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Posted February 21, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Work study: Rescue mission to offer skills, jobs in newly renovated warehouse
By Alex Bridges -- Daily Staff Writer
WINCHESTER -- A burned-out husk of warehouse in the city may soon help homeless men return to the work force.
This summer, Winchester Union Rescue Mission leaders hope to start teaching woodworking skills to men who come to seek their services. The effort took more than just money from the community, as the mission sought to convert an abandoned warehouse in the city into a woodworking shop.
The organization's board of directors decided recently to buy the partially burned-out warehouse on Clark Street near its shelter at 435 N. Cameron St. The mission plans to turn the building into a two-story wood shop, in which they would teach carpentry skills to the men who stay at the shelter, and eventually to start selling the products they make. The men also would receive an income from their work.
"It's a great idea because it gives the guys something to do in the afternoon, they learn a skill and we will be paying them by the hour to work here," said board chairman Rick Barrett. "So it gives them revenue, gives us revenue to sell the furniture so we're just praying that this will be a win-win solution for an old building."
"It's a win-win situation for the building and for the community," added Jimmy DeMartinez, a former boarder who continues to help the organization as its industrial coordinator.
DeMartinez credited board member Mike Cardinale with having the vision to restore the old warehouse.
The mission bought the property on Clark Street after the city building inspectors had the building condemned. Officials said the mission had to either renovate or demolish the structure.
"They were very accommodating," said Barrett. "They gave us all the time we needed and we got that notice last March ... and we decided in July we wanted to keep it."
The mission board continued taking steps to rehabilitating the building by submitting plans to the Board of Architectural Review. Masonry work began in the second week of December, Barrett said. In order to abide by city code concerning historic properties, the restoration project must include keeping the garage doors intact along with the building's several windows on both floors.
The building needed extensive work since the foundation had failed and caused part of the structure to collapse in a pile of bricks. Masonry contractor Charles Ramey and an assistant repaired the wall to allow for the replacement of the roof. They had to match the original mortar and brick of the building.
In one day, Cardinale, DeMartinez and Ramey, along with volunteers from the mission and local businesses, removed the damaged roof. Cardinale's business, Small Job Specialist Inc., and graduates of the mission's New Life Program assisted in the demolition of the old roof, according to Barrett.
Fauver Construction then installed new trusses, wood underlayment and roofing trusses. Wendaway Roofing was contracted to put on the new metal roof.
The mission needs to buy new wooden windows and exterior wooden doors before work can continue on the inside, which requires more repairs. The organization expects to spend $52,000 in materials and professional fees on the roof, windows, garage and passage doors, plumbing and fixtures, HVAC and dust collection systems, electrical service and interior lighting, street cut and patch for utilities, interior insulation, drywall partitions, ceilings and painting.
The woodworking program will be similar to another effort the shelter runs that includes helping the men control their money by opening up bank accounts for them. When a man's time is up at the shelter, the money goes to that person, Barrett explained, though the organization does require 10 percent go toward rent.
The mission leaders hope to have the shop finished in July and operational in August, Barrett said.
Meanwhile the mission work to help men in need continues. Some arrive because they have no homes and others come after making "bad decisions" and "trusting themselves for everything, trusting in the world to provide for them and when they come to the Mission, we teach them to trust God," Barrett said. "And we have found the key element in life change."
The mission houses 20 to 40 men every night at its shelter -- men who have no place to stay and may also be battling addictions, Barrett said.
"We're looking for men who are sick and tired of being sick and tired," Barrett said.
DeMartinez came to the mission about seven years ago, and serves as the organization's industrial coordinator in charge of physical activities the men participate in, Barrett said.
"I didn't really come here to the mission; it just worked out that way," DeMartinez said. "It wasn't my plan to come here."
"Whose plan was it?" Barrett asked.
"It was the Lord's plan," DeMartinez said.
"But it's amazing how he has allowed God to transform his life," Barrett added. "He and a few of the guys who have come through the process of the rescue mission have taken on leadership responsibilities. It's such a neat thing [and] that's what we've always prayed for."
"You try to hire people to be a counselor, you try to hire somebody to be a superintendent but you can't do that, not in this type of environment," Barrett said. "You gotta have somebody who has a passion for it, has a passion for the men and who understand the operations of the rescue mission."
The mission primarily takes in homeless men, Barrett said. But the organization also sees alcoholics and drug addicts and places them in a 30-day program.
"We do not discriminate, period," Barrett said. "But we do request that while you're at the mission you stay sober."
The mission allows one night of grace the first night a person arrives if they are drunk. After that, Barrett said, the person needs to find another place to stay, noting the mission is "not a drunk tank." People they help can stay for 30 days -- they must leave during the day but can return at night. After the 30 days, people must leave for at least two weeks "because we didn't want to create an enabling ministry," Barrett said.
"It breaks that cycle," he said.
In the kitchen, Jim Dailey, 58, cleans up the counters and dishes. As DeMartinez noted, Dailey wakes up each day at 4 a.m. and prepares breakfast for the shelter. Dailey recalled coming to the shelter, homeless and shaking from alcohol abuse.
"Like everybody that comes here, we were down and out with probably no place to go and nowheres to turn to and we come here," DeMartinez said. "By the grace of God and men like Pastor [Lee] Stone, this is here to help people get their lives back in order."
For Lonnie Livesay, 45, the mission provides not only a roof and hot meals, but also a way to improve his life.
"I came to the mission cause I got caught up in some bad ordeals," Livesay said. "I was homeless also and didn't have nowhere to go, and I was looking for direction in my life."
He continues to help at the mission, but still works to find direction.
"It's not an easy road," he said, though he's still homeless.
When Barrett asked what he had done before coming to the shelter, Livesay said he participated in a devil-worshipping cult.
"It got to a point in my life where [I realized] it wasn't true and I was looking for a way out," he said.
Livesay thanked the mission board for allowing him to stay at the shelter while he hopes to receive approval to receive disability payments.
Despite the economic downturn, the mission hasn't seen as much of an increase in the need for the shelter as Barrett anticipated. However, the mission did see a drop off in the number of people coming for help after the organization implemented stricter guidelines, including mandatory breathalyzer tests, about five years ago. Drug testing is performed if mission workers suspect a person may be using illegal substances.
The shelter sees men ages 18 to 80, Barrett said, though the numbers trend toward younger people. They've also seen fathers and sons come to the shelter.
The mission, though, has less stricter rules on who they let in than some shelters, Barrett noted.
"A lot of places will not take sexual abusers," he said. "We overlook anything. We look at it like God has brought you here for a reason and we will do all we can to help you as long as you're willing and have a desire to want to improve or want to add value back to your life."
Individuals or organizations interested in contributing to the restoration project or to learn about other opportunities for ministry can contact Pastor Lee Stone at the mission, Cardinale by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 336-5142, or Barrett by e-mail at email@example.com or phone at (304) 229-1257.
Contact Alex Bridges at firstname.lastname@example.org
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