Rescue Mission remodeled

Lillian Brown, 87, cuts a ribbon Saturday in a ceremony at the newly remodeled Grand Junction Rescue Mission. The building is named after her, in recognition of Brown’s many years as a donor whose craft sales have gone to helping house homeless men in the community.

Wearing a hot-pink sweater over a red blouse and matching red shoes, Lillian Brown was local royalty Saturday. The 87-year-old woman, who breathes with the help of an oxygen tank and whose hands now shake slightly, has dedicated oodles of time and talent to creating crafts, with sale proceeds helping house homeless men.

The culmination of years of her work and other community donations came Saturday during an open house of Grand Junction’s newly remodeled Rescue Mission, a space dedicated to Brown with her name emblazoned across the building’s front at 550 South Ave.

“I knew they were going to do it, but such big letters?” Brown said, embarrassed about the sign in her honor as she received rounds of hugs, many from men who call the shelter home. “They should take that down and make it smaller.”

The interior isn’t quite finished, but the remodeled rescue mission is a brighter space and should be able to house more men, said Keith Bradley, who runs the mission with his wife, Connie.

A tentative opening is planned for Friday. The home’s interior used to be cordoned off with separate bedrooms but now is one large space, soon to be filled with bunk beds to sleep up to 68 men. A spacious bathroom boasts three showers, and laundry facilities are nearby. With the smell of fresh paint in the air and new lighting fixtures, some men who live at the shelter said they mostly anticipated living in a space that will be easier to heat and cool.

“People won’t be so crammed together,” said Owen Sanks, who works at the Rescue Mission. “It used to be that somebody got a cold in there, and everybody would get it.”

The Rescue Mission houses only men, many of whom are on probation or parole or who are registered sex offenders, Bradley said. For $3 a night, but free on Sundays and holidays, the mission provides a bed, shower, dinner and breakfast the next morning. Anyone showing up intoxicated with drugs or alcohol is turned away. The mission is faith-based and hosts regular Christian services and Bible studies in its chapel.

“A lot of men getting out of prison have never been taught how to live right,” Bradley said. “A lot of men get into trouble because they don’t realize there was a right way to live.”

Remodeling costs were estimated at $230,000, and the mission has raised all but about $36,000 to pay off the costs, Bradley said. The mission receives $8 a day for two weeks for recent parolees who stay there. The whole operation runs on about $350,000 a year, he said.

Men who stay at the mission have been going door-to-door lately to raise funds by selling candles made by Bradley. Profits from the Rescue Mission Thrift Store, 2960 North Ave., where Brown sells her homemade crafts, also go to float the mission’s costs.

Some men who previously found shelter at the mission have scattered and are living in tents by the Colorado River or elsewhere as the mission has been closed for about two months during remodeling, Bradley said.

Interest is growing among men about getting back inside, he said.

“I got guys coming, saying, ‘Can I get a bed in the corner?’ ” Bradley said with a laugh. “This ain’t the Hilton. First come, first serve.”

Bradley said a remodeling of the mission has been needed for the past decade. It was initiated after he asked the congregation and patrons whether they should use about $88,000 in savings on capital improvements. He received a resounding, “Yes.”

Bradley, 68, has been running the shelter for 27 years and long ago realized that if a need arises, with the grace of God, people always come forward to help.

“Maybe down the road, I’ll look for a women’s shelter,” Bradley said.


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