Simple Ways to Serve Others in Roanoke Through The Rescue Mission

Be Inspired | Do Good

Lee Clark grew up as a first generational child in the little town of Stuart, Virginia, near Fairy Stone State Park. His grandparents were products of the Great Depression and his family placed great importance on education. He graduated from Radford University, Virginia and set out on a career in public accounting before moving to the hectic life of sales and marketing at The Roanoke Times.  It was during his tenure at the paper when he received a call to serve, in a larger capacity, in a non-profit.

You would probably agree with Lee that working for a non-profit is not just a job; it’s a calling. To work in this field, you have to be someone who cares about people and be passionate about what you do because your work becomes a way of life. Still, Lee thinks that if your heart is in the right place, then a lot of things fall in line. Think about it, without a passion for serving, how else could you provide compassion 24/7? That’s right. It’s never too early or too late to get help when you need it at the Rescue Mission because the mission operates round the clock every day of the year.

The Roanoke Rescue Mission was founded in 1948 by Lois and Gus Johnson. Lois grew up in a rescue mission in Chicago because her parents worked there. Gus was a young man from skid row who went to that rescue mission for help, and that’s how the two met. When they got married, Lois and Gus came decided to move to Roanoke when they heard about this little railroad town in Virginia that needed a rescue mission. Together they made Roanoke their home and poured themselves into The Rescue Mission Center. Lois was happy to collect leftovers from market vendors at the end of every day and turn that into a delightful meal for those who had nowhere else to go for a decent meal.

Helping hurting people in Jesus’ name is the mission statement for the Rescue Mission. From its humble beginnings, it has grown to a complex that includes housing facilities and a medical clinic on site. For people working at the mission, every person coming in means a new challenge to embrace because you never know what their need will be. In the process, lives are transformed and many beneficiaries reach out in turn and become volunteers, completing a beautiful circle of giving.

There are many people out there or tuned in who have great hearts, great compassion and a desire to help others. The challenge is how to turn that compassion into action in a way that’s going to help somebody. For instance, giving money to someone you meet on the street may not necessarily solve a problem and might even make things worse. If that person is an addict, your money could well have funded a relapse.

The Rescue Mission makes it easy for anyone to get involved through their work. Every Monday at noon, there is a familiarization tour for visitors to go round the facility and interact with residents, staff, and volunteers. Just show up a few minutes before noon on any Monday. If you’re wondering where that is, the address is 402 4th Street in SE Roanoke.

There is also a fun way to get involved. Every year, for the last 12 years, The Rescue Mission has held an annual Drumstick Dash.  It’s a charity event that has become woven into the Roanoke Thanksgiving tradition. It takes place on Thanksgiving morning and Lee Clark, the Rescue Mission’s CEO, extends a personal invitation for everyone to come.  Whether you run or walk the Dash, you will be moving your feet for a good cause. After the dash, there is lots of food so no need to worry about fueling up.

Another way to get involved is with giving coats. Winter time is coming and the weather is starting to get colder. The Rescue Mission gives out a lot of clothing, so they are happy to receive any coat, whatever size or color, but in good shape to help folks who desperately need a warm winter coat.

For Lee, community is the most important thing in life. People need each other and there is always something you can do to help someone else. That is what the Rescue Mission in Roanoke is all about.

For more about Lee, listen to his interview.


Photo credit: The Rescue Mission

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