night, with the theme being inspiration tied to the Mission. Throughout late spring to the end of the summer will be the Great Cupboard Campout to end Homelessness, where participants will seek out donations in exchange for camping out all night in a cardboard structure as a way to see what some homeless people go through.
On Sept. 12 there will be the 125th Anniversary Luncheon, complete with a keynote speaker. Two days later will be Mission Alfresco, which will meet at a specific location that will remain unknown until it is announced that day at 4:45 p.m. via social media and text messaging. And on Sept. 15 will be the Mission District Block Party, a day of family fun, complete with games and activities and tours of the Mission Campus.
Neil Benjamin Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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