Our Voice: Union Gospel Mission has come a long way

December 30, 2013 

Homelessness is something for our community to seriously ponder. What are your thoughts when you see someone who appears to be carrying everything they own?

On a cold night, do you bump up your thermostat with hardly a second thought? Have you recently been to a big family dinner, and every day had ample to eat, with more food in your cupboard?

Not everyone in our community enjoys these luxuries.

How we care for our poor is a reflection of who we are.

Some people are homeless by choice, some by circumstance. It's a complex issue.

But the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission has been making a noteworthy effort to help the "broken, bruised and needy" under Don Porter's stewardship for 15 years.

He is retiring now -- sort of. More of stepping aside, really, rather than stepping down. He still will work at the mission part time and his son, Andrew, will be running the place.

During Don's time as the head of the organization, the budget has increased more than tenfold and the mission has stabilized after a rocky period 15 years ago.

All while continuing to serve more clients.

The number of homeless people in the Tri-Cities has increased. It's a natural result from an increased population.

In times of economic prosperity, there are needy, addicted and enslaved people among us. When the economy is stalled, or even slipping, those numbers increase.

We appreciate that the Union Gospel Mission gives people a place to sleep and a meal.

But it does much more -- it is in it for the long haul.

The mission provides resources that help people who want to turn their lives around but either don't know how or feel as though the task is too daunting.

It helps people break addictions that so often hold them hostage. It teaches people responsibility and leadership skills.

The mission provides emergency shelter and transitional housing to solve an immediate problem and also help people change their future.

If you were to call the mission to volunteer to serve a meal on Thanksgiving, it's likely it would already have all the help it needs. It seems like the fourth Thursday in Thanksgiving is an especially popular day to dish up other people's food.

There are, however, 51 other Thursdays in the year and the mission provides meals on those days as well as the other 314 days.

Although the mission has been under Don Porter's supervision the past several years, it receives help from many sources and lots of people.

Some people can give of their time, some can give of their money.

Today we are giving the Porters our respect and appreciation.

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