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Front Page » December 2, 2004 » Holiday Focus & Business Jo... » A Helping Hand
Published 3,925 days ago

A Helping Hand

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Restored back to an original design the Golden Rule Mission undergoes a facelift on Helper's Main Street. The mission has a capacity of 53 residents, which includes men, women and families. Programs through the Mission are designed to get the residents back into the mainstream of society.

Sitting in his office on the second floor of the Golden Rule Mission in Helper, John Thorton is reviewing notes he will need at an court hearing for one of the people who live in the Helper Mission. But within the next 15 minutes he juggles at least six other situations that many people are never exposed to in a lifetime. Someone was found walking the streets, having been thrown from a truck, still cold and hungry. A young family, who had been staying at the mission for the past six weeks needed some information about hooking up electricity in their new apartment in Price and yet another man, in his late 60's was excited to help set up Christmas merchandise in the Mission store.

The place was buzzing with people on their way to work, taking in donations that had been dropped off overnight, preparing for lunch, and assisting other clients to get much needed medical help. These are all people, who for one reason or another have taken a wrong road, came to a point in their life where there seemed no hope, no way out and no future.

"This is the best I have ever been since 1965 when I got out of the service. I have everything I need." said a disabled veteran who ended up at the mission, no place else to turn.

What happens to people who are disabled, alcoholic, drug addicted, recently divorced and have no skills nor money? What happens when the road you are on leads no where and there is absolutely no hope for the future?

Many people struggle with multiple medical issues associated with well being and it's these people that often end up at the Golden Rule Mission in Helper.

The mission is a stop gap for these individuals, not a long term solution. But thanks to a recent grant, a team of professionals are helping people find their way to rebuild their lives and get on with the business of living.

John Thorton, the project manager, has been on board for only three months and has hired two part-time case managers Tera Nichols-Prudence and Yank Clark. Clark runs the recovery programs, leading the Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.) meetings as well as teaching classes in relapse prevention and substance abuse. He serves as the abuse mentor for about half of the people at the mission.

John Thorton, new manager of the Golden Rule Mission in Helper has his hands full caring for the less fortunate in the area.

Above the mission lobby and mission store are two floors that offer both private rooms as well as dorm rooms. The private rooms are currently occupied by the employees until the remodeling project is complete. Those actively looking for work, while there are community baths and laundry facilities on both levels.

VISTA volunteer Bob Tanner runs the store and Kathy Wright, also a VISTA volunteer, works as Thorton's assistant. The mission can house up to 53 residents at one time. On the back of the third floor is a large family room. The family which is currently there is planning to move into their own place this month.

Lynda Varner, who heads up the Housing Authority of Carbon County, wrote a two-year continum-care grant which hired Thorton and the two case managers. They currently have four VISTA volunteers working at the mission.

Money to remodel the front of the building and give a much needed face lift is coming from the Community Development Block Grant, administered by the Association of Government.

Funding comes from a variety of sources including a federal emergency shelter grant, known as the Essential Services Grant and the State of Utah Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust fund grant. This assists in providing the essentials such as food, clothing and a roof.

Another source this time of the year is the bell ringing campaign, which supports the Humanitarian fund. This fund assists people who are housed in the mission, as well as anyone in the community. Last year the humanitarian fund built a new kitchen, while this year it will put into a fund for medical support, either paying for trips to the doctor or return trips for people who are stranded and need to get home. There will also be a one-time contribution towards rental assistance.

The Mission store helps provides money to pay for the utilities such as gas, electricity and phone service.

One of the requirements to live at the Mission helping out either in the store, the shelter or kitchen. "Most people here are transients, and a lot of people are here because they have come to the end of their rope," said Thorton. He points out that the shelter in Helper is the only facility that offers these services between Salt Lake City and Grand Junction.

The Mission provides the basic needs: a warm place, medical support, food and clothes. People must meet certain guidelines to stay at the mission. People can stay a couple weeks without too many questions. Then, as time goes on, if they begin looking for work, they can stay upwards to 45 days. They can also enter the Transitional Gold Program,where the case managers help the clients set and achieve attainable goals, like securing driver's licenses, getting work, transportation and insurance. Through guidance and mentoring they become successful and as they meet these goals and strive for improvement they can stay upwards to two years. The mission offers rides a day to Price on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

About half the population works with Clark, who mentors and helps people with alcoholic or drug abuse diseases. His conducts recovery meetings and works with the clients as they set realistic lifestyle goals. "Each person is different and the plans reflect their individual needs and goals," explains Thorton.

Community partners are businesses and agencies that have provided in kind goods and services to match the continuous Care Grand. These include the Housing authority of Carbon County, the Helper Clinic, R&A Market, Active Re-Entry, 4 Corners Mental Health and the College of Eastern Utah Volunteer Center.

Two residents of the Golden Rule Mission clean up the kitchen following lunch. Last month a record number of meals were served through the Mission, many elderly, disabled and low income people,

Although these are considered the Mission's partners there are lots of other partners such as Market Express, Workman's Market and Single Stop in Wellington where many of the people living at the Mission have had success in securing jobs. Various churches also help with food and assistance for people who reenter independent living as they work their way back into the mainstream. The lists of volunteers and people who give to the mission is also endless from items for the store, donations of food and clothes to provide haircuts and contributions.

Since there isn't a inpatient treatment center for alcoholics or addicts in Carbon County, the Mission is often the only place that will accept people with no income. "Without these resources available we fear we will see more people dying of these illnesses," explains Thorton.

Thorton is in his third month as manager of the Mission, coming from 24 years in the Army Medical Corp, where he ran a military hospital and assisted in several disaster situations. This included two hurricanes but since he retired from the medical field as a major, the former heavy-equipment operator worked for a couple years at a skilled nursing homes in Salt Lake City.

"We don't realize how much we have until we have lost it all," says Thorton. One person at the Mission, Mac, took a wrong turn at Nine Mile canyon. The 68-year-old Korean veteran found himself up Nine Mile Canyon, car broken down, and stranded. He eventually ended up in Wellington, Price and then at the Mission. His car was vandalized and the few personal items he had were stolen. Now he's back on a recovery track. He is working at the Mission store five days a week and putting his life back together.

Jim is disabled and was coming from Denver and ended up getting off the bus in Price and found himself at the Mission, broke, hungry and alone. "He is one of our success stories," says Thorton. He entered into the Gold Program and gets a small income as a veteran. Because of this he gets medical care and works with other landlords in Helper on affordable living. He moved into his own apartment and is able to eat at the Mission. He continues to help out at the Mission every day and has found that walking daily helps with his medical problems.

Don has been in the area for five years. As house manager, he oversees volunteers and kitchen activities and serves about 1200 meals a month. October was one of the highest ,months in recent years where his crew served 1314 meals, many which are elderly and disabled. Also a Korean Veteran with health problems, he suffered an anurism, and the mission has been a God-send to him. He was a former chef and resort worker and has brought his culinary skills to the Mission. He has also been instrumental in the remodeling project which is currently underway at the mission where new windows, painting and carpet are happening.

"It's been an incredible journey for me, a real study in humanity," reflects Lynda Varner, adding, "Circumstances that make someone homeless; like loosing a job, addition, divorce, severe medical conditions, all become walls that keep caving in on people. They look around and wonder what they can do and where can they can go."

"It was an eye opener for me and by the grace of God there go I," she says.

Varner loves this community and after teaching at Sally Mauro for 27 years she is still giving back" Her second career with the Housing Authority began after she retired from the teaching position.

Varner explains that the former Union Gospel Mission but now called the Golden Rule Mission. The building, now state-owned was donated to the Rescue Mission in the 1980's by Jan and Dominic Oliveto. Unfortunately through mismanagement after almost 20 years it was taken over by the state in 1999 but before they closed it down they approached Varner to see if she could work with a board and get it back on its feet as a mission. That was five years ago.

Built in 1922 as the Avalon Hotel, the three-story brick commercial building was originally owned by Victor Litizette. The top two floors have always been the Avalon Hotel, initially operated by Victor's sister, Minnie Wahl and her husband Albert (Skinny). The downstairs has been occupied by a variety of different businesses. The Golden Rule store, managed by James Galanis until 1935 when A. J. Vieta and Rudy Rebol moved the Castle Rock Mercantile into the building and changed the name to the Progressive Market. At that time the left side of the first floor was partitioned off for use as a hotel lobby and living quarters for Minnie and Skinny Wahl. In 1950, Stanley Litizette, son of victor, took over the second floor of the hotel for his law office. The market was replaced by a state liquor store and then the Gospel Mission tool over the entire building.

Just as Helper was named by the railroad many decades ago, so too the tradition of helping continues in the little mining and railroad community. The Mission is helping many who would otherwise be homeless and hungry. In this season of good will and giving, The Golden Rule Mission is their with a helping hand.

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