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Salt Lake City youth group members travel to area, assist at Helper mission

Sun Advocate reporter

Ed Matejcek and his son, Enrico, play foosball at the Helper mission. The pair currently live at the mission with Ed's daughter, Amber. They are on the way to getting their own place with the mission's assistance.

The Helper mission is a place of hope and a chance for a new life, according to director Barbara Dougherty.

That hope was bolstered when Zions Lutheran Church members from Salt Lake City came to Helper looking to help their fellowman.

"These were the most amazing group of people," stated Dougherty. "They put over $800 worth of paint into the floor level of our facility and bought us a new grill."

The youth group members, who last year built a home for a family in Mexico, look for a project on an annual basis. This year, they settled on the Helper mission.

The group's members stayed from Aug. 16 to Aug. 19, painting, cleaning and renovating the only mission in Carbon County.

"They cleaned our entire kitchen and entry way," commented Dougherty. "We used to call it the Dungeon because of 50 years worth of tobacco stains and the dark brown paint but thanks to them it looks so open and clean."

According to Dougherty, the group was organized by Jim Brandon.

While the members referred to themselves as a youth group, they were comprised of nearly as many adults and young adults as children.

Dougherty reported that she took the position as the mission's director about a year ago and has seen the facility go through some changes.

The mission houses anywhere from 15 to 20 people on average, but can accept as many as 50 individuals.

Loren Irwin manages the Thrift Store that is part of the mission in Helper.

"People tend to think that the mission only houses men, but we have couples, single parents and children here at the mission, we really serve a wide variety of people here," explained Dougherty.

Funding for the Helper facility is largely supplied via an annual state grant and proceeds from the thrift store which the mission runs next door to its housing facility. According to the director they really get help from all facets of the community, including receiving food aid that was left over from the mine disaster rescue effort.

The mission has strict rules for its residence. No alcohol or tobacco is allowed in the facility and they lock the mission doors at 10 p.m. After that point access to the facility is provided by a doorman who lives and works at the mission.

The facility does not only provide housing for those down on their luck, it also provides vital assistance for those trying to get on their feet. According to Dougherty, residents of the mission can stay for up to 45 days if they are working toward their own goal and up to a year and a half if they work with a case director who can provide self sufficiency goals, permanent housing assistance, help gaining social security and directions to alcoholics anonymous meetings if necessary.

"There are tough days at the mission but there are also wonderful days," explained Dougherty. "I certainly don't make the money that I used to but I believe this job is a calling and it has truly been a blessing for me."

The mission is overseen by a seven person board including; George Zamantakis, Kevin Saccamano, Sherie Mills, Bob Tanner, Joni Westbrook, Maye Aguayo, Pat Wilson and Rick Deaton.

Helper Police Detective Kevin Saccamano reported that he feels the mission is a great asset to the city of Helper.

"People tend to have no idea what the mission really is about," concluded Saccamano. "This place is a true asset to our community and the new director has really made a big difference. The mission in Helper gives people a place to go. I feel it minimizes the criminal element here. The organization and structure make it a safe place. They really help people get their lives together here."

According to Dougherty acts of kindness like those of the Salt Lake Lutheran Church are what make places like the mission work.

"Between them and our own community I think this facility can only get better and better," concluded the director.

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