Community Faith

Homeless ministry raises enough money to purchase property

A miracle occurred on 828 Fenwick Street.

A little after noon on Thursday, Sept. 14, the Garden City Rescue Mission and Life Development Center had already well exceeded its fundraising goal to keep their home which had been in jeopardy and by Friday, the totals continued to rise with more than $670,000 raised.

The rescue mission, which averages serving more than 400 homeless individuals a year and more than 30 different people a month, has been at the same location for more than two decades but in recent months was served with an eviction notice and a Sept. 15 deadline.

The property owners agreed to allow the organization the first option to purchase the property with four months to raise the money to cover the $495,000 sales price and closing cost while remaining in the building at the same time.

The GCRM’s goal was $495,000 and had raised $333,468 as of Sept. 9. Officials relied on fundraising efforts, including the Sept. 14 telethon.

And on Thursday, they posted boldly on Facebook, “GOD IS NOT ONLY ANSWERING A PRAYER, HE IS BUILDING A DREAM. We are not only going to be able to purchase the property, with the money still coming in, will be able to secure and expand the GCRM ministry to reach the homeless in our city in an even bigger way.”

The Rev. Patrick Feistel, executive director has a big vision for the mission.   

He said he wants to tear down a small brick building being used for storage to the right of a courtyard with tables where the homeless men can go during the day and build a simple, accessible chapel in the old building’s place.

The current chapel, to the left of the courtyard, is on a second floor at the facility and is not accessible to the handicapped. In addition, an addiction and discipleship program is also upstairs which is also not handicapped accessible. The men have classes three days a week, including Bibliology classes (theological classes about the Bible) and one class that is dedicated to recovery from all type of addictions including drugs and alcohol.

“We require sobriety for those we serve to stay with us. They have to blow into a breathalyzer to stay here overnight. They work hard all day to see that zero,” Feistel said.

When the weather is cooler, Feistel said they have open air chapel meetings in the courtyard which are available to all.  

Volunteers prepare nightly meal. Ron Baxley Jr./Augusta Good News

He said they require that those who are being provided services go to daily chapel at the mission. But he said that they can miss chapel on workdays if they have obtained a legitimate job with documentation.

“We also bus the entire mission to Victory Baptist Church in North Augusta every Sunday,” Feistel said.

The mission seeks not only to serve the spiritual needs of homeless men in the community but the physical needs, and Feistel is seeking ways to help the disabled homeless as well as the able-bodied.

“I want to put handicapped accessible showers in the potential building with the planned chapel,” he said.

The current building has cots / bedding for the non-disabled homeless men downstairs. It also has a kitchen, dining area, storage areas for food donations and clothing, and access to showers.

“We do not house the disabled, but we do accommodate them in some ways. We don’t have ladies but give help to them as well,” he said. 

On Friday mornings, the center provides resources and showers to men and women in the community. It also works on referrals to provide additional support.

Regional churches provide meals to the homeless men on a nightly basis. Feistel said the mission feeds between 55-60 every night. Earlier this week, homeless men were served a meal beef stew with vegetables, rice and a roll.

Upstairs at the current facility, there are 20 beds for the long-term program. The men in the long-term program have earned their place there. In fact, those who have earned trust can graduate to having lockers upstairs.

Feistel said some of these men run laundry duties, some run clothing in-take (clothing is provided for the men in the mission), and others have various tasks.

Garden City Rescue Mission and Life Development Center officials raised enough funds to keep its Fenwick Street home. Ron Baxley Jr.,/Augusta Good News

Those who are just entering the program have plastic totes which can be opened at any time by those in charge. At least one man is put in charge of the tote room each day. In addition, live-in directors are located on the second floor. 

“We always have somebody up all night long with the men. He makes sure the men are where they are supposed to be and not where they are not supposed to be,” said Feistel.

Feistel says the core of what they do for these men comes from the King James version of Job 31:32, “The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveler.”

He is also inspired by the late, historic British missionary C.T. Studd and has a lyrical quote from Studd posted in his office:

“Some want to live within the sound

Of church or chapel bell;

I want to run a rescue shop,

Within a yard of hell.”

Correspondent Ron Baxley Jr. is a veteran journalist who has worked with multiple news organizations in his career. Subscribe to the Augusta Good News’ newsletter here.

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