Room for more ‘healing:’ An inside look at Rescue Mission’s new space in north Macon

The Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia Inc. is set to move from its downtown headquarters to the site of the former Hephzibah Children’s Home in north Macon later this year.

Hephzibah Ministries Inc. sold its 210-acre campus on Zebulon Road to the Rescue Mission in mid-March, a little more than a year after it announced plans to close and discontinue its residential program for youth.

The property, just west of Interstate 475, is valued at about $11 million, according to the Bibb County Tax Assessor’s website. It has been mostly vacant for the past year.

It is located about a dozen miles from the Rescue Mission’s current 5-acre campus at Hazel and First streets near the Bibb County jail. The north Macon campus is 42 times the size of The Rescue Mission’s current headquarters.

The Rescue Mission is a faith-based ministry that provides long-term residential treatment programs and rehabilitation for homeless and alcohol or drug addicted men. It also has the capacity in its 20,000 square-feet facility to serve about seven women and their children who are victims of domestic violence.

Pat Chastain, president and chief executive officer for the Rescue Mission, said the nonprofit has been talking about expanding its current facilities for a few years, but the increased cost of construction prevented it from happening.

“We put an offer on the property and they accepted,” Chastain said. “In a perfect world it would be great if we could be over there by the end of the summer.”

Chastain declined to say how much The Rescue Mission paid for the property.

Money from the sale to the Rescue Mission was deposited into a trust and interest earned on that money will fund Hephzibah62:4, a new ministry that is a subsidiary of The Wesleyan Church of North America, according to Hephzibah62:4’s website.

“It’s become such a win-win as far as being able to sell the property to The Rescue Mission,” Jodi Lewis, director of the new ministry named Hephzibah62:4, told The Telegraph by phone from her office in Indiana. “We feel like they are carrying on the original vision in just a slightly different way.”

The move to Zebulon Road will nearly quadruple the Rescue Mission’s current capacity of 50 residents, “not to mention the healing that comes from the nature” surrounding the property, Chastain said.

More classroom space, a recreation center, an on-site church and open fields for sports will be among new amenities after the move. The nonprofit also provides community outreach programs, daily meals, holiday meals and a Christmas assistance program for families in need.

The Rescue Mission moved from its location at 500 Broadway to the Hazel Street campus in 2000. The nonprofit, formerly called “The Macon Rescue Mission,” started at 542 Poplar Street, according to Telegraph archives.

The Hazel Street property will be listed for sale in coming weeks, Chastain said.

‘A Catch 22’

Some aspects of the move to north Macon are “bittersweet,” Chastain said.

“We will miss the everyday interaction with our downtown family,” he said. “But you have to look at the overall goal.”

It is sweet that the Rescue Mission will be able to meet needs of more people because there is always a waiting list that includes more than 20 names, Chastain said.

Plans are being worked out for the Rescue Mission to continue serving daily meals downtown, where other resources for the destitute are located such as Daybreak Center, Salvation Army, Loaves and Fishes, Macon Outreach at Mulberry Methodist Church and Christ Episopal Church.

Much of Macon’s homeless population eats breakfast at Daybreak, lunch at Macon Outreach and a 3 p.m. dinner at the Rescue Mission.

Sister Theresa Sullivan, director at Daybreak, said she has mixed emotions about the nonprofit’s departure and called it “a catch 22.”

“Anytime one (organization that helps the homeless) leaves, it weakens the fold,” she said. “I think there’s going to be a gap and we’re going to miss their presence in downtown Macon because they’re a critical part of our network. But I am really thrilled they’re going to keep that evening meal.”

Sullivan also said there are some benefits to the Rescue Mission’s move, particularly for the population it serves, which includes those suffering from addiction.

“When you’re downtown, you may be influenced more by the negative parts that brought you down,” she said. “But, sometimes, when you’re going out that far, people may be more reticent to do that.”