Rescue Mission gains nonprofit status

Volunteers seek help providing daily meals to homeless

By Kevin Spradlin

All in.

That’s what the profile picture for the Richmond County Rescue Mission shows as hands are interlocked with others, much like the pre-game hoo-rah of a basketball team about to take the court.

The profile picture of the Richmond County Rescue Mission symbolizes a unified community with a clear, focused mission.

The profile picture of the Richmond County Rescue Mission symbolizes a unified community with a clear, focused mission.

And after gaining nonprofit status earlier this week, the volunteers behind the new Richmond County Rescue Mission are ready for the whistle to blow. After all, there’s no time to waste to help Richmond County’s homeless.

Chuck Thames, one of nine board members on the county’s newest 501c3 organization, made the announcement on the group’s Facebook page early Saturday. The group conducted its first official meeting in January.

Our board is working hard behind the scenes to make our vision a reality and we ask for prayers, patience, and your help in this effort,” Thames wrote.

Patience, Thames said in a phone interview with the Post on Saturday morning, is key. The issues facing the homeless population here won’t be resolved overnight. That includes the site selection and construction for a new Rescue Mission.

With the nonprofit status, seeking grants becomes a whole lot easier. Individual donations are likely to be easier to obtain as well.

“Now, anybody who makes a donation, it is tax-deductible,” Thames said. “We’re tax-exempt as well, so that’s a big deal. Anyone who’s donated this year is covered as well.”

The opportunity comes just in time for the holiday season — a period, Thames said, that people most tend to think about the less fortunate.

Immediate needs

“People think about the weather a whole lot more when the weather’s nasty,” Thames said. “In the summer, people are still hungry. They might be able to sleep outside with no problem, but they can’t go without food.”

While serving the less fortunate between Thanksgiving and Christmas is noble, Thames said the work is a year-round effort.

“We do want to show ’em there’s a consistent compassion for them,” he said.

Volunteers from a number of churches and civic groups are helping to serve 20 meals at 6 p.m. each day to the homeless temporarily housed at the Economy Motel at the corner of U.S. Route 1 South and Airport Road in East Rockingham. Thames acknowledged the effort is a “stop gap measure for us” until a facility is built, from which the center can more easily handle food preparation within a single building.

Individuals and groups can sign up online — simply click here to see the time slots. The group went for a period of time with the slots being filled, but “all the sudden, it seems these holes have developed,” Thames said. “We’ve got some real pressing needs.”

Groups helping out now include West Rockingham Methodist, South Side Free Will Baptist, Faith Missionary Baptist, First Baptist, Ellerbe Cartledge Creek Baptist, Mt. Olive Baptist, First Baptist Rockingham, Kingsgate Hamlet, First United Methodist, Roberdel Baptist, Covenant Presbyterian Rockingham, Wesleyan, Glenwood United Methodist and Cordova Baptist.

There are a variety of ways in which volunteers can assist with meal preparation and delivery.

“What we have currently is sort of a mixed bag” of methods, Thames said. “Some people go buy 20 meals and bring them to be distributed. Then you have some churches where the folks prepare 20 meals and put them in Styrofoatm containers. Sometimes it can be as simple as making ham-and-cheese sandwiches and some chips. Certainly, we’re happy with either way.”

Moving forward

With nonprofit status now in the rearview mirror, Thames, along with fellow board members Jason Lutz, CJ Smith, Mike Ussery, Linda Taylor, Ann Carr, Jimmy Warner, Merrielle Buckner and Rita Gibson can proceed with a number of short- and long-range plans. It’s all centered around the construction of a new facility— one newly formed committee is focused solely on site selection for a mission — but other group efforts include grant writing, serving the evening meals and more.

The group meets at First Bank in Rockingham at the corner of Richmond Road and Fayetteville Road. Beginning in September, the board will begin monthly — instead of twice-monthly — meetings. Thames said that’s due to the implementation of the committees, which will allow more work to be completed in between meetings as well as reach out to interested community members.

The date and time for the September meeting has yet to be set.

Meanwhile, a Sleep Out is in the planning stages. While a site has yet to be selected, Thames said the event will double as one part awareness and one part fundraiser — similar, he hopes, to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Though modest in his expectations of a first-year event during which groups or individuals volunteer to sleep out — in a parking lot or other wide open, safe setting — he said the event could catch on it. Such overnight events in other cities have, if not ended homelessness, certainly made strides in alerting the general public to the need.

Breaking the cycle

Thames said the homeless come from all walks of life. All races. All genders.

“It would really kind of surprise you to find out the mix,” he said. “There’s kids that are as young as junior high age. Maybe they’re not completely homeless, but they’re living from house to house with somebody. I think that’s a big misunderstanding.”

Thames said anytime a child is left not knowing where he or she will be sleeping the next night, they’re homeless, even if they end up with another temporary roof over their head the next night.

“There’s more of that in Richmond County than people would believe, probably,” Thames said.

Others are adults who have hit hard times.

“Some of them were very successful in their past,” Thames said.

For one county family, the mother lost her job through no fault of her own — the business closed down. The family, which includes six children ages 14 and below, hit hard times. With no job, she couldn’t pay her mortgage. The bank took back the house.

The people behind the Richmond County Rescue Mission stepped in. The family is now living under a roof and, Thames, on its way to getting back on their feet. But it wasn’t a situation that was caused overnight, and much like the homeless population in general, there was no short-term answer.

Anyone wanting additional information the mission can send an email to


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  • Jason Buckner

    We’re working on getting a website up where folks can learn more about RCRM and donate too.
    It’s not live yet, but will be at soon.

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