The history of the Rescue Mission is filled with examples of tough times and small victories. Since its humble beginnings, the Mission has always reached out to those least equipped to cope with the hardships of life. The City Rescue Mission was founded in 1915 by Mr. and Mrs. William Anderson at a time when rescue missions were springing up in urban areas throughout the United States as Evangelical Christians sought to bring the Gospel to growing urban centers. While ministering to the spiritual needs of the homeless, it became painfully clear that there were also many material needs the Mission had to address. In response, the Board decided to purchase beds and provide more meal accommodations so that these men could be housed for weeks at a time until they were able to get back on their feet. It is recorded that as early as 1918, the Rescue Mission was a place of "refuge" for over 100 people per night.
Increased demand for services and rising costs of maintaining the facility put great financial pressure on the Rescue Mission. To make matters worse, as a result of the stock market crash in 1929 the number of men seeking shelter rose at an alarming rate, taxing the facility to its limits. During the first nine months of 1931, 12,483 men slept at the Rescue Mission. The efforts of Superintendent Joseph Keating, Jr. (1929-1947) and other leaders at the time, helped to pull the Rescue Mission out of its dire financial predicament. Keating had long felt that the men staying at the Mission should be engaged in some form of work that could help offset the cost of their food and shelter, so he gave the men jobs to do. Even one-nighters were expected to put in time at the woodpile, sawing and chopping wood into lengths suitable for sale as firewood. This was the early beginning of industrial salvage operations at the Rescue Mission that has been developed over the years into a comprehensive Work Therapy/Life Skills program that today produces approximately 30% of the Rescue Mission's operating budget each year.
Over the next ten years, the number of clients housed and the average length of stay at the Rescue Mission grew steadily. In 1953, the Religious Life Committee of the Board recommended that a trained counselor be hired to provide individual and group counseling. By 1954, under the leadership of Superintendent Otto Talbert (1947-1957), several group dynamic programs were underway.
Over the next few decades, it became apparent that subtle shifts were occurring in the clientele served by the Rescue Mission. James N. Brimmer, Executive Director 1959-1985, sought to preserve the dignity of those who came to the Mission for help. He was instrumental in the planning and construction of a new residential building. One of many improvements overseen by "JB" — as he was known by the men — and a major milestone in the Rescue Mission's history was the opening of the Karl G. Hastedt Building in 1972.
When Mary Gay Abbott-Young became the Chief Executive Officer of the Rescue Mission in 1986, she was faced with two pressing issues. The first was how to restore the industrial salvage operation to the profitability it had enjoyed in the 1950's and 1960's. Part of the solution included closing two of the five operating thrift stores. The second was to save the emergency shelter during a time of financial crisis. With considerable planning and renovations the Rescue Mission now operates only one store - the Carroll Street Store - which has proven to be a very positive outlet for the Trenton community and a place to practice work skills for the Mission residents.
Under the leadership of CEO Abbott-Young, the services provided to adult men in the residential substance abuse treatment program, housed in the Karl G. Hastedt Building commonly referred to as "VP," have been greatly expanded including the addition of substance abuse counselors and a qualified nursing staff, among others. While the Rescue Mission of Trenton has undergone many changes during the past nine decades, their focus has always been to help those in need to help themselves.
The belief in the intrinsic worth of each individual continues to motivate the Rescue Mission of Trenton to provide the highest quality care and to offer support, encouragement, and a sense of dignity to all who enter through its doors.
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