Dearest friend and supporter,
Spring is here, and as warmer days and blooming flowers begin to reappear, those of us at Hope Gospel Mission are giving thanks for new life in the midst of a tremendously busy season.
Just a couple of months ago, the Mission held a groundbreaking ceremony to launch the public phase of our Campaign For Hope. The event was held at the site of the new Hope Renewal Center for Men, and we were thrilled to celebrate this exciting day with so many of our dear supporters and community leaders.
Here at the Mission, our 20th year of ministry continues, and as the Campaign For Hope moves forward, we are blessed to be able to celebrate our history and plan for the future at the same time. We've included an update in this issue of The Hope, so take a look, and see how you can join us in this exciting project.
Also in this issue, Carolyn, one of our residents, shares her own story of new life, and we'll introduce you to Linda Velie, our brand new Community Relations Coordinator.
We may be in the midst of a very busy spring, but we are so grateful to have precious friends like you who walk this road with us. Thank you for partnering with us, celebrating with us, and rebuilding lives with us as we serve the hurting in the Chippewa Valley!
"I was a nanny before my addiction got really bad," Carolyn begins. "But when the family I worked for lost their home, I was homeless all of a sudden. I turned to drugs for comfort, and I got really sick, really fast."
Just before Thanksgiving last year, that addiction nearly cost Carolyn her life. She overdosed, and though the nurses at the hospital fully expected that she would be brain dead, Carolyn began to recover. A social worker recommended the Mission, and Carolyn soon found a place here.
"It was like God opening a door for me," she says. "The first time I walked into the Ruth House, it just felt like coming home. It was a grace I didn't deserve, but I accepted it wholeheartedly because I knew I needed it!"
In the months since Carolyn arrived, she's worked to relearn the social and relational skills that her addiction took from her.
"Drugs really mess you up mentally," she shares. "I couldn't think for myself or figure out what to do next…
I was so out of sync with regular society from the drug use, but God performs miracles every day!"
Nothing Short of Amazing
Carolyn has been sober for several months now, and she continues to work hard to reach her goals. She's completing job training in the Bargain Center, and she's enjoying the relationships she's built with the community.
"So many people come to cook for us or donate things or take us to appointments," she smiles. "Some women from my church drove me to Ellsworth to pick up my belongings. They took me to lunch and spoiled me the whole day. They could have been doing anything else, but they stayed with me. It was nothing short of amazing!"
Walking in the Light
As Carolyn continues to grow in faith and confidence, she's leaning on the Lord for guidance. Once she completes the program, she hopes to do some Mission work, but for now, she's content to focus on rebuilding her life.
Carolyn says, "I'm taking this time to learn as much as I can.
I don't want to rush the process. I'm just so happy to have this opportunity to walk in the light in the way I should be living!
"It was complete torture when I was using drugs because I knew I should be somewhere else doing something else. I knew the life I was living was wrong, and I knew God had a plan for me, but I just couldn't see it.
"Now I can see it, and I know that I can do this! I am worthy because God paid a ransom for me."
Thank you for being one of the faithful partners that's helping Carolyn find new hope. Because of your partnership, she will leave here with a life that's rescued, rebuilt, and renewed.
Names and photos in stories may have been changed for privacy.
This year, Hope Gospel Mission is celebrating 20 years of hope and ministry. Throughout the year, we're going to use this newsletter to share how God has faithfully led the Mission through the last two decades and how we're trusting Him to carry us into the future.
This month, we talked to Chris Hedlund, our Program Director, about what the Mission is doing to rescue, rebuild and renew the lives of our residents.
The Hope: What is your background, and what first led you to work at the Mission?
Chris Hedlund: I grew up working in the newspaper industry, and then switched over to human resources. I spent many years working as a staffing consultant. I'd ask the clients similar questions: what are you looking for in a good employee? What traits are important? What do you want to avoid? I took a lot of notes, and over time, I realized that very strong patterns were emerging. When Hope Gospel Mission realized what I did, they asked me to develop a program for their residents that could help them be better employees and get and keep the jobs they wanted.
The residents are afraid that if they have felonies or a poor work history or didn't graduate from high school that they won't be able to find a job, but that's not what I experienced at all. Most employers are looking for integrity, character, people skills, etc. Those things are more important to them.
TH: What specific needs do you see that are being filled by the program you teach?
CH: People from staffing companies call me all the time, and they always say the same thing: they can't find good employees. They know that the people who come out of the classes and programs here are very employable, so they come to me looking for referrals.
Employers find that our people have a good work ethic, are reliable and dependable, and have a good attitude. They've spent a year working on character traits and setting goals, so we're sending out good employees.
TH: You've been with the Mission for 13 years now. Can you share one of your favorite memories from your time here?
CH: Too many to choose! We had a guy come into the program with a gambling addiction that had cost him millions of dollars, but he was a talented carpenter who really wanted to own his own business. We mentored him, and he actually started a woodworking business as he completed the program. He'd lost his business to gambling earlier on in life, so to see him enjoying life and reaching his goals was so exciting.
TH: We're celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. What do you hope the Mission looks like in another 20 years?
CH: When we started in 1998, we didn't know what we were doing! We thought that giving the homeless a meal and a shower would help them get back on their feet, but what we discovered was that we were making it too easy to be homeless.
As we learned more about homelessness and addiction, we began to really understand that to break the cycle of poverty, we needed to help them move forward.
Being homeless and unemployed are just symptoms. If you don't deal with the root issue, they'll be back at your door as soon as they lose the next job.
So we began to implement faith-based programing. We added vocational and academic elements and began to focus on wellness to help the residents break free from addiction and poverty.
We've learned quite a lot in the last twenty years, and we've applied it so we can do it better next time.
My hope is that in the next 20 years, we'll take what we've learned and use it to help women with children and hopefully someday apply it to intact families as well. As needs change and other issues arise, we still want to help people get well.
I see people come in so miserable and hopeless and unhappy, and then I see them leave with unexplainable joy and peace. That transformation is what I love most about what I do!
On Friday, February 23, Hope Gospel Mission officially launched the public phase of the Campaign For Hope with a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new Hope Renewal Center for Men. Many of our dear supporters, ministry partners, and community leaders joined us for the celebration!
The Campaign For Hope is the Mission's biggest expansion in our 20 year history. As we build this larger facility for men and expand our services to include women with children in the new Hope Renewal Center for Women and Children,
we're asking our faithful friends to partner with us in giving.
If you feel the Lord leading you to partner with us, please consider committing to a single, monthly, or annual gift.
Introducing our new Community Relations Coordinator!
Linda Velie has been here for just a few months, but she's already a pro at getting to the heart of the matter at the Mission.
"I am having such a wonderful time learning about the holistic, life-changing programs we have here," she smiles. "This is a team of passionate professionals, and everything we do is to help the residents!"
As our new Community Relations Coordinator, Linda works with all of our volunteers and handles public relations for the Mission. She uses her history in the hospitality industry to help volunteers choose a place to serve that fits their personality and interests, and she views everything she does as a ministry opportunity.
"So many exciting things are happening right now at the Mission," she says. "I'm blessed to build relationships with local media, churches, businesses and other community organizations to share what's going on here!
"The Lord opened this amazing door for me at the Mission, and 'for such a time as this,' I'm here now."
Linda is looking forward to working with our incredible volunteers, and she hopes more people will come serve.
"Recruiting volunteers is one of my favorite things! I love to meet the people who give their time to this great cause... believe me, we have fun!"
Linda hopes to increase our partnership with local businesses and media outlets, so if your organization would like to learn more about making a difference in our community, please reach out to her. She is waiting to take you or your group on a tour of the Mission and help you find a great way to get involved.
Hope Gospel Mission is excited to introduce a new thrift store in
Menomonie! The store, slated to open in early summer, will sell mainly clothing and household items,* and sales will help fund the new Hope Renewal Center for Women and Children.
Volunteers will be greatly needed during construction and once the store is open. The Mission is also currently hiring staff; anyone interested in these opportunities can apply online here.
Donations are always appreciated and will be accepted in Menomonie as the store opening date draws closer.
*Most of our furniture and building materials will continue to be sold at the Eau Claire stores.