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2011 HOLIDAY GUIDE FOUR: A year-round mission

The Tacoma Rescue Mission comes to the rescue to many 365 days a year

There are always folks who could use a hand from the Tacoma Rescue Mission. Photo credit: Kristin Kendle

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The Tacoma Rescue Mission gathers donations and hosts special events each holiday season, but what the Rescue Mission does is not limited to the holidays. All year round, the Rescue Mission helps Tacoma's homeless and needy populations.

The Tacoma Rescue Mission is a non-profit that has been working with the area's homeless, drug-addicted and needy since 1912. The organization has three facilities - a downtown campus for men, as well as two family campuses, one on Adams Street and one on Tyler, most often housing single mothers with children.

Each night, the Rescue Mission feeds an average of 800 people. Each night, it provides beds for about 75 men and 150 children (who come in with at least one parent). During the holidays and wintertime, the Rescue Mission kicks into high gear.

"As we get into this cold weather time, we don't turn people away," says Jann Sonntag, executive assistant to the CEO and the person who handles public relations for the Rescue Mission. "We put up cots, put down mats on the floor. We don't want people out there being cold."

The Tacoma Rescue Mission also strives to make the holidays as enjoyable as possible for everyone served by its shelters. Both Christmas and Thanksgiving bring large sit-down dinners for the entire week of each holiday. While the Rescue Mission serves dinner every day, the dinners served during Thanksgiving and Christmas have extra touches. Sometimes there is live music; sometimes community groups give out gifts. Volunteers come out in record numbers to prepare the meals and serve.

"We serve around 1000 meals a day here, and those numbers go up during the holidays," says Juliet Wallin, who heads Community and Donor Relations at the Rescue Mission. "We need almost 1000 volunteers for both of those months to feed as many people as we do. It's fun for families to come and volunteer, especially during Christmas."

Dec. 22 at the Adams Street campus there will be a large party for the children.

"Santa is a friend of mine, so I send him up," says Sonntag. "We have a photographer who takes a picture of every child with Santa. Santa is a generous man and he brings gifts for every child."

"We often have the families distribute gifts themselves," adds Wallin. "We try to make it as easy on all the kids as possible, because the holidays can be really tough."

"People think of the holidays as a time of year to give. For us, it's a 24-7 thing," says Sonntag.

The Rescue Mission always needs donations. Especially during the winter months, there's a great need for socks, hats, gloves, coats and other cold weather gear. There's also a significant need for baby clothes and baby supplies, as the emergency shelter currently aids a few mothers with newborns.

"A lot of families who come to us have been sleeping in their cars or don't have anything other than what's on their backs," says Wallin.

Donation and volunteer options are listed on the Tacoma Rescue Mission website, including the option to "adopt" a child or family and the chance for a company or family to host an entire evening's meal. Tacoma Rescue Mission hopes to have the entire week of Christmas sponsored this way.

Donations can be dropped off at 425 S. Tacoma Way from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., or at 2909 S. Adams St. Thursdays from 2-4 p.m. or Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.

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