The Holland Rescue Mission is getting ready to have the Grand Opening for their brand new thrift store, The Gateway Center, but the new building is for so much more than selling gently-used items.
The Gateway is a place where members of the Holland Rescue mission help the homeless get back on their feet. Through multiple classes and programs, they build up the homeless that come to the Holland Rescue Mission for aid, and restore the dignity of those individuals.
The Gateway is a 28,000 square-food thrift store, where everything sold there has been donated by people in the area.
The Holland Rescue Mission accepts hundreds of thousands of new and used items each year. Students go through the items and sort them into what can be sold in the store, then the rest being shipped off to third world countries to help others.
The Holland Rescue Mission also calls The Gateway a place where people can go if they need to get out of the weather, or get some food in an emergency. However they don't want these people to come in on a regular basis; they want to educate those in need and get them out into the working world.
When individuals come to the Holland Rescue Mission and have experienced homelessness, counselors sit down with each person and discuss their needs.
Rachel, one of the volunteers at Holland Rescue Mission, says that they employ the homeless to work at the thrift store and encourage them to become "students" at the Gateway Academy.
"We call the homeless people that come here students because they are students." Rachel said. They're learning, they're being trained in a career here, they're being taught more than how not to be homeless. They're learning how to build a life for themselves."
The Gateway Academy is a 48 week program that occurs right at The Gateway Center. Students are taught the skills they need to get a career where they can grow and build a path of sustainability for themselves.
Along with the academy, Holland Rescue Mission also offers life skill classes where students can learn how to manage money, appropriate behavior for the workplace, anger management, along with bible and worship classes.
Ken Hodgins is a shining example of the success seen at Holland Rescue Mission's Gateway Academy. He didn't have very good values growing up, and struggled with relationships and substance abuse.
"I was broken inside, broken in spirit, and I really wanted to commit suicide," Ken said. "I reached out to [Holland Rescue Mission] and asked for a place to stay. They welcomed me with open arms."
Ken started working for the Holland Rescue Mission, and they gave him food, shelter, and the education he needed to find a career. Once Ken finished the program, he got a job and his life back on track.
"When you go through the program, you're surrounded by wonderful Christian based people that are going to help you, guide you, and move you towards that step of change."
Today Ken has come back to the Holland Rescue Mission as a volunteer giving back to those who gave him so much.
"This is a wonderful environment, but you have to have the desire to change," Ken said. "I decided to volunteer here and really get into the lives of the students that are here. I want to mentor them just like I was mentored, speak into their lives and show them what it's like after the program."
The Gateway Center is holding a Grand Opening Celebration on April 21 and 22. There will be a raffle for a BMW Convertible and other prizes, plus there will be free food and drinks.
The Gateway Center is located at 661 East 24th Street in Holland.
For more information or to schedule a pickup, visit hrmgatewaycenter.org or call (616)-283-3422.