More than 200 volunteers helped out at the Thanksgiving Day meal event at the Charlotte Rescue Mission, and Executive Director Tony Marciano expects other big shows of support on Christmas and Easter.
But he knows the nonprofit rehab center needs help all year long.
“What are we doing the other 362 days?” Marciano asked. “We’re changing the lives of people who are struggling with addiction, poverty and hopelessness.”
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There’s a critical need for volunteers to help with a new learning center that focuses on improving residents’ math and reading skills, along with preparing them to hunt for jobs.
Marciano’s ultimate goal is to land a $50,000 donation for salary and benefits to hire a full-time learning center instructor. Meanwhile, volunteers are doing the teaching jobs.
The mission has many other volunteer opportunities. People can start simple by serving meals or take part in painting projects, floor repairs or landscaping.
Founded in 1938, Charlotte Rescue Mission provides a free 90-day Christian-based residential program for men and women who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The dorm for men, which houses 151 residents, is on West First Street, and women are housed in a separate facility on West Boulevard called Dove’s Nest.
Marciano described the current pool of volunteers as “phenomenal people.”
“They work in partnership with us in changing lives,” he said. “But we need more.”
The learning center, which can accommodate 20 people, opened in September. Providence Road Church of Christ funded the room renovation, furniture, computers and software.
Bill Lockley, men’s program director at the mission, said residents attend classes once a week. They not only improve reading and math skills, but learn basic computer skills, how to write résumés and search for jobs.
In 2000, Lockley was a resident of Charlotte Rescue Mission. After a 20-year Army career, he got hooked on crack cocaine.
“I was living under a picnic table,” said Lockley, 59. “One morning, God told me this wasn’t the life he had for me. I threw my crack stem in the river and haven’t looked back since.”
After he went through the mission’s program, Lockley said he earned a two-year degree in substance abuse counseling from Central Piedmont Community College, a bachelor’s degree in counseling from Gardner-Webb University and has nearly completed work on his master’s degree from Liberty University.
He sees the learning center as a way to help residents build confidence and wants to get more volunteers involved because “without them, we wouldn’t be here.”
Another former resident of the mission, Phillip Wilson, also stayed on to work at the nonprofit after he’d completed the program. As the weekend facility technician, he keeps tabs on the operation.
In 2007, Wilson arrived at the mission as a longtime drug and alcohol addict. When volunteers showed up to spend time working with him and others, “I was amazed,” said Wilson, 52. “They’d thank us for allowing them to come, and they were doing the volunteering. Even young people in their 20s and 30s were there. It made me think about what I was doing in my 20s, and it wasn’t helping people.”
Volunteers who work at the mission “will gain a self-worth money can’t buy,” Wilson said. “We’re open 24/7, 365 days a year. There’s somewhere we need help at anytime.”