River City Rescue opens house|[04/11/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 11, 2008

New dining hall at mission on public display

River City Rescue Mission’s new dining hall is spiffy on the inside, directors say, but they like to give credit where it’s due when talking up its uses.

“If God doesn’t put it in people’s hearts to give, then we ain’t gonna get it,” Gene Johnston said this week at an open house for the 4,000-square-foot facility.

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Located next to the shelter and used goods store at 3705 Washington St., where the organization derives its revenue, the annex was finished in November and features a kitchen and space for church services for men in River City’s rehabilitation and literacy programs.

Gene Durman Jr. is a deacon at Greater Jerusalem Baptist Church, one of several local churches that takes men from the shelter to services at his church.

“It’s tremendous,” Durman said. “It’s there for them when they need it.”

It made a difference for Anthony Pitchford, a Tchula native in the program since last year.

“It gets you close to God,” Pitchford said, describing an atmos-phere of brotherhood created by people of faith assisting others in getting their lives back on track.

“Brother Gene breaks it down where you can understand it. I thank God for this place,” Pitchford said.

River City Rescue Mission was formed in 1994 when two local aid groups combined efforts. It receives no public money and pays expenses solely with private donations, which include items ranging from furniture to computers available at its store.

It houses about 9,000 homeless men annually who are given two choices, stay three nights and go back onto the streets or enroll in programs to get off drugs and re-enter the job market.

“A man who is on dope does not know God,” said executive director Doug Upchurch. “We help them see God.”