story by Brittany Shepard | photos by Drew Chapman
In 1979, Frank Williams founded the Dothan Rescue Mission with the vision to meet the needs of the homeless in the Wiregrass Area. Originally, the Rescue Mission operated as a Men’s Lodge, Women’s Lodge and soup kitchen, but since that time the Rescue Mission has expanded its services.
Today, the Dothan Rescue Mission doesn’t just shelter the homeless- the organization works to equip their guests, as they call them, with life skills to get back on their feet, to help them overcome addictions and to find ways to meet their financial needs while they work to better their lives.
The Rescue Mission can now house sixty men at their new Men’s Lodge built in 2010 along with 25 men and 16 women at their administration building.
The organization operates through the donations of Wiregrass community members but also uses its two thrift stores as a source of income. In 1984, then Executive Director Harry Culbreth opened the first Dothan Rescue Mission sales center on South Foster as a way to raise more funds for the Rescue Mission. Currently, there are two sales centers: one on the north side of Ross Clark Circle and the other on the south side of Ross Clark Circle.
Brad Hardy became the Executive Director in 2004 and now manages all the organization’s services.
“As Executive Director, I oversee the day to day operations of three shelters, soup kitchen, community ministries and the two thrift stores,” said Brad. “Other responsibilities include long range planning, increasing donor support and bringing awareness to the plight of the homeless in the Wiregrass.”
Interview with Brad Hardy
What is the vision and mission of Dothan Rescue Mission?
The vision of the Dothan Rescue Mission is to continue growing in services we provide to include not only housing and feeding the homeless but also empowering our guests with education and life skills to help them get back on their feet. Our mission is to bring Hope into the lives of those who may feel invisible, bound by addictions or have fallen on hard times. A lot of our guests have given up on themselves, and we want to restore dignity into their lives and share God’s Message of Hope.
What services does the organization provide to the community?
The services we provide to our community are the following: housing for homeless men, women, and families; a soup kitchen for anyone needing a meal; financial assistance for utilities, rent and medicine; free clothing and furniture for those in need; classes for our homeless to equip them with skills to regain their life.
During the holidays we reach out to the community to help us provide gifts for our homeless guests, and we also provide a Christmas Day lunch at the Mission. We also work with local churches who provide Thanksgiving meals to our guests and community clients. This is also the time of the year we send our Christmas letter to the community asking for their support in providing these services.
In its history, what impact has the Dothan Rescue Mission had on our community?
During its history, the Dothan Rescue Mission has served this community by meeting the needs of so many who have suffered life’s hardships. I have seen so many faces of the downtrodden. Our latest statistics show that we provide an average of 15,000 beds to the homeless each year. On average we provided over 30,000 meals and utilities assistance for 500 families. Our yearly clothing voucher program averages 3,000 individuals. We have been providing this ministry for 37 years.
In your opinion, what is the most rewarding thing about being involved with the Dothan Rescue Mission?
There is definitely a sense of purpose in our lives when we reach out to help people in need. Sometimes it can be frustrating, and sometimes it requires us to get dirty. But when you look at someone who was hitting rock bottom and now their confidence has been restored, it is worthwhile. When you see the person you have invested your time into land that new job or when you see joy in the life of a family who was dealing with a loved one’s addiction, it provides great satisfaction – enough to last a lifetime.
For 37 years the Dothan Rescue Mission has been a life line to thousands of individuals. We have been able to accomplish this solely on donations from our community. We receive no Federal or State funding. So, of course, our biggest need is support from the residents of the Wiregrass. From the least to the greatest, each donation that an individual makes is important. Whether it is a monetary gift or just an old bag of clothes lying around the house, it all adds up help for our clients.
Where can our readers go or more information?
For those wanting to learn more, they can find us online at www.DothanRescueMission.com or they can call us at 334-794-4637. We also host tours of our shelters to individuals or groups.