July 2020 Newsletter

Things Learned During This Covid-19 Season

The Eugene Mission Family has now experienced more than 15 weeks of ongoing trials, challenges and victories with respect to COVID-19. What a ride it has been! And while we potentially still have a way to go, there have been so many beautiful experiences and lessons learned that I wanted to share a few with you.

We Can Trust God

Trust in him at all times, oh people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
– Psalm 62:8

Initially, we did not know how the closure of stores, venues and restaurants would impact us. We rely almost entirely upon donated food and we wondered how the disruption in our donors’ businesses and supply lines would unfold. As it turned out, our generous donors came through with scrumptious, nutritious food that more than filled our storehouses. So much so, in fact, that we can not only feed our guests during this season but can also provide meals for other vulnerable individuals throughout the community.

God Shows Himself Mighty in Our Struggles

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has not might he increases strength.
Isaiah 40:29

As Oregon followed the governor’s stay-at-home order, so did the Eugene Mission. While the practice can be difficult, particularly for those who struggle with addiction and mental illness, we watched as God worked in our midst and caused our guests to thrive. Our guests not only bound together and with staff in new and beautiful ways, but our guests also stepped up their engagement in life skills and life transformation. Our guests’ well-being is better now than before COVID-19.

As God Leads, We Will Keep Going!

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
Psalm 37:5

As we move forward and ultimately emerge from COVID-19, we intend to hang on to what God has shown us in this season. More than ever, we are committed to hope-transformed lives, and to walking alongside our guests and partnering with them, as opposed to weakening and isolating guests by only doing things for them.

We are so excited to see what God has for our precious guests as we continue to share their inspiring stories with you.

Blessings upon you,

Sheryl Balthrop
Executive Director


We are looking forward to the return of volunteers and visitors. We will continue to observe precautions and a schedule that accommodates social distance and safety. Please contact Kelsie Champ: kelsiec@eugenemission.org for more information.

Hope on First and Blair

“COVID captivity” has been used by many to describe the experience that began with pandemic precautions and quickly escalated to “stay inside, stay safe.” After 64 years of open doors, March 23rd, 2020 was the day the gates of the Eugene Mission were rolled shut as we began to prepare for the unknown. “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear. I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

Dominique Gonzalez

Dominique Gonzalez

The experience of COVID-19 and sheltering in place (in a shelter) has been an experience filled with challenges and rich in hope. In this issue, we will share the stories of five guests who agreed to share their experiences that have left us, on any given day, surprised by joy.

Indeed, we have seen Hope on First and Blair.

“My name is Dominique and I am a dad, a husband, a brother, a son.” Dominique speaks with love and affection for his family that he is living apart from while staying at the Eugene Mission. Dominique first came to the Eugene Mission six years ago. “I needed a place to stay while I got back up on my feet.” Following a brief stay at the Mission, Dominique moved out but found he wasn’t quite ready to face his addiction.

Oregon’s statistics on substance abuse do not paint a pretty picture. While 2018 statistics showed Oregon with the fourth-highest addiction rate in the country, our state ranked 49th out of 50 states in treatment options. The Eugene Mission recognizes the brutal suffering caused by substance abuse and supports its guests in their sobriety through emerging programs such as “R3.”

“R3” stands for “Rescue + Revitalize + Restore.” The program is a new direction for relational and transformative programs for residential guests. Rather than serving our guests in a transaction of hand-outs, we aim to work with our guests. COVID-19 and the related precautions catapulted the R3 program from vision to reality as 250 residential guests chose to stay inside, stay safe and ride out the pandemic with sobriety and intentional daily activities. “I decided to give R3 a shot,” says Dominique. “I’ve squandered a lot of years. I’ve made mistakes. I feel like I’ve come back to the right place at the right time.”

Dominique’s goal is to establish a track record of sobriety as his 45th birthday approaches. He would like to rejoin his family post-pandemic confident in his sobriety. Dominque quotes Proverbs 25:28: “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” As Dominique works on his emotional and physical health, we have been blessed by his amazing attitude and work ethic. “My wife motivates me, my children motivate me and I want to thank God for this opportunity,” he shares.

Melody Welling

Melody Welling

Melody Welling came to the Eugene Mission when she found herself struggling to find affordable housing and stable employment. According to the Oregon Housing Alliance, for every 100 families with extremely low incomes, there are only 16 affordable units available. The average minimum wage worker earns $12.46 per hour and would need to work 69 hours weekly to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the Lane County market. The waiting list for a studio apartment can be up to five years.

Prior to COVID-19, Melody was working for CMS (Crowd Management Services) and saving up for an apartment. When the pandemic swept through Lane County, every large event was cancelled for the foreseeable future. Melody describes herself as shy and suddenly found herself in a group living situation, unemployed and then homeless in a global pandemic. As our gates rolled shut, Melody signed up—despite her shyness—to join Mission staff and guests on mobile outreach ventures to distribute essential supplies to the unhoused. Melody began building friendships with her “roommates” while working in the Mission kitchen, serving meals and attending R3 meetings.

“Friends are the family you pick with your heart,” says Melody. While not close with her immediate family, Melody has found gratification in friendships with Mission staff and guests. The wait lists for affordable housing can be long and discouraging and Melody is determined to stay active in emerging R3 classes and internships as she works to obtain employment and housing.

Michelle Keith

Michelle Keith

Michelle Keith, guest of the Eugene Mission for a little over a year, found herself homeless when she lost her job and was unable to pay rent. Michelle battles depression and the hopelessness of her situation felt overwhelming. As the COVID-19 crisis escalated, all volunteer shifts at the Mission—representing 12 full-time staff members—were cancelled. Mission staff members with underlying health conditions needed to take leave and there was a great need for help in the daily operations of a full-capacity shelter.

Michelle signed up with gusto. Throughout the 15 weeks of pandemic precautions, Michelle has worked in the Mission kitchen serving meals, chopping and prepping produce, sorting donations, helping the Women’s Center staff clean and organize supplies and taking walks around the 7.5-acre campus with Melody. Michelle works with “Operation Mobile Outreach” to take essential supplies to the unhoused outside of the Mission campus. “The interactions bring out my true self,” she says. “It’s gratifying to help others and see people brighten up when we set up our tables and supplies.”

As we enter Phase 1/2 re-opening, Michelle plans to continue participating in R3 activities while working to obtain an internship and mentorship in the hospitality industry. “I would like to give a shout out to the Mission for helping me establish goals,” she says. “I would like to be able to live independently.”

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson, a Eugene Mission guest for 14 months, is college educated. Pamela was employed with housing when a series of significant health challenges—including diabetic retinopathy, temporary blindness, partial leg amputation, kidney failure followed by cancer and the surgery and treatments thereof—derailed her future. When Pamela was delivered to the Eugene Mission, she felt like “garbage being thrown away.”

“When I arrived at the Mission, it felt like a prison and I was being dumped off with nowhere else to go,” Pamela says. “The Mission has become my sanctuary and I have never known such kind and compassionate people. I am grateful. I am hopeful.”

During this season of pandemic precautions and stay-at-home orders, Pamela has found solace in the safety and compassion she has experienced. “I am sick and tired of letting this define me,” she shares. “I am disabled but I am not my disability. I can do things. I am learning.” With better control of her medical conditions, Pamela has learned to walk with her prosthesis and her eyesight is improving. Pamela has joined the R3 program and has also joined the Mobile Outreach Team to distribute essentials to the unhoused.

Pamela has enjoyed the serenity of a closed campus and the relationships with other women and Mission staff. “I initially felt dumped off,” she says. Then I realized I do have some issues I need to work on. I used to think I didn’t belong here, but this has been a real opportunity for self-examination. Now my goal is to find my own nest.”

Zak Lee

Zak Lee

Zak Lee, age 52, is emotional as he describes his experience at the Eugene Mission. Zak identifies as having been homeless for at least five years. “This place saved my life,” he says. “You can quote me on that.”

Zak arrived a year ago after a friend bought him a bus ticket and sent him to the Eugene Mission. “People here know my name, they look me in the eye, they really care about who I am as a person and what my interests are.” On any given day, we see Zak with a tool belt helping our maintenance team restore a bathroom, spreading bark dust, running the commercial laundry facilities or helping with the complete campus reconfiguration to de-densify sleeping spaces for our 250 guests who remain at the Mission. Zak has a bright smile and a sparkle in his eye. “I have goals,” he says. “I haven’t had goals in years. I look forward to waking up each day and getting to work.”

Zak has struggled with alcoholism that left him homeless and hopeless. “I have been through many programs, but they didn’t stick,” he says. Relapse is a common theme in recovery and Zak is determined to keep his life on track with his participation in the emerging R3 program and a desire to work with people like himself in the future. “I have a story, I have hope,” he shares. “I would love to be able to help others find their way out of that hopeless pit.”

Rescue + Revitalize + Restore (R3) is a transformational and relational program that the Eugene Mission has been visioning to implement. The experience of a closed campus created a natural and organic opportunity to launch elements of the program that include working alongside guests and addressing the root issues that have resulted in their homelessness. As we enter Phase 1/2 re-opening with a plan to officially launch the program to all our residential guests, we have received good news that it will be funded with help from The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. The timing could not be more miraculous and encouraging. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

We welcome you for a tour and conversation about the R3 transformational program at the Eugene Mission, our future vision and how you can be involved. This incredible experience has been filled with hope — Hope on First and Blair.

Remember the Eugene Mission in your Estate Planning

Planning for your future? Leave a legacy! Please remember us in your will. For those wishing to designate Eugene Mission as the beneficiary in a will or other instrument.

Please Reference: Eugene Mission,
FEIN #93-0563797.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling