Saturday, May 05, 2007

Pacific Garden Mission Still On the Move for Christ

America's Largest Continuously Operating Rescue Mission Prepares for Move to New State-of-The-Art-Facility
Will Move to a 150,000 Square Foot Environmentally Friendly Structure

By Tony Rufo Special to ASSIST News Service
New building digital rendering

CHICAGO, IL (ANS) -- After being located at 646 South State Street since 1923, Chicago's Pacific Garden Mission (PGM) is a few short months away from moving into a new 150,000 state-of-the-art rescue mission. In addition to the benefit of bringing all its ministry services under one roof, the functional, three-story facility has been planned with Green environmentally friendly design principles and renewable energy technologies in mind.

D.L. Moody

PGM's doors first opened on September 15, 1877 and have been open every day since, 24 hours per day, for over 47,250 consecutive days - more than half the time the United States has existed as a nation, and spanning the terms of 25 US presidents. It is the largest continuously operating rescue mission in America and currently operates from two Chicago locations: 646 S. State Street [where it has operated since 1923, serving men]; and at 955 W. Grand Avenue [which opened in 1941 and became part of PGM in 1982, serving women, and women with children]. The Mission now employs 95 full time staff, plus scores of volunteers. Due to action taken by the City of Chicago under the law of eminent domain, PGM begun construction last year on a new building which they will occupy by October 2007.

From its start with Colonel George Clarke and his wife, Sarah, Pacific Garden Mission has grown in nearly 130 years. It started with "a little room with a seating capacity of about 40, a few wooden benches, a wheezy organ" at 318 S. Clark Street, to what is now 67 East Van Buren Street in 1880, and then to the 600 block on South State Street in 1923, where the main ministry has been located ever since. Dwight L. Moody once proclaimed the mission as "the greatest on earth" and, in 1880, gave it its name after it relocated to the former Pacific Beer Garden. Mr. Moody suggested dropping the word "beer" and adding the word "mission."

D.L. Moody and Pacific Garden Mission played prominent roles in a chain of conversions that include Billy Sunday, Mel Trotter, and Mordecai Ham, whose preaching led to the conversion of Billy Graham. In the 1920s, when the Mission was led by Walter and Ethelwyn Parker, affectionately known as Ma and Pa Parker, Ma Parker was so impressed by the testimony of Charles E. Crawford that she wrote the beloved hymn, "Calvary Covers it All."

Sign on State Street

Thousands profess Christ each year through the outreach of the Mission. Free services include overnight shelter; three nutritious daily meals prepared by licensed food handlers; clothing, and medical and dental care. Last year, PGM served 767,668 meals [average 2103 daily; 701 per meal] and provided 217,540 shelter days [596 daily average]. The Mission distributes over a million items of clothing annually, and provides free medical and dental care to approximately over 6000 people annually, an average of 500 people each month. Operating at or near capacity, PGM cared for a number of Hurricane Katrina evacuees in recent months.

PGM also provides: Bread of Life outreach to nearby housing projects, including Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey baskets; outreach to the Polish speaking community using English as Second Language; Jail Ministry; PGM Men's Choir; and the Unshackled! weekly radio dramatic series. PGM provides rehabilitation programs, one-on-one counseling, and educational program options that include Career Development, Life Skills Training and Bible courses. These are comprised of computer skills, accredited GED and other educational instruction, money management, goal setting and other life management skills. Assistance in career development, resume creation, and job placement is also available.

A 2006 survey by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless shows that 21,078 people are homeless in Chicago on a typical night; there were 73,656 homeless adults and children in the fiscal year ended 6/30/06. The year-long study showed 26,413 children [36%], 12,007 adults in families [16%] and 32,105 single adults [43%].

Approximately 95% of the new space, or 145,551, will be devoted to residential space and services, including dormitories, clinic, dining area, auditorium, bathrooms, showers, and classrooms. Approximately 7,716 square feet, or 5% of the space will be devoted to staff offices, security, Unshackled! radio production and counseling staffs. It will include:

  • 600 person dining area
  • 600 seat auditorium
  • 4800 sq. ft. clinic
  • 4800 sq. ft. program men's class space
  • 2300 sq. ft. women's clothing sorting/distribution
  • 2950 sq. ft. men's clothing sorting/distribution
  • 8000 sq ft. transit men's daytime class/activity space with computer lab
  • 2400 sq. ft. transit women's daytime space
  • 2000 sq. ft. women's gym
  • 2580 sq. ft. men's gym
  • 2400 sq. ft. men's linen and laundry space
  • 1800 sq. ft. women's linen and laundry space
  • 2 libraries - one for men and one for women residents
  • Outdoor recreation space for men and women

A highly identifiable component of the current building will also be making the move. A visible witness to the city [to say nothing of its landmark standing], the venerable "Jesus Saves - Christ Died for Our Sins" will be part of the new Mission.

The larger building will allow PGM to expand its outreach services. Lower food costs will result from the produce grown in greenhouses on the new site. These structures will also be used as training grounds for men and women to learn horticultural skills. PGM also facilitates training in culinary and cooking skills, barbering, nursing, and other trades. The new building will be able to accommodate approximately 200 women and children, and able to sleep over 950 people per night, up from the current 600 plus. The larger quarters will also allow the simultaneous feeding of over 600 people [a 400% increase from the current 150] and the seating of 600 in the auditorium [up 240% from the current 250].

At the building's 2005 groundbreaking ceremony, PGM President David McCarrell traced the history and longevity of the mission. He stated, "For 128 years, Pacific Garden Mission has served the spiritual and social needs of the less fortunate citizens of Chicago. This new state-of-the-art facility will enable us to address the spiritual and physical needs more effectively in a building that is LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certified and environmentally friendly."

Further attesting to God's faithfulness, Mr. McCarrell presented a challenge, "Do you want to be blessed of God*" Then citing the words of King David in Psalms 41, he told the group, "Blessed is he who considers the poor; The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble."

Tony Rufo, is a communications/ministry executive, marketing consultant, writer, and broadcaster who has over 20 years of experience working in the Christian and general markets. Tyndale House has just released his newest book, The Complete Book of Pop Music Wit & Wisdom. His other published works include media and music articles, book reviews, radio and television commercials and scripts, and evangelistic essays. True Tunes News featured his article, "The Gospel According to John, Paul, George, and Ringo--Good Time Rock 'n Roll or Religion for the Undiscerning?" In addition, he is developing radio, TV and film projects designed for evangelism and pre-evangelism in the general and Christian marketplaces. Several of these involve applications to bring new revenue streams to ministries. He has spoken in churches, schools and business meetings, and groups. He can be reached at

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