YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford is going in-depth with the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley this week on the services they offer in the winter months.

CEO John Muckridge said they start planning for the winter months in the summer.

The new facility is allowing us to increase our capacity versus the old facility. We’ve gone through one new winter already in the new building. So, we have a good idea of what our capacity looks like. We have 186 beds. Normally, during the winter months, we are adding an additional 20 mats — 10 mats on each side of the building to help bring in folks. We can go up to 206 people staying at the Rescue Mission,” Muckridge said.

Now, women, children and men can be separated. In the old facility, there was more of a communal area.

“We keep our single men on one side, and we keep women and families on the other side. It’s much more efficient. We have our Women and Families Department. We have bullet-resistant glass and drywall from a safety and security standpoint because it’s a new facility,” Muckridge said. “The building is built for the ministry of the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley. We’ve never had a building like that before.”

The dining hall also has its own entrance, so if somebody comes to just eat, they only have access to the dining hall and a restroom.

The Rescue Mission is one of the non-profits in our community that does not receive federal funding. So, the non-profit is able to stay in line with its mission. According to Muckridge, the Rescue Mission exists for three reasons, “to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, to promote accountability and to provide food [and] emergency shelter.”

“The folks that we serve are the homeless population, either men, single women, women with kids, dads with kids, whole family units are coming to the Rescue Mission and utilizing the services,” Muckridge said.

He says the purpose of the Rescue Mission is to help people grow out of homelessness.

“We want to give folks a handout, but not just a handout, because we’ve learned if we just give a handout, that’s going to keep them in that cycle of depending on the hand and that standard cycle of homelessness. So we want to give them a hand up and that takes the form of accountability. There are rules, there are expectations, there are things that individuals have to engage in in order to stay at the Rescue Mission,” Muckridge said.

He says it’s a choice for people whether or not they want to grow out of homelessness.

“We’ll serve both the population in both groups, but at a certain point, the individuals who really don’t want to grow out of homelessness and don’t want to meet the expectations, eventually, by choosing not to meet the basic expectation, they choose not to stay at the Rescue Mission,” Muckridge said.

The Rescue Mission averages about 155 people staying each night, with about 30 of them being children with guardians.

“We’re serving 300 meals a day from our dining hall, that includes the people that are staying with us, but also people who come in off the streets, public clients who aren’t staying at the Rescue Mission but come in to eat… They can come in and have breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Muckridge said.

Thanksgiving is coming up, which means another big community meal at the Rescue Mission.

“So we’re in preparation again. We’re dependent upon the Lord and he continues to provide and he provides through the generosity of the Valley. I mean, like we mentioned earlier, we don’t receive government funding, so we receive donations from individuals in the Valley — local businesses, churches and foundations. They give to help meet the need throughout the year and in Thanksgiving and during the cold weather months,” Muckridge said.

On the menu for Thanksgiving, which will be served on Thanksgiving Day, will be turkey, a traditional turkey stuffing, sweet potatoes and other traditional menu items. It will be buffet-style from noon until 8 p.m.

“It’s incredible how many turkeys are donated to the Rescue Mission,” Muckridge said.

The meals are served by volunteers, some of which are entire families that sign up for time slots to serve.

“Those time slots are usually booked in July because people are looking forward to that time to come in and to serve the population that we serve,” Muckridge said.

The Rescue Mission is located at 1300 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Youngstown. It is across the street from the Youngstown City Schools’ bus parking lot.

The Rescue Mission was founded in 1893 — 130 years later, it is still serving the community.