Next Saturday’s Run For Shelter 5K will start and end at the Augusta Common, but at the halfway point of the race is something organizers hope the runners will notice.
The race will route an estimated 250 runners past the Augusta Rescue Mission on Walker Street. It’s one of two organizations serving downtown’s homeless that benefit from the race.
“This isn’t just a fundraising event, but an awareness event,” said Christopher Marsh, a race organizer and a junior at Augusta State University.
Marsh, a member of the Augusta Striders running club, is the son of Rusty Marsh, the rescue mission’s executive director.
When Christopher takes part in other road races around town, he wears the Augusta Rescue Mission name and logo on his back, “just to help get the word out.”
“I’m really proud of what my dad does,” he said. “When they hear about it, they think, is it a fire rescue? An animal shelter? They don’t realize how much they’re doing to break the cycle of homelessness.”
Since 1965, the Augusta Rescue Mission has served homeless men in Augusta with an overnight shelter that offers hot meals, clothing and chapel services. The ministry runs a long-term resident worker program to help men find jobs and a place to live.
The Bridge Ministry of New Hope Worship Center in Grovetown will share in the race’s proceeds. Every Saturday, volunteers set up hundreds of chairs for a worship service under the John C. Calhoun Expressway bridge at 15th Street. Homeless men and women are offered hot meals, clothing, bags of food and hygiene kits.
Next Saturday, some of the homeless men the mission serves plan to run in the race. Others will hand out water from the sidelines.
“These are men at the bottom. They’ve burned all the bridges. They turn to us because they have no where to go,” Rusty Marsh said.
“God is doing something here that’s much bigger than any of us.
‘‘Not only do they get a place to stay, they get hope, GED classes, computer classes. When we launch them out, their entire life status is transformed. In the last three months, 10 men have gotten jobs.”
At the Augusta Rescue Mission, two buildings need new roofs at a cost of about $10,000 to $12,000 each.
“We’ve been here since 1965 and our buildings are getting old,” Rusty Marsh said. “We’ve had some success with grants, but none of it is federal money. We’re all supported by local churches, local people.”
A third roof at the rescue mission has already been replaced, thanks to people’s generosity, Marsh said.
“God has already provided for everything we need so that the Augusta Rescue Mission can be here for a long, long time.”