Nov. 12, 2020
Nov. 12, 2020
Two weeks from Thanksgiving, I still have trouble picturing exactly what it’s going to look like. I know it won’t be what we wanted. This will be the first year in our 56-year history that we will not have the community joining us inside the Mission for a feast.
Because our Food Service Program is still operating bare-bones due to staff shortages and minimal volunteers, we simply can’t stretch to prepare a full Thanksgiving feast. And we can’t all sit and eat together like we normally would, anyway. Because caring friends have been giving toward this special meal, we will be able to buy to-go meals to hand out to our hungry neighbors.
So that’s what we plan to do. We’ll set up tents on our grounds just outside the front doors and follow all safety protocols. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we will offer to-go meals for people who need them, along with personal hygiene items. We’ll also have a prayer tent where people can go to pray with someone on the spot, or leave a request. Other details still need to be worked out, but we’ll get there.
It all seems so strange. I’d call it a drive-by Thanksgiving, except many of our community members who join us for meals don’t drive to the Mission. They walk. This unusual warm spell in early November has helped our homeless population, but our socially distanced beds are still nearly full and we soon will have to implement our overflow plan. We pray that the weather holds a while longer, especially so Thanksgiving isn’t full of rain or snow or bitter cold.
I read a devotional article this week that asked a hard question: Why do we so easily trust God for our eternity, but we have a harder time trusting Him with our daily, earthly concerns? Why is it hard to trust Him with this Thanksgiving and Christmas season and the prospect of being separated from loved ones?
In a time of crisis, we all long for normal. Well, we won’t have normal this year, but it doesn’t mean God isn’t paying close attention. Who knows what opportunities await if we trust Him with our fears, our uncertainties and our traditions?
So that’s our prayer, as we prepare for this most unusual Thanksgiving Feast — that God uses the Mission to extend help and hope to those who need it. That He will work in people’s lives, and that we can rest in trusting Him.
Even if everything looks very different this year.
Partners in Hope,
Oct. 29, 2020
Homelessness has been increasing nationally over the past few years, and we have experienced it here at the Mission. During COVID-19, we have had to reduce the number of Crisis Center beds available in order to protect our guests by social distancing. But even with that reduction, we are still serving more people every day now than we did several years ago.
We think a federal response announced last week gives new hope. The new plan is called Expanding the Toolbox: The Whole-of-Government Response to Homelessness. It was developed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness—which included looking at successful, faith-based approaches. This plan finally addresses root causes of homelessness and moves past partial solutions that have only worsened the problem.
The number of unsheltered homeless people in the U.S. rose 20.5 percent between 2014 and 2019. During that same stretch of time, we saw a 22-percent increase in the number of people we serve here at the Mission. These increases happened even though federal spending on homeless assistance doubled in the past decade. The funding centered on a “housing first” approach — simply providing homeless people with government-subsidized housing vouchers. No preconditions were required to receive these vouchers, like a minimum income threshold or even sobriety.
I believe these were good, honest efforts by government to help homeless people. But housing alone is not the answer. If you simply drop someone into housing without also giving them life skills, job skills and spiritual help, you’ve only given false hope. It simply becomes a revolving door.
The new federal plan looks at the whole person. Affordable housing is one area of emphasis, but it doesn’t take priority over everything else. For example, areas like the dignity of work and trauma-informed care get mentioned prominently. Those are already high priorities at the Mission, through our Works! Center, our Crisis Centers and Life Recovery programs and our participation in the Trauma Informed Community initiative.
I am so encouraged by all of this. It validates the approach we have taken for decades here at the Mission, and I think it can move our country forward toward better loving our neighbors. Moving someone away from homelessness and addiction requires that we serve the whole person—practically, physically, emotionally and especially, spiritually.
Partners in hope,
Oct. 22, 2020
Recently, I was getting ready to leave the Mission around 5:30 p.m. When I got into my car, I saw a gentleman across the street, carrying a satchel and walking toward the Mission. He stopped at the front door and I could tell he was reading the signs about admission.
Knowing that everything was locked up for the day, I thought, I need to get out and help this guy. I crossed the street and approached him, keeping social distance.
I asked if I could help him. “I’m homeless for the first time,” he said. “I was sent here by RAMP (which serves people with disabilities). I don’t have a clue what to do.”
“Did you check around on the Men’s Crisis Center side of the building?” I asked.
“I did, but no one answered the door.”
“OK, they’re probably at dinner right now.”
He was wearing a mask. I had forgotten to put mine back on before leaving my car. So I unlocked the Mission’s front door, grabbed a free mask from the stand and put it on.
“Please wait here in the lobby and I’ll be right back,” I told him.
Before COVID-19, I would have just walked him right over to our Men’s Crisis Center. I’ve done the same thing many times over the years. Now, I had to rethink everything.
Everyone was eating dinner in the Great Room, so I came back to the lobby and told the man, “I need you to stay here because I can’t let you in right now. Everyone is eating dinner.”
I then walked over to the Men’s Crisis staff member overseeing the meal.
“I know check-in time was at 4, but I’ve let in a man who was at the front entrance and he’s in the lobby. He’s never been homeless and we really need to help him.”
The staff member called Mike Hedrick, our Homeless Services Director. Mike told him to let the man in to the Men’s Crisis Center and to use the room where we briefly quarantine new people by themselves until they can be checked by our clinic nurse.
Back outside again. I walked our new guest around the building to the Men’s Crisis Center entrance where the staff person met us and he was let in. I reminded the staff to please make sure that he got something to eat. The next morning, the man checked in with our clinic, got the all-clear and was allowed into the regular Men’s Crisis area.
That’s life during COVID-19. Our formerly normal routine has had many changes. Everything feels strange as we are so vigilant against the virus. But even with all of that, it was a great feeling to know we can continue to help people even though there are several more hoops to jump through to keep everyone safe. I’m thankful we are here to serve him and many others.
As you may know, the Mission is coming off another COVID bout. We had a couple of staff members test positive and we had to take drastic steps to keep everyone safe since nearly everyone in the building had been exposed. Our food service operation was hampered (but never stopped!) and our clinic was closed for over a week. Thankfully, to this point we have had no other positive cases. Our ill staff members are OK and have returned.
Our numbers of residents and guests are rising again, too. We had 92 overnight last week, including more moms and kids than we have seen in a while. That’s inching closer to our capacity during social distancing. We’re working with the Winnebago County Health Department to devise a plan for expanding our shelter capacity into the Great Room area where we serve meals.
I know that need will arise as cold weather sets in. We so appreciate your prayers and encouragement as this challenging season now runs into late fall and winter.
Partners in hope,
Oct. 1, 2020
No major changes are required for the Mission’s retail stores when COVID-19 restrictions tighten this weekend in the Rockford area.
Rockford is part of Illinois Region 1, which will implement tighter restrictions starting Saturday, Oct. 2, because of the COVID-19 positive test rate. At Nettie’s Mercantile, the only change will be that no inside dining will be allowed. Grab & Go food and drinks remain available as always. Face masks and social distancing are required at both Thrift Store and Nettie’s. Both stores continue to adhere to all CDC guidelines.
At Nettie’s, join us Friday and Saturday for Fall Frolic, with new fall décor items, extended store hours, specialty drinks and soups, homemade cookies, gift drawings and more. The store, at 625 West State St., features Remade items crafted by our Life Recovery residents and volunteers. Store hours for this special event are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. (The store is open Thursday for its regular hours, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
One hundred percent of Nettie’s sales support Rockford Rescue Mission and its programs.
Sept. 24, 2020
In October 2018, just before I started working at Rockford Rescue Mission, I attended a worship concert. I noticed that a lot of the lyrics to the songs were about breaking chains of bondage, being redeemed and restored.
I knew I was going to be working at the Mission, but I didn’t yet know a lot about the Life Recovery Program. I could sense God speaking to me as I worshiped during that concert: You need to bring this to the program.
During COVID-19, we’ve been doing more praise and worship here at the Mission — starting because we had more time. Our volunteer-led classes have had to pause during the pandemic. Sometimes instead, we’ve watched online church services. Worship helps prepare us to deal with trials and adversity. It prepares our hearts and minds for what God is going to tell us.
Soon, we envision regular praise and worship in our Performing Arts Center, and teaching our residents the importance and history of it. What Scriptures do the songs and hymns come from? What do the lyrics mean? I want the residents to deeply understand the songs they are singing.
One of our Men’s Life Recovery residents at the Mission was still fairly new. The group was watching a church service online. During one of the songs, I felt prompted to ask him something.
“Do you understand what these lyrics are actually saying to you?”
He said he didn’t.
So I told him the song is about how we are set free through Jesus’ blood and resurrection power. “Now just sit back and listen. Meditate on these lyrics.”
Not even five minutes later, the online pastor said exactly what I had just told our resident.
Our resident looked over at me.
“How did you know he was going to say that?”
“I didn’t,” I said. “That was the Holy Spirit.”
I think of the biblical story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. God ordered the people of Israel to march around the city for seven days, worshiping Him. And then He brought down the walls.
At the Mission, and especially during the pandemic, we can teach our residents to apply that story when they face adversity and trials. God will take care of it. Yes, there are some things we will have to do to partner with Him. But so often we try to take on so much that isn’t our battle. It’s His.
Recovery Services Director
Sept. 17, 2020
Even though Rockford Rescue Mission is unusual in that all of our men’s and women’s programs reside under one roof, if necessary we can operate them as separate entities. During COVID-19, this has become important.
If necessary, we can isolate any one of our departments — Men’s or Women’s Life Recovery, Men’s or Women’s Crisis. We can do this without having to shut down the rest of the building and quarantining everyone. This will be especially helpful if we do get more COVID-19 cases, because even if one department needs to be quarantined, we can continue to operate the others with minimal disruption.
I was one of several staff members who got COVID-19 last spring. Thankfully, I didn’t get as sick as some others have. We prayed through it. The worst of it was over in three days — it was like a bad cold and then the fever spiked. Even then, I was able to work from home every day. I returned to work after I was symptom-free for seven days. Thankfully, I didn’t give it to any family members.
Getting COVID-19 was an unmistakable message in how serious this all is, especially to our more-vulnerable community members. All of us here at the Mission take the safety precautions we are supposed to take. We all wear masks and practice social distancing. I even carry hand sanitizer wherever I go.
But I also don’t feel like I should shy away from any of our guests. I just believe that God’s got my back. I will take the necessary precautions, but I am here to serve. When I was in need a few years ago, somebody was here to serve me. Now I want to be here for somebody else.
Homeless Services Director
Sept. 10, 2020
The chill in the air this week has been a good reminder that winter isn’t far away. And winter will bring a new set of challenges related to COVID-19.
This summer, the Mission’s Men’s and Women’s Crisis centers have been at half our normal capacity so we can accommodate for social distancing. It has worked OK in these warm months.
Part of our ability to reopen after our quarantine has been because we are not admitting people who aren’t staying in our programs. For instance, anyone who is not staying at the Mission can still get meals from us, but carry-out only.
Things change when the weather gets cold. Winter will bring a surge of Crisis guests to our doors. We are the only heating center in the City of Rockford after 5 p.m. and on the weekends. There is no one else open. We don’t know yet what this winter is going to look like. If it’s like two years ago, when the temperature fell far below zero for quite a few nights, then somebody’s got to come up with something.
So, we are looking at ways to increase our capacity and still keep everybody safe. It starts with putting some beds in our day rooms, and then possibly partitioning parts of our Great Room so we can house guests there and still serve meals in the other part.
I sit on the board of the Northern Illinois Homeless Coalition, and we are looking at ways the Mission could partner with other agencies to help us provide more capacity. Because if we expand our sleeping areas into other parts of the building, then that will require more staff … more beds … basically more everything. How do we do all of that — keep people warm and still keep guests, residents, staff and volunteers safe?
We think we have some good ideas, but we also really need your prayer support as we talk about solutions. I hate that term “new normal.” But we really are having to look at how can we be fluid and change our processes and systems. We are learning to adapt to this situation — pray, think, collaborate and innovate — instead of expecting the situation to adapt to us.
That’s a good lesson for any ministry.
Homeless Services Director
More next week about how the Mission is adapting and thriving during COVID-19.
August 27, 2020
It’s standard practice for recovery programs to keep men and women separate … for obvious reasons. Before they entered recovery, many of our residents’ exposure and activities with the opposite sex were unhealthy – often limited to partying and the drug scene. In that environment, you learn manipulation – getting attention and getting what you want.
During COVID-19 and with the absence of volunteer teachers and counselors, we’ve had to get creative with classes and other key aspects of the Life Recovery Program. For our staff to handle the additional workload, we have combined some men’s and women’s classes.
The results have been surprisingly great. We’ve seen new conversations — both in classroom settings and among individuals — about how to be friends and peers. They all are on a similar journey. That has enabled us to dive in deeper into each other’s lives and get to know each other better.
During the pandemic, at times when we were under quarantine, even our transitional folks were unable to leave to go to their jobs. With restrictions on volunteers, there also has been much more to do here at the Mission. Our Men’s and Women’s Recovery residents have stepped up for extra duty like helping in the kitchen, working together to serve and feed our Crisis guests. They even planned and held a cookout for them.
All of this has contributed to a peer-to-peer atmosphere among our residents. As they have gotten to know each other better, they have been encouraging and helping one another in recovery. They pray for each other. In short, they are interacting as brothers and sisters in Christ, rather than people who just want something from each other. It’s a family atmosphere, where people care for each other, serve each other, laugh together and heal together.
And here’s what’s been so surprising: We don’t have nearly the problem with romantic relationships popping up that we had before, when everything was more segregated. Before, it was kind of like when you tell someone they can’t do something, so that’s exactly what they want to do. Things feel very different today.
Most of the other rescue missions we have visited still keep men and women segregated. Most don’t even house the programs in the same building or even the same neighborhood. So there is not that opportunity for interaction.
Rockford Rescue Mission has everyone in the same building. So, we are seizing that opportunity to teach our male and female residents how to interact in healthy ways. Relationships are the core of what we do: first the relationship with Christ, but then also healthy relationships with each other. They need to build a support network when they leave here, with friends, mentors, sponsors and people in their churches. These are the people who will hold them accountable and encourage them.
So, COVID-19 has pushed us further in this good direction, providing new ways to help our residents learn healthy behavior as they see it in each other. It sets a pattern for success.
Chief Program Officer
August 20, 2020
Think about how cooped-up you and your family have felt during COVID-19. Now imagine being a resident at Rockford Rescue Mission for all of this time. A little time away can work wonders.
A couple of weeks ago, we took our Men’s and Women’s Life Recovery residents to Baumann Park in Cherry Valley for a cookout, and then to Cattle & Cream for ice cream. Because of our quarantines and other safety protocols, many of them hadn’t been away from the Mission since March.
They quickly became kids again. Forty-year-old adults were rolling down a hill, laughing … having clean, healthy fun together.
It has been so encouraging to see that our residents and guests appreciate how we are trying to create a safe environment for them. Like just about everyone else in the world right now, they get frustrated sometimes with the limited movement policy. But overall, we get a lot of comments like this:
“We understand you are trying to keep us safe. You could have completely shut down because of this but you wanted to create a safe place for us to stay and to heal. Thank you.”
Moments like that are good for our staff. There are other days, like when a Crisis guest or a Recovery resident gets angry and leaves the program, that we feel unappreciated … like what we are doing doesn’t matter. But it has been neat to see when our guests and residents do realize that their lives are important to us, and that is why we are doing what we do.
After the cookout, the residents wrote notes and cards expressing appreciation to our staff. This also shows that they have reached a new place in their recovery. They can recognize that there are people who love them and who are trying to help them. Because for some of our residents, up until a couple of months ago they would have said everyone in the world was against them. To watch them now, starting to see things in a normal and healthy way, is pretty nice.
Chief Program Officer
July 23, 2020
Last weekend, the guests in our Women’s Crisis centers were treated to a surprise cookout right here on Mission grounds (while maintaining social distancing).
That’s already a nice story, but it gets better. The cookout was conceived, planned and served by our Life Recovery residents as a gift to our guests. Some weeks earlier, they had a cookout for themselves. Then they wanted to take things a step further, to serve others selflessly. They also took the time to encourage the women with written Scripture verses.
I can’t even describe how good that makes me feel.
In a year of pandemic and periodic quarantine, our numbers at the Mission have been necessarily down. But at the same time, something great is happening. The men and women in our Life Recovery programs have been growing like a family as they spend more and more time together.
Even as things remain uncertain because of COVID-19, our residents have made the active and deliberate choice to look for God’s blessings, and then to bless others. Those blessings are not found in material prosperity, but in seeing life through the lens of gratitude.
It reminded me that we all can give thanks and live gratefully even before deliverance comes. God is with us through it all.
Partners in Hope,
July 9, 2020
In a season where nothing is very certain yet, it’s been wonderful to see our new Nettie’s Mercantile open.
Nettie’s combines our Remade store and the former Restoration Cafe, next-door to the Mission at 625 W. State St. It’s named after Nettie Golden White Pitney, the mother of Mission co-founder G.O. Pitney. (She was my kids’ great-grandmother.) Nettie was a simple, kind lady with a heart for God and for people.
We envisioned Nettie’s as a unique shopping experience — where the Mission’s theme of restoration fills the senses. A Remade item reflects not only renewal of the item itself, but also of the person who crafted it. You’ll also find antiques, unique clothing, jewelry and more. We already sell delicious bakery items and our Restoration Blend coffee … with table and counter seating right in the store. Soon we’ll also offer sandwiches, salads and additional food and drinks.
We also can customize items — from hand-painted signs to choosing the exact color you want in a piece made by our Life Recovery men and women. Or, maybe you have a piece of furniture or decor that needs a facelift. At Nettie’s, we can bring the piece to life again by painting and personalizing it. Bring in your idea and we can work with you on it!
Word is spreading already. After people come to the store once, many are coming back … and bringing their friends and relatives. With new and unique items added daily, Nettie’s is never the same store twice.
Best of all, when you shop at Nettie’s you directly benefit Rockford Rescue Mission and the men, women and children we minister to each day. Our residents are so encouraged and inspired to know that something they’ve made is being used in your home décor. Supporting Nettie’s is a special way to show your care for our community and to extend the love of Christ to all. Come see us soon!
Partners in Hope,
July 2, 2020
It has been such a thrill to see our Thrift Store open for business again. The shutdown for COVID-19 impacted our customers, staff, volunteers, donors and of course Rockford Rescue Mission in general.
The Mission’s retail operations — which are Thrift Store and Nettie’s Mercantile — comprised 16.3 percent of our revenue last year. Three months of closed doors left a large deficit, which directly impacts our ability to serve our community’s homeless and hurting people. And, no one knows the extended impact of COVID-19 as this year goes on. We are in a prayerful time of uncertainty.
Meantime, the Thrift Store is buzzing with activity. Our drive-thru donation bay at the rear of the store has always been a busy place. But, since our reopening in June, we have never seen anything like it. At our peak just after reopening, we took donations from 200 cars in four hours. I’ll save you the math: That’s four cars every five minutes.
That’s good news, and we are so grateful. But it’s also more than we can efficiently handle. With that in mind, let me answer some frequently asked questions of late:
Why are you only accepting donations 12 hours a week?
It’s a combination of limited manpower and limited space to process everything. We also now are adjusting to the July 1 Illinois minimum wage increase, meaning we can’t afford to increase the store’s staffing levels as much as we would like.
I’ve been saving donations throughout the COVID-19 shutdown. Should I bring them all to the Thrift Store now?
If you can spread out your donations over the next couple of months, that would help us a lot. We just don’t have the manpower to handle the generosity of our community when it comes all at once.
Do you need volunteers at the store?
What we need immediately are a couple of volunteers to help at the donation door. Before people quickly volunteer, they need to understand what they are in for. It’s a workout, involving heavy lifting, in the summer heat. If you are up for that challenge, please contact us. Meantime, we have reincorporated about 10 volunteers at the store, and will add more in the coming weeks. If you would like to volunteer, start here.
The store doesn’t always look full. Does that mean donations are down?
Not at all. What it means is that our limited crew is spending most of its time getting donations from the receiving bay to the processing or recycling area. Which, in turn, leaves less time to process and tag items, and place them for sale in the store. We’ll catch up, but it’s taking time.
Do you need winter clothing?
Not yet. Please hold onto your winter clothing items and donate them this fall. We’re filling the store with summer clothing right now. And with the huge volume of donations coming in, we just don’t have space to store winter items.
Next time: I’ll tell you about Nettie’s Mercantile, which is also open and busy!
Partners in hope,
June 18, 2020
Rockford Rescue Mission shares hope and help in Jesus’ name to move people from homelessness and despair toward personal and spiritual wholeness.
That’s taken from our purpose statement. It continues:
This ministry will serve humanity in the spirit expressed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Matthew 25:35-36, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.”
It would be pretty hard to serve humanity without first believing passionately that every person on this earth is created, valued and unconditionally loved by God. And then, we strive to reflect those attributes of God in our lives, our relationships and our work.
After quoting Jesus’ words in Matthew 25, the Mission’s purpose statement ends this way:
To that end, this Corporation is engaged in rescue, missionary, educational and evangelistic work, proclaiming salvation through belief in Jesus Christ the Son of God.
All of our work — rescue, recover, restore — proclaims the Good News of Jesus. The kingdom of God is among us. We do this work together with deep respect for every person’s dignity and immortality. This is not to say, “We don’t see color.” Of course we do. And that’s fine. As a society, we can’t fix what we claim we can’t see.
Go deeper, and we can see the color that matters most. Red. It’s the blood of Jesus, which unites and frees us all as children of God. It doesn’t erase cultural differences. No need. We share common ground. No one stands above or below anyone else. We’re family.
Our community and our nation are grappling with deep pain. Amid this, the Mission continues to serve the hopeless and hurting with the love of Jesus. May we do so humbly, with a listening ear … and as a family.
Partners in hope,
June 18, 2020
June 2, 2020
We are again accepting new guests into our Crisis Centers. We have adjusted our intake policies to include ongoing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the Winnebago County Health Department.
If you or someone you know needs emergency shelter, please call 815-965-5332 to inquire about the process and our current bed availability. Our Crisis Centers remain on a limited-movement policy to protect the health and safety of all guests and staff at the Mission. Call us for details.
May 28, 2020
I am grateful to report that the Mission’s quarantine has been lifted! We will open our doors Monday, June 1, for new Crisis guests and Life Recovery residents.
Like everywhere else, this good news is far from an “all clear” signal. We will continue to take extreme safety precautions against the coronavirus. But we are so glad to be moving in the right direction.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, two of our staff members, Ted and Pam Tomita, came to the Mission to share worship music with our ladies in Crisis and Recovery. As Ted played his guitar, one of our Women’s Life Recovery residents sang the lyrics to Break Every Chain:
There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain, break every chain, break every chain
It was an emotional moment, especially for many of the women in our Crisis center. The song became intensely personal, and God’s presence was obvious. As Ted and Pam told us about it this week, I thought: Have we provided enough opportunity for moments like this?
I’ve been thinking lately about what a return to “normal” will mean. In our “normal” culture, we worry about small things: What am I going to wear? Do I look put-together on the outside? But as I’ve lived through this COVID-19 experience, the small things are losing their importance. The bigger question for weathering a storm like this is: Am I put-together on the inside?
Here at the Mission, we want to help our residents and guests with life’s bigger questions. “Normal” for us should mean we are always asking together: Is everything we are doing truly helpful in restoring hope and changing lives? There are so many things that quickly fade, but we want to focus on those things that will last a lifetime.
This has been a hard season, and it isn’t over, but I am grateful that God is speaking loudly and clearly here. I am grateful to our community for your partnership in this ministry. As we take another step toward “normal,” may we all be changed to recognize the truly significant over the things that are fleeting and distract us from the better things.
Partners in hope,
May 22, 2020
Thrift Store is excited to announce we will be accepting contactless donations. Beginning Tuesday, May 26, donations will be accepted on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Saturdays beginning June 6. Thrift Store asks our donors to do the following to ensure safe contactless donations:
May 21, 2020
As COVID-19 drags on, it feels like we all are waiting to emerge from a cocoon. Good days are coming, though.
We are tentatively planning Friday, June 5 as the re-opening date for our Thrift Store, and also as the first day open for Nettie’s Mercantile & Café. (UPDATE: Thrift Store will open Wednesday, June 10; Nettie’s opening date to be announced soon.) Our retail proceeds from these two outlets form a significant chunk of the Mission’s operating income – 17 percent in 2019. We also know we have lost about $60,000 in net revenue over the past two months with both stores being closed.
And of course, we are thinking of our many Thrift Store customers who depend on us for high-quality donated clothing and goods. This need will only be greater as our community recovers economically from COVID-19.
So we are excited to re-open soon — even if state or local circumstances change and the date has to be adjusted a little. But it’s not as simple as just unlocking the doors and turning on the lights again. This week, we are sorting through information and health directives about reopening responsibly. Guidelines are still emerging for sanitation and disinfecting workplaces to protect both customers and staff.
The Thrift Store presents a particular challenge. We know many of you have been accumulating items for us over these past few weeks! Now, we are deciding exactly how we will keep everyone safe as we receive and process those donations at the store. One thing to note: We won’t be doing pickups from people’s homes just yet.
We are excited about Nettie’s finally opening, too. This represents a combining of the Restoration Café and our Remade shop. The building, next-door to the Mission on State Street, has received a makeover and now becomes a delectable eatery and a unique shopping experience, all to benefit the ministry of Rockford Rescue Mission.
I can’t wait to see you soon.
Partners in Hope,
May 14, 2020
Partners in Hope,
May 7, 2020
In my message last Thursday (April 30), I mentioned how our Rockford Rescue Mission staff had reached a point of weariness and discouragement. Several had been out sick, and with our building under quarantine, things had begun to feel bleak for our guests, residents and staff alike.
Even as that message was being posted to our website and social media, God was prompting people to lift our spirits. I received a call from a donor, wanting to send us a check to treat our staff in response to Stateline Church’s Seven-Day Challenge. Then, Pastor Cory and Ashley Williams of Central Christian Church in Beloit sent us 36 Bundtlet cakes especially to encourage our staff — which really perked us up. Later, a foundation from a nearby region emailed to ask how they might pray for us.
On Monday this week, another donor called me and said: “I felt like I was supposed to call and let you know that you and your staff are doing a great job. Keep up the good work.”
Several staff members who had been ill returned to work this week, so we are rejoicing with them as we pray for several others who are still recovering.
Finally, Nettie’s Mercantile is now open for drive-thru and curbside pickup! Lots of people have been purchasing Mother’s Day gifts and other beautiful items made by our Life Recovery residents. You can browse our page on Facebook and then call 815-904-3729 for pickup. All proceeds directly support the Mission.
All of that to say: It feels like we have turned a corner. It’s amazing how encouraging words and actions can lift our spirits when we have otherwise hit a wall. Thank you for your prayer support, your gifts and your thoughtful notes and calls. Thank you for lifting our arms when we feel too weak to lift them ourselves.
Most of all, thank you for continuing to help us offer hope and help to those who need it. God works in people’s lives here, and He uses all of us in that process.
Partners in Hope,
April 30, 2020
Last week, I received a note from one of our Life Recovery residents. She thanked me, and the Mission, for giving her a a place to become anchored in God’s promises. She’s finding hope amid some family trials, and of course the pandemic. “I feel safe here,” she wrote. “Thank you for all you do for all of us.”
Her note came at a perfect time. Amid COVID-19, rescue missions around the country are entering a season where our staffs are really beginning to feel fatigued and discouraged. The frontline healthcare people truly are heroes, of course. Rescue missions are keeping people alive, too. We work closely with local agencies, including the Winnebago County Health Department. We’re also part of Citygate Network, an association of more than 300 Christian rescue missions across North America. Thanks to this affiliation, we and other rescue missions ramped up early in protection against COVID-19. This week, we heard that missions overall have performed extremely well in protecting residents and staff, confining cases and helping to protect our healthcare system from being overwhelmed.
Many ask me how we are doing here at Rockford Rescue Mission. We have been quarantined for two weeks because of some positive cases among staff and residents. All of our Life Recovery residents who had outside jobs have been forced to stop working and stay inside the Mission. They are doing Zoom classes, Zoom AA meetings, even Zoom Chapel. Meantime, our Crisis guests are sheltering in place, too. We are helping them fill their days with activities like single play games, puzzles and art.
So how are we doing? OK, but we could use your prayer and encouragement right now. Notes and cards are great. So are food treats. We even would love to see folks organize a caravan to drive around our building and give a show of support with signs and car horns (let us know when you are coming so we can watch out for you). Any type safe, visual encouragement means a lot to our staff, residents and guests.
Thank you, as always, for your giving, your prayers and for truly sharing in the ministry of Rockford Rescue Mission.
Partners in Hope,
April 15, 2020
Rockford, Illinois—Despite tremendous prevention efforts, the Rockford Rescue Mission announces that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The Mission is working closely with Winnebago County Health Department to take critical measures to prevent the spread of the virus to other staff and guests.
“Many of our clients have compromised immune systems and are very vulnerable. For the past month, we have taken every precaution to avoid outbreaks of illness within our walls,” Sherry Pitney, CEO said. “Everyone’s health and safety are top of mind as we proactively increase efforts to prevent the spread in this congregate setting.”
“We have modified operations, services, activities and events and have limited all non-essential visitors since the shelter in place order.” said Pitney. Our guests have been on a limited movement protocol for weeks as well.
Officials at the Mission say its shelters and other areas are routinely and thoroughly disinfected as part of its daily maintenance procedures. Guest and staff temperatures have been monitored twice daily as well as symptom screening under the watchful eye of our Hope Clinic medical professionals who are on site and available off hours for consultation. The Mission staff has been vigilant about educating the guests on proper hand washing procedures as well as the importance of social distancing.
“Our community cares so much for those who are hurting and in need,” Pitney said. “We know we can count on our supporters to continue to wrap their hearts and arms around us during this critical time.”
The Mission is in need of Lysol, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and face masks.
Donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday 8 am to 4 pm and Saturday 9 am to 4 pm at 715 West St. Street. Financial gifts can be given online at here.
Rockford Rescue Mission is a 501 (c)(3) private nonprofit serving the Rock River Valley. For more information, call Crystal Savage, Marketing and Communications Director at 815-316-4195 or email email@example.com
April 9, 2020
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rockford Rescue Mission Leadership has instituted a limited movement policy for all Crisis Guests and Recovery Residents. Based on recommendations from the CDC and Winnebago County Health Department, as well as in compliance with Governor Pritzker’s Stay-at-Home Order, guests and residents are restricted to Rockford Rescue Mission property. Permission to leave Rockford Rescue Mission property is limited to the following purposes:
Crisis guests who choose not to comply with this policy will receive a one week (7-day) exit from the Crisis Center. Recovery Residents who do not comply with this policy will be choosing to leave the Life Recovery Program. Rockford Rescue Mission values the safety of our guests, residents, and staff and is confident that your cooperation with this policy will help us maintain a safe and healthy environment for all.
March 27, 2020
7:00 – We seat WCC, WLR and MLR
7:30 – We seat Men’s Crisis
6:3-7 – Community breakfast distribution
11:00 – We seat WCC, WLR and MLR
11:40 – We seat Men’s Crisis
11:30a – 12p Community lunch distribution
4:30 – We seat WCC, WLR and MLR
5:10 – We seat Men’s Crisis
5-5:30 – Community dinner distribution
(WCC – Womens Crisis Center, MCC – Men’s Crisis Center, MLR – Men’s Life Recovery, WLR – Women’s Life Recovery)
March 23, 2020
Rockford Rescue Mission continues to provide essential services to the community!
Our reception office will be closed until April 7 at 8:00 a.m. There will be no one to greet you at our main entrance.
Food donations can be taken to our Food Service entrance off Mulberry St.
Financial donations can be brought to the Mission’s front entrance where instructions will be posted about calling staff to meet you OR given directly here online.
Meal Services: All of our meals are being prepared “to-go” style. We have temporarily suspended dining to our community guests but are handing out to-go meals for them through our Meal entrance door. Our overnight Crisis Center guests are receiving a “to-go” meal in our Great Room where we are practicing 6 ft. social distancing at our meal tables. The meals are being placed at the tables prior to guests entering for the meal. Meal times are as follows:
Breakfast: Recovery Programs 7:00 am; Crisis Center Programs 7:30 am; Community to go meals are handed out at 7:00 am.
Lunch: Recovery Programs 11:00 am, Crisis Center Program 11:50 am; Community to go lunches are handed out at noon.
Dinner: Recovery Programs 4:30 pm; Crisis Center Programs 5:00 pm; Community to go dinners are handed out at 5:30 pm.
Food Donations: Received at the Food Service entrance (off Mulberry St.) Monday – Friday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm and Saturday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Crisis Centers: Open and available 24/7. Beds are limited to the physical bed capacity at this time (Women & Children 61- Men 61). Guests are sleeping head to toe and we have placed moveable seating options in our dayrooms to ensure we are maintaining 6 ft social distancing at all times.
Life Recovery: We are continuing to serve our residents who are in the program. At this time, we are not doing intakes for any new applicants during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Works! Center: We have temporarily suspended services to individuals in the community and our Crisis Center guests.
Hope Clinic: We have temporarily suspended services to individuals in the community. Our nurse is on site Monday through Friday to provide medical services to our Crisis Center guests and Life Recovery residents.
Rockford Rescue Mission has suspended all volunteer activities until further notice.
All general donations are currently suspended.
Emergency Donations/Food: Donations listed on our monthly needs list and donations that are considered emergency can be dropped off at 715 W. State Street, Monday-Friday from 8 am to 4:00 pm. Please follow the instructions on the door as our receptionist will not be on duty. Food donations may be brought to the Food Service entrance off Mulberry St. Hours and times are Monday to Friday (8:00 a.m. to 6:00 pm.) and Saturday (8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.).
Current emergency needs are:
Financial Gifts are needed and can be given directly here online or dropped off at our main entrance at 715 West State St. from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please follow instructions on door signage and staff will come to meet you.
Rockford Rescue Mission has two enterprises that help support the Mission. 100% of proceeds from both stores support the free programs at Rockford Rescue Mission.
Nettie’s Mercantile: Our Grand Opening has been postponed to a date to be determined later. The Drive Thru is also closed and there is no grab and go available until further notice. Nettie’s Mercantile is located at 625 W. State St. Phone is 815-977-4361 and can be found on Facebook and Instagram or on our website rockfordrescuemission.org.
Thrift Store: Thrift Store is closed for shopping and donations until further notice. Thrift Store is located at 2710 20th St. Phone is 815-316-0607 and can be found on Facebook or on our website at rockfordrescuemission.org.
If there are any COVID-19 questions as it pertains to Rockford Rescue Mission, please connect with Marketing and Communications Director, Crystal Savage at 815-316-4195 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Sherry Pitney at 815-316-4154 or email@example.com.
March 17, 2020
As of March 17, Rockford Rescue Mission is making the following modifications to our daily operations:
1. After prayerful consideration, we have decided to temporarily suspend Works! Center and Hope Clinic services to our community guests. Those sheltering in our Crisis Centers and participating in our Life Recovery Programs will still have access to both services.
All previous modifications and adjustments are still in place and are listed at the end of this email.
Please continue to pray for the safety of Rockford Rescue Mission staff and volunteers as well as the men, women and children Rockford Rescue Mission serves. Pray that the LORD would build a hedge around the Mission to protect those who work here and those who come to find hope and help. Pray for wisdom for Mission leadership to make critical decisions as circumstances arise. Please pray for the smooth transition and the adjustments that must be made due to the COVID-19. Pray for discernment in the event that programs need to deviate from their normal daily operating. Pray for the programs that are vital to the safety of the community. Rockford Rescue Mission is the only place where a member of the public can go to obtain an evening meal. The Mission, however, can no longer serve in-house meals to the community at large, much as the restaurants have been instructed to close their doors. Accordingly, the Mission has had to adjust and change its meal program so that meals are prepared to go for those hungry in our community who are not receiving overnight services.
Every night the Mission shelters an average of 175 men, women and children. The Mission continues to serve 600 meals daily. The Mission is in dire need of the following items:
Donations can be brought to Rockford Rescue Mission, 715 E. State Street, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Monetary donations to purchase these essential items are always welcome. Thank you for your prayers and support as the Mission serves the most vulnerable in our community.
All previous modifications and adjustments are still in place. They include:
Partners in Hope,
Rockford Rescue Mission Leadership
March 16, 2020
Rockford Rescue Mission would like to thank our community for all their support and prayers during this challenging time for our guests, residents, volunteers and staff. We are going to continue to provide updates as our operations are modified to keep everyone at the Mission safe.
We have been proactively reaching out to the Winnebago County Health Department and have been working with Todd Marshall, Director of Environment Health. As of 3/16/20, Rockford Rescue Mission is making the following modifications to our daily operations:
All previous modifications and adjustments are still in place. They include:
We continue emphasize to all who come to RRM:
Last night we housed 167 men, women and children and we are still serving nearly 600 meals daily. We are humbly asking our community for the following emergency donations (please bring these donations to 715 W. State St Monday – Friday 8 am to 4:30 pm):
We are truly in need of these items to continue to care for one of our communities most vulnerable populations- the homeless and hungry
Our prayers are with our community and our Nation; especially our fellow small business owners who are feeling the tremendous impact of this virus. Our new store, Nettie’s Mercantile (625 W. State St) will not be opening as anticipated on March 20th BUT our drive-thru is open and eager to help serve our community Monday through Friday from 7 am to 1 pm. Our Thrift Store continues to be in operation to receive all other donations as well as shopping. Thrift Store provides a significant revenue stream for Rockford Rescue Mission daily operations.
Thank you all for your support and prayers, not only in this challenging time, but always. Please pray protection over Rockford Rescue Mission and the hundreds of souls we care for daily- may of whom have compromised health.
Mission friends, as a reminder we receive no United Way or government funding. We trust our Lord to sustain this critical work and service to our community as He has for 56 years. Our good God is in control and faithful to provide, heal and sustain through you, our partners in hope.
Partners in Hope,
Rockford Rescue Mission Leadership
For the most up-to-date information we are asking for individuals to please go to our website rockfordrescuemission.org, our Facebook page or call 815-965-5332 to have your email address added to our e-blast listing.
March 14, 2020
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, we realize that you might have questions regarding your hungry and homeless neighbors finding hope at Rockford Rescue Mission. Winnebago County has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of March 15. But, here at the Mission we are monitoring advice from the Centers for Disease Control and taking precautionary measures.
We have implemented the following:
Many people are alarmed, confused or angry right now. Good information is available, including from reputable news outlets. But dwelling on this information for hours on end can lead to fear. Be especially careful with social media and secondhand sources of information.
This past week, our Chief Program Officer attended the Citygate Network DC Forum in Washington D.C. While there, he attended a briefing with Surgeon General Jerome Adams. Adams emphasized that this is not a time to succumb to fear but to remember:
During this season of uncertainty, we continue to lean on God’s Word and His promises. We continue to share the Good News with every soul who walks through our doors, and we continue to rejoice in lives being transformed by the Lord. We also are keeping the leadership of our nation and community in our prayers, and we ask that you please keep our guests, residents, volunteers and staff in yours. The Lord holds us in His hands and we trust Him every day.
Partners in Hope,
Rockford Rescue Mission Leadership