Cooper: Union Gospel Mission surviving

Cooper: Union Gospel Mission surviving

August 10th, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

The man who stopped by Union Gospel Mission in June had read a story in the Times Free Press about the 63-year-old organization's plight. It was out of funds, in danger of closing, and he and his wife wanted to help.

He handed the Rev. Jon Rector a wad of papers, said he didn't need a thank-you and left without leaving his last name or address. When the faith-based mission's executive director looked at the papers later, he found money orders totaling $5,000.

Rector says that couple's gift and those from many others will allow Union Gospel Mission to stay open. The organization received donations of around $45,000 after a fundraising letter went out in late May, he says.

The letter was no semiannual going-out-of-business plea, Rector says. Without an influx of funds, Union Gospel Mission would have closed in September.

"Something had to happen," he says, "[because] we did not have the resources to remain open. God definitely made it known to us that we will be staying open, and that he is faithful."

The funds, more than three times what Union Gospel Mission usually collects in summer months, will allow the mission to get caught up on its operating expenses and pay a little of its debt. But it's hardly out of the woods. Expenses, Rector says, already had been cut "to the bone."

Rector said in June that the organization needed $50,000 to $100,000 to continue. He is hoping the money that has come in will carry it until the final quarter of the year, when it receives the bulk of its donations.

"We've solved the problem for this summer," he says. "We have to do something to get ready for next summer. I don't know what form [that will take]. We have to sustain what we did this summer."

Rector says about 60 percent of the latest funds came from current donors, 30 percent from new donors and 10 percent from reactivated givers.

In the near future, Rector says the mission will begin making slots available for homeless men to join the residential recovery program. Because of the lack of money, though, he hasn't made any slots available for months.

"If we bring new people in," he says, "we're doing what we do. And that's a return-on-investment scenario. We do this to make us viable. This is not to provide me with a job; that's not my calling."

Rector says he's turned away a minimum of five guys over the last few months.

"The needs are not going away anytime soon," he says. "Regardless of the polls and pundits, the economy is not making any major improvements. So it'll lag or sag if it does not continue to improve."

Sometime in what Rector hopes will be the not-too-distant future, Union Gospel Mission can re-establish an emergency shelter.

"We've always been committed to [that]," he said. "It's the No. 1 most-needed thing. We're trying to lay out a course [of] how could we do it. That's where the most good will be done for people who need our help."

In the meantime, he will hope for more angels like the man with the money orders - "one of those completely selfless acts ... what was laid on his heart" - and will stand on verses such as 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love" - which he says has been a source of strength in recent days.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to my posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.