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Merced County Rescue Mission
Transforming LivesBy DOANE YAWGER

Since the Merced County Rescue Mission building in downtown Merced was bulldozed last April, the Rev. Bruce Metcalf is often asked if the organization’s programs also went by the wayside.

Quite the contrary.

Metcalf, Rescue Mission chief executive officer, says the philanthropic organization founded in 1991 by Tom and Leticia Miller has about 10 programs going now to give people a hope and a future.

“Just because the old building is gone doesn’t mean we’re gone,” Metcalf says. “We are still here. People thought we went out of existence; we’re still alive and looking for land to build a campus.”

While the familiar Canal Street mission is gone, the rescue mission is serving people in need at 10 locations throughout town. There are two separate group homes for men and women, part of a nine-month recovery program.

Metcalf says the mission offers a faith-based program for adult individuals in recovery who are seeking wellness and spirituality.

“Through participation in the New Life Transformation program of study, participants will be well-equipped to work through the defining issues in their life and become fruitful members of our community. We are giving people the hope through faith in Christ,” Metcalf says.

Metcalf, 69, jokes the mission’s CEO position is his retirement job for only 40 to 50 hours a week. He was a pastor for 38 years, 28 of them at Hilmar Covenant Church in Hilmar. He took over the rescue mission position in April 2011 after the sudden death of director Herb Opalek, who had been a member of the Covenant Church and led a Bible study there.

“I could be home playing golf or weeding the garden, but I love doing this,” Metcalf says. “I am privileged to see people’s lives transformed each day. I get to be a part where people’s lives are changed for the better, sharing the Lord with people. I see how God is working in their lives.”

After the mission’s building was torn down last spring, the number of men who could be housed was reduced from 20 to 10; Metcalf says another group home is needed and they are working at trying to find land.

In its Transitions program, four sober living homes are maintained, three for men and one for women. Thirty-five to 40 people pay $400 in monthly rent while they transition back into the workforce, gain a rental history and ultimately move out on their own.

Through the Hope for Families program and a grant from the City of Merced, a home was purchased for a couple and their four little girls.

Metcalf says the mission also is looking at getting a food truck. After it is equipped, licensed and certified, it is hoped the truck could provide specialty sandwiches in downtown Merced, while program participants receive job training in food preparation.

“Funding is always an issue. The needs are great and continue to be unmet,” etcalf says. “Working with charitable organizations and being willing to collaborate on problems we face together, we can make it happen. It requires us to work together with the city, county and state.”

The rescue mission also is running seven locations for the county’s senior meals program. Metcalf says 12 people are running the mission’s program and they depend a lot on volunteers.

An addiction clinic has been developed and should be going by the first of January. Participants will take part in a three-month course, nine hours a week and an hour of one-on-one counseling with four trainers being certified by the state.

Homeless and housing-unstable individuals are discharged from the hospital to Hope Medical Respite Care while recovering from complex health and social issues. It’s a collaboration between the rescue mission, Mercy Medical Center Merced, Golden Valley Health Centers and California State University, Stanislaus. Metcalf says research shows it costs $30,000 to $70,000 per person per year to care for people on the street.

“We’re able to reduce the cost to $7,000 a year, which is quite a significant savings. Through programs like this more people could be helped for less per month,” Metcalf says.

For more information about rescue mission programs and volunteer opportunities, contact the mission at (209) 722-9269.