“Our main purpose is to teach men, women, and children about the love of Jesus Christ,” says Amy Walker, the Development Coordinator of the Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia. “A lot of times people think of us as a non-profit first and we absolutely are, we feed the homeless,” Amy continues.
In the early 1950’s, A.E. McGee, a sergeant with the Macon Police Department, was responsible for arresting drunks and beggars throughout the city. He would arrest these individuals, they would be released, and he would end up arresting them again. This cycle would continue to repeat itself time and time again.
McGee knew that without addressing the individual’s main problems, addiction and homelessness, there was no hope to break the cycle. McGee would offer shelter at his home to the very same men that he arrested. While they were there, receiving food and housing, McGee ministered to them about Jesus. Many of the men changed, overcame their addictions, and went on to lead productive lives.
McGee would later stop bringing home these men, but not before planting seeds of inspiration in the community. Because of McGee’s efforts, Reverend J. Robert Moon and others started the Macon Rescue Mission in 1956.
A farm was donated to the Rescue Mission by Charles Rushin in the late 1950’s, and it became a location where alcoholics were able to be rehabilitated. Because of its location, however, the farm was eventually sold and the Macon Rescue Mission was moved to 500 Broadway, in downtown Macon.
At the Broadway location, police would use one of the floors to interview children who were victims of sexual assault. The Rescue Mission was a more kid-friendly location to conduct these interviews, versus the police station, which could be daunting for a child. Eventually, this would lead to the development of the Women’s Division of the Macon Rescue Mission, a program where women who are victims of domestic violence were given a safe haven for themselves and their children. The program was the first of its kind in the area.
The need for rehabilitation and housing for Macon’s poor and addicted grew, and the Rescue Mission outgrew its space on Broadway.
The Macon Rescue Mission eventually built its current facility, located at the corner of First Street and Hazel Street, easily within walking distance of both Navicent Health and the Bibb County Jail.
As one of the oldest organizations of its kind in Middle Georgia, the Rescue Mission serves not only people in the Macon area but all over Middle Georgia; due to this, the Macon Rescue Mission eventually changed its name to its current name, the Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia, to reflect the areas it serves.
The Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia has been many things: “We have been a homeless shelter, a working farm, a place where people can come spend the night and just go,” Amy explains, “but we really wanted to help with long term life recovery, and that takes time.”
“It’s messy and we get our heart broken every single day,” she explains, “and that’s ok because we’re showing love and planting seeds. Addictions are difficult, and they never go away.”
Amy says that at the Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia “we allow people to mess up, because people [do] mess up, and we hold people accountable–but then we believe in 2nd, 8th, and 29th chances.”
“We all fail,” she continues, “none of us don’t mess up.”
The men in the addiction recovery program come from all walks of life, but they all share a common problem.
“We have men that have never had more than a 3rd grade education. We have men who have masters degree’s. We have men who have lived in the most supportive Christian family homes that you could have ever had. We have other people who have never known love in their lives, just from completely abusive situations. So we don’t see the problem as drugs and alcohol. We see the problem as a hole in your heart, and we’re all in recovery from something,” Amy says.
“We’re all the same,” she continues, “so any day we’re hungry, which is everyday, we’ll feed the community. We’re never going to feed people food that we wouldn’t eat ourselves.”
Feeding Macon’s hungry population is part of their community outreach initiative. There is a running joke that while they are living at the Rescue Mission, the residents gain 15 plus pounds each. It is easy to see why: during my visit to the facility, during the lunch hour, the residents were eating chicken sliders topped with cheese and fresh ingredients, served with corn, mashed potatoes, pork and beans and rolls.
Every day at 4 pm the Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia feeds around 100 people outside of its facilities. The food for the program, called Daily Bread, is prepared by the men in the rehabilitation program in a commercial kitchen at the facility. Members of the community who receive the meals are individuals who are homeless or families who may be food insecure, meaning that they have homes but may need extra help when it comes to feeding their families.
The Rescue Mission also distributes hygiene kits daily; snack packs on Mondays; and grocery bags of food a couple of times throughout the week, in addition to its Daily Bread meal program as part of its community outreach program
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2014. Almost 80 percent of individuals suffering from a substance use disorder in 2014 struggled with an alcohol use disorder. These statistics show why programs such as one offered by the Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia are so important.
While in the long-term recovery center, the men participate in a work therapy program half of the day and take recovery classes during the other half of the day. The men are often referred to the program by friends, family, former graduates of the program, probation and parole offices, or other legal entities. Sometimes they learn about the program while receiving food in the Daily Bread line.
“There are at least 40 people on the waiting list,” Amy says. “We want people to come here but if they don’t want to be here and do the work, there are other people who really want to be here doing the work.”
“It is not an easy program but if you want it, it can change your life,” Amy states.
She isn’t exaggerating. Many people who have participated in the program credit it to saving their lives. A former resident who is now an employee of the Rescue Mission says, “I went from the crack house to a 401k.”
Separate from the men’s addiction recovery program, the Rescue Mission continues to operate a women and children’s homeless shelter for victims of domestic violence. Currently, there are seven women in its domestic violence shelter, along with 21 children. While living at the Rescue Mission, the women are allowed to bring their children and they are able to continue to let their children go to school.
For privacy reasons and to ensure the safety of the women and children in the program, all employees and volunteers must undergo a background check and complete specialized training. Amy says that the women’s program is not a crisis center for domestic violence. She urges women in a crisis to call the Crisis Line and Safe House of Middle Georgia or 911. After taking these avenues, women may be referred to the Rescue Mission from the Crisis Line or other agencies.
There is a lot of things happening at the Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia, a lot of good things. When asked about the future of the Rescue Mission and their hopes for growth, Amy says that they have a plan. “We have a grand scheme of building and expanding, so we’re not going to rush it– we believe in God’s timing,” she shares.
The Rescue Mission receives 50% of its revenue through the Bargain Center Thrift Store, a store which is staffed in part by men’s program participants. The Bargain Center is located at 3375 Napier Avenue in Macon.
There are 27 bins located throughout the Middle Georgia area where donations can be dropped off. The bins are spread all across Macon, Warner Robins, Forsyth, Fort Valley, and Byron. People may also drop items off directly at the Bargain Center. For large items, such as furniture, you can call the Bargain Center and they will come and pick up the item. If you are wondering if you cannot donate a particular item to the center, almost all donations are accepted, except for mattresses.
“Anything you use at your house, we can use it too,” Amy shares, “we’re a family as well, just a whole lot bigger!”
Anyone interested in volunteering or making donations can visit the Rescue Mission’s website at rescuemissionga.com or call 478-743-5445.