Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. John 5:8
Sixty-Four Years – The Eugene Mission
The Eugene Mission and Ernie Unger were words that were spoken in the same breath for over 50 years. The Eugene Mission was founded in 1952 by Director Dick York as a Shield of Faith ministry for the “street people” of Eugene. By 1958, the Eugene Mission had seen 3 physical addresses and 3 directors when the Board of Directors met young Ernie Unger. The meeting occurred in the backroom of “Hamburger Heaven”, a small resturant in downtown Eugene where the Board met regularly. At the time, Ernie worked for a large veneer plant pulling green chain and shift supervising. While his career was unfolding, so was Ernie’s faith and desire to share the gospel with “transient” men who passed through Eugene looking for work. The Mission was a soup kitchen and chapel located at 6th and Willamette and had no buildings or land, $5.00 in the bank and $1,500 in outstanding bills. Fifty three years later, in 2011, “the mantle” was passed to Jack Tripp with a Mission campus of 7 acres, a dozen buildings, a bank account to support operations and a staff of 20.
Jack Tripp, a former naval officer and sales and marketing executive with Fortune 500 companies, stepped into a more “modern” mission with “modern” problems in 2011. The guests of the “homeless shelter” five decades later are no longer “itinerate” men looking for work with temporary stays. Jack observed decades-long guests and rampant drug use, mental illness, women and children and overall despair. It was Jack’s vision to transform the Mission into a “wellness center for the homeless.” The Mission became a “dry” facility to help guests achieve and maintain sobriety and a voluntary chapel with an emphasis on showing God’s love in action and compassion. Jack’s inspiration was the The Healing at the Pool in John 5:1-15.
In December 2018, the “mantle was passed” to Sheryl Balthrop, attorney with Gaydos, Churnside & Balthrop, PC. Sheryl had been a mission volunteer and board member with a decade as a managing shareholder for her firm and a childhood as a “farm girl” from Nyssa, OR. At the Eugene Mission 2020, Sheryl continues to build on Unger’s “rescue” and Jack’s “wellness” to Vision 2020: “Rescue + Revitalize + Restore” (R3).
Today at the Eugene Mission, 400 guests will seek refuge from the streets in 3 centers: Men’s Center, Women’s Center and Center for Mothers with Children. As the homelessness crisis grows in Eugene and the West Coast, Sheryl leads a staff of 44 who are working to address the roots of chronic homelessness which begins with stabilizing guests and working toward relational healing and reconnection. Sixty four years later, there is plenty of work yet to do and with God’s continual blessings and the support of our community through financial gifts, in-kind donations and volunteerism, we are ready!
To learn more about R3, and the efforts in 2020 to address homelessness at the Eugene Mission, contact Beth Sheehan at Beths@eugenemission.org to set up a “walk about” and to learn more.