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History of the Springfield Rescue Mission

The Springfield Rescue Mission, established in 1892 under the leadership of former Salvation Army Captain Julius Cummings is one of the oldest human service agencies in Greater Springfield, MA. Over the years, the Rescue Mission has faced leadership and organizational changes, giving it an interesting history of survival.

In its early years, the Springfield Rescue Mission was a strong Christian-based organization, focusing on feeding, sheltering and clothing men living on the streets or traveling from town to town. For the most part, these were men who had abandoned their families and were addicted to alcohol. The Rescue Mission, then and now, reaches out to the least, the last and the lost – meeting physical and spiritual needs through the presentation of the Gospel, relying on God through the public to support the life-sustaining and life-transforming programs.

In 1962, The Springfield Rescue Mission purchased the former Y.W.C.A. building on 19 Bliss Street, Springfield and continued to minister to homeless mend in the grips of addition.  Ron Willoughby began serving as executive director/CEO in 1987.  He began his ministry by establishing our residential rehabilitation/transformation program called “Men’s New Life Program” at 19 Bliss Street, Springfield and soon after he implemented the Rescue Missions mobile street feeding program called “Operation SONshine”.  Over the next decade Rod oversaw the implementation of many vital parts of the Springfield Rescue Mission ministries.  Clothing and Give Away Center (1989), Prison Ministry and Detox Bible Study (1990), Learning Center (1995).

In 1997, the Springfield Rescue Mission acquired the  148 Taylor Street, Springfield, property, expanding the ministry to offer 43 Emergency Shelter beds.  In 2002 the 2nd floor of the Taylor Street facility was dedicated to the Transitional Living Program, which is an extension of the Men’s New Life Rehabilitation Program.  

In 2014, it was announced that a casino be built in Springfield and the Rescue Mission would need to vacate the two Bliss Street buildings.  Even before the casino was even proposed for Springfield, the need for a larger, more modern facility within the South End was necessary to better meet the needs of the hungry, homeless, addicted, and poor in our communities we serve.  The former Orr Cadillac facility was the only site that truly fit the necessary requirements.  In December 2015, the Rescue Mission officially vacated 15 and 19 Bliss Street to call 10 Mill Street, Springfield home to the Rehabilitation/Transformation Program, Give Away Center and Business Offices.

The Springfield Rescue Mission has been providing 125+ years of service to the homeless, addicted and poor. Although the Rescue Mission experienced many changes over the years, it remains a Christ-centered organization, reaching out and touching lives with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the determination to seek God’s will for its future. Men, women and children seek the many services provided at the Rescue Mission daily.

1892 – This ministry began over a laundry on Stanford Street on September 15

1900’s – Fanny Crosby, a famous hymn writer ministered here

1927 – Celebrated 35 years of ministry with the Superintendent Alexander of the Water Street Mission, as guest speaker

1962 – Purchased the former Y.W.C.A. building at 19 Bliss Street

1974 – Became a member of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions

1988 – Two programs established: Operation SONshine (Mobile Feeding Program), Men’s New Life Program

1989 – Two programs established: Children’s Summer Ministry, Opened Give Away Center to men, women and children

1990 – Three programs established: Membership in E.C.F.A. Prison Ministry, Detox Bible Study

1994 – “Growing Together Toward Excellence” Certification with the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM)

1995 – Learning center established

1997 – Springfield Rescue Mission obtained building at 148 Taylor Street, Springfield

2000 –  Kitchen renovation completed at 19 Bliss Street

2002 – Two programs established: Emergency Shelter expansion at Taylor Street, Transitional Living Program

2004 – Renewal of “Growing Together Toward Excellence” Certification with AGRM

2006 – New Development Office implemented at 19 Bliss Street

2015 – Springfield Rescue Mission obtained former Orr Cadillac building and vacated Bliss Street properties

2020 – Association of Certified Biblical Counselors Training Center approval

– Lighthouse Biblical Counseling Institute established

– Became a member of “The Gospel Rescue Mission Fellowship”

Future Vision – Women/children’s shelter ministry

– Food distribution center