Beds doubled at Augusta Rescue Mission

With the help of community foundations, local donors and churches, Augusta Rescue Mission opened a 20-bed dorm for homeless men Tuesday.

An $80,000 renovation turned a former cafeteria and kitchen into a facility that doubles the organization's sleeping capacity.

More than three dozen people attended a ribbon-cutting, followed by a tour of the Christian ministry off Walker Street.

"It's a momentous day for us," said Rusty Marsh, Augusta Rescue Mission's executive director. "It's a day we have lots of people to thank for."

The Creel-Harrison Foundation and The Community Foundation for the CSRA contributed $10,000 grants that helped build a new bathroom and install air conditioning.

Those were the missing pieces needed to complete the dorm, outfitted with donated bunk beds and mattresses purchased by West Acres Baptist Church.

In 2005, a $550,000 life center was built with a kitchen and cafeteria. With the old kitchen and cafeteria no longer needed, the space was used to hold clothing and various items over the past six years.

It's taken just as long to raise money to renovate the space, Marsh said. Now, with the new facility, the mission has the option to expand its recovery programs.

Though the center offers overnight stays for homeless men, its focus is a resident worker program. For six to nine months, men live on the campus and are required to complete chapel services and work details. They're given budgeting classes and job training, with the ultimate goal of finding employment and repairing family relationships.

"Our motto is to rebuild lives in Christ," Marsh said. "It happens. We've seen marriages restored down here. We've seen lives saved."

The new space also gives the ministry more options when cold weather strikes, Marsh said.

"This is going to be a blessing, particularly when it's cold outside," he said. "In the winter, the Salvation Army and Garden City Rescue Mission call us up when they're full. During the winter months, we're all calling each other and everybody is full. No one has any space.

"Last December, we had to turn people away. I never want to see that happen again."

Countless donors have helped address that problem by allowing the mission to open a new dorm, Marsh said.

"The community support has been massive," he said. "We couldn't have done it without them."

Robbie White, the executive director of the Creel-Harrison Foundation, said she counts it a privilege and a pleasure to take part.

"Augusta is blessed with many people who help people in need," she said, "and for 45 years the Augusta Rescue Mission has certainly done a great job of that."

Learn more

The Augusta Rescue Mission was founded in 1965 to break the cycle of homelessness, said Rusty Marsh, the executive director.

The nonprofit Christian ministry, soup kitchen and shelter also offers a resident worker program. Find out more about the mission and how you can get involved at augustarescuemission.org.