Homeless people can receive services and hot meals at Old Savannah City Mission

For any “friend or neighbor” in need of a hot meal, the Old Savannah City Mission recently reopened for evening services and hot meals served in its dining room.

These important services helped Gregory Young, now Head of Mission, and Jimmy Dawson, now General Manager at one of the Mission’s thrift stores.

The two men came to the mission from the street. Young was asked to quit the program a few weeks after his first try for breaking one of the mission’s five no-no’s: he was caught smoking a cigarette. He was more successful when he came back seven years ago.

When men join the program, they must adhere to the mission’s strict zero tolerance: no smoking, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence and no threats of violence.

“We do not refer to these people as homeless. These are people we know – our friends and neighbors, ”said CEO Larry McDaniel. “We see them on the streets. And we want to treat them with dignity and respect. They know that by coming here, they will gain dignity and respect. We [don’t] treat them like what they are, but what we know God is going to do with them. “

The mission, at 2414 rue Bull, had to interrupt its dining room service in March 2020 due to the pandemic. However, its housing and rehabilitation programs for its students were able to continue. The Mission continued to meet a need by serving more than 131,800 “take out” lunches and dinners to friends and neighbors in 2020 and the first half of 2021, according to Connell Stiles, director of mission development.

Additionally, the mission has partnered with JC Lewis Healthcare to deliver Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID vaccine to its staff, residents, and anyone coming to multiple on-site clinics in early 2021.

“They come because they are hungry.

In order to receive a meal, a person must first attend a scheduled church service that lasts 30 to 60 minutes, McDaniel said.

“Our philosophy is that a hot meal is often the first step on a path to new life. People come to us, not because they want to be saved, [and] not because they want to hear the gospel. They come here because they are hungry, he said. They want to lie down on a soft bed. And we say, “Let us tell you about a lifestyle change, where you will never go hungry.” You’ll never have to sleep in a park again. This is our approach. “

The residential mission program is for men only, but women and children in need are welcome to attend services and have a meal in the dining room.

People are not forced to participate in the program. A man can come in, take a hot shower, get clean clothes, and stay for seven nights, and then leave so somebody else can take that bed. The mission can hold up to 44 men each night, but won’t reject anyone on a cold or rainy night either. “We have rubber mats that we’ll put all over the dining room and the chapel and sometimes we’ve had 100 men here,” McDaniel said.

Before a meal is served, the men attend a 30- to 60-minute church service led by a volunteer pastor.

He added that men cannot “drag” the mission during the day. “It’s not a flophouse. It’s a house of God,” McDaniel said. If a man decides he wants to change his life, he is advised and can join the program for 13 months.

The “students,” as they are called, receive new clothes, meals, job training, life skills training, and medical care when needed. “People [who come to us] have no settings, “McDaniel continued.”[They have] no barrier or limit in their life. So for us, it all starts on time. Everything ends on time. Everything must be clean in the hospital. It’s going to be messed up, but it’s not going to stay wasted for long because someone will come and clean it up. “

Students do all mission work: custody, office work, meal preparation, warehouse, donation collection, and retail work in the two mission stores. The hallways, dormitories and bathrooms are spotless.

“We want people to see us for who we are. It’s always so crisp,” McDaniel added.

After Young was removed from the program for smoking, he returned to Swainsboro. He recalled the downward spiral his life took from there.

He was in jail in Swainsboro for shoplifting. He tells his story that the sheriff kept him in jail longer than the prosecution would allow, not because he was “going after him”, but the sheriff said, “I’m trying to save your life “.

Old Savannah City Mission is home to up to 44 men a night who come in for service and a hot meal.

“I kept telling them I wanted to go to Old Savannah City Mission and they said, ‘OK, go ahead. “But I told them I had no way of doing it,” Young said. The sheriff ended up leading Young to the mission. Young started out by driving a truck to collect donations, then one day he was asked to help make breakfast, when the mission found out that Young had been a cook in the military.

“That was seven years ago,” Young said. During this time, he renewed his ServSafe certification and also obtained a diploma in cooking. He now works full time at the mission. He said he had thought about putting his skills elsewhere to make more money, but added, “I just had to remember where I was from; and i came [God] and it provides everything I need. “

Dawson is another graduate of the mission program. McDaniel said Dawson worked his way up the warehouse job by driving one of the trucks that collected the donations; and is now the General Manager at one of the Mission’s thrift stores. “He’s doing a phenomenal job,” McDaniel said of Dawson. “Almost all of our employees got off the streets and took our program and now they’re full time employees.”

McDaniel described the merchandise the store usually stocks. The mission will not take “junk” that cannot be resold. “People call us to pick up their donations, but we also get almost new furniture in stores and hotels,” McDaniel said. “If a store gets a sofa that someone bought and returned within a few days, the store doesn’t resell that sofa. They donate this almost new sofa to us. You may be able to get a $ 1,000 sofa. $ here for $ 50. “

Some individual pieces of Lenox porcelain were on display for $ 5-10 and normally sold for over $ 30.

‘A new start’

The mission also works with men who return to society after prison.

“A [prison] the chaplain might call us and say, ‘I got a guy, he accepted Christ as his Savior. I’ve been watching it for a few years now. He’s fine, but he’s on parole and has nowhere to go, ”McDaniel said. “We will take it for three months at no cost to him or to anyone.

The only condition is that he is looking for a job; and when he gets a job and wants to stay at the mission, he pays a third of his salary to the mission. If the man doesn’t get a job in the first three months, he has to move on, McDaniel said.

“It’s a wonderful thing. And we did it with a grant,” McDaniel said. “We are loyal to this grant. We said when we [applied for] the grant is what it’s going to be and it’s what it is today. We have room for 20 men up there. “

Old Savannah City Mission is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. In its latest IRS-990 form of 2019, it listed six voting members of the board of directors, 15 employees and more than 1,900 volunteers. He claimed just over $ 1.9 million in assets and just over $ 1.7 million in liabilities, for a net balance of just over $ 200,000.

For more information, click on the Old Savannah City Mission website at oldsavannahcitymission.org.

Barbara Augsdorfer is an education and nonprofit reporter for the Savannah Morning News. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ Babs7983.

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