More Space Means More Service
Rescue Mission Wants to Help More Women, Children
Participants in the Rockford Rescue Mission’s Life Recovery Program gather for a session. Women’s services will all be housed in the new Pitney Place. (CNS Photo)
Mothers and children can stay together at Rescue Mission facilities.
Chris Eldridge, director of operations for the Rockford Rescue Mission, walks through the construction site for the women’s facility at Rockford Rescue Mission.
An architect’s drawing shows the finished addition for women’s and children’s services at Rockford Rescue Mission. (Observer photos by Lynne Conner)
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
September 11, 2015

ROCKFORD—Following the Biblical command of “Do unto others … ,” the Rockford Rescue Mission is expanding its outreach to women and children with the construction of Pitney Place.

Named for one of the Rescue Mission’s founders, Nadine Pitney, the 25,000 square foot $7 million addition is being primarily funded by donations. They’ve collected nearly 70 percent of their goal.

The new structure connects to the Mission’s Hope Campus on West State Street, and is situated on the northwest corner of the lot.

Pitney Place will include 60 beds in the ground floor Women’s Crisis Center and 60 beds in the second floor Women’s Life Recovery Program.

The Women’s Crisis Center is currently located on Cedar Street, but with the completion of Pitney Place, both women’s programs will be housed in the same building.

The addition will also increase the number of beds for women and children from 76 to 120.

The Pitney Place addition is expected to be completed by Valentine’s Day, 2016.

“We’re the only emergency shelter for women and children in Rockford and every year we have to turn away clients for lack of space,” said Chris Eldridge, director of operations for the Rockford Rescue Mission.

“The Pitney Place expansion is a consolidation of locations and an ability to accommodate those that we are having to turn away,” he said.

Eldridge explained that the Women’s Crisis Center provides emergency shelter to women, women with children and families all day, every day, while the Women’s Life Recovery Program is a nine- to 12-month intense residential commitment aimed at helping women achieve life changing goals.

Medical, educational and case management services are already in place at the Hope Campus for women and children involved with either program.

Using a ‘faith filter’

“Everything that we do at the Rockford Rescue Mission is through the ‘faith filter,’ so obviously we want to reconnect mind, body and spirit back to the way God created us,” he said.

“Many of the women that come to us have been in short-term (addiction) treatment centers and they know they need something different,” said Sherry Pitney, executive director of the Rockford Rescue Mission.

“They have never tried a spiritual approach,” she added. “They know that’s what we’re about and they want to look to God for direction in life.”

The Women’s Life Recovery Program is the only state-licensed program in this area that allows children to stay with their mothers as the women complete the course.

“We feel that since the children are exposed to the dysfunction, they also need to be exposed to the health and recovery as well,” Eldridge said.

“We love helping people when they are in a critical situation,” Pitney said, “but we are all about changed lives.”

Helping others

Helping people and bringing about life changes are just two of the reasons why Catholics Dick Kunnert and Laura Ortiz volunteer at the Rockford Rescue Mission.

Kunnert, of Holy Family Parish in Rockford, has been involved with the mission since 1987 when he served on the Rockford Mayor’s Taskforce on Homelessness.

He has worked with homeless men and women suffering from mental illness and he is a campaign advisor for the Pitney Place expansion.

Additionally, Kunnert has presented a Lead Like Jesus Encounter with key staff at the Mission.

“I am hoping to help initiate Lead Like Jesus for people in the Mission’s Recovery Program. I think Lead Like Jesus’ emphasis on servant leadership will be a perfect fit with folks who are working on recovery,” he said.

Kunnert is excited to see the Pitney Place expansion take shape and is a proponent of the Life Recovery Program at the Mission.

“The...women’s program … offers a beautiful setting to help these women and their children. It is a unique program for Rockford. Anything that addresses addiction and poverty is a plus for the community, in my view. That it is faith-based is an added dimension to its power.

“Catholic Charities does offers many services to our community,” Kunnert added, “but the Rescue Mission is supplying something that does not exist under Catholic auspice. We Catholics should celebrate the work of the mission.”

Donating time, food, money and household items are just some ways that Rockford area Catholics and parish groups can and do support the work of the Rockford Rescue Mission.

Laura Ortiz, a member of St. Rita Parish in Rockford has been on the board of directors at the Mission for four years and has served as chairman of the board’s personnel committee for two years.

Ortiz has many ideas for those wishing to support the work of the Rockford Rescue Mission.

“During the extraordinary jubilee Year of Mercy, it is a perfect time for our parishes to focus on the works of mercy,” she said. “Some ways our parishes can support the Rescue Mission is by taking collections of items on our ‘needs list.’ Church groups can volunteer to work a shift serving meals. Youth groups can volunteer at the Mission Thrift Store helping sort donations. Parishes can contact the Mission’s volunteer coordinator to discuss more volunteer opportunities,” she said.

Ortiz says that the spiritual component of the Rockford Rescue Mission’s work is crucial to the success of its clients.

“They minister to the whole person … helping people regain their lives and be restored to wholeness through Jesus Christ. I believe this is what God asks each one of us to do — to feed the hungry, to protect the weak, to rescue those in distress and bring hope to the hopeless in His name,” she said.

Seeing firsthand the transformative work of the Rockford Rescue Mission is what keeps Ortiz involved with the organization.

“Through my jail ministry work, we have worked closely with the mission to get women transitioned into housing upon release,” she said.

“I know several women who were in my classes at the jail and transitioned to the mission’s Life Recovery Program.

“They are now united with their children, working, practicing their faith and living productive lives,” she said. “ Families are healed and lives are restored — that is what this is about.”