On Thursday, Sept. 12, Calvary Rescue Mission will hold its annual Appreciation Dinner to celebrate 46 years of helping the homeless in Memphis.
(Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)
The dinner will be held at Bellevue Baptist Church, 2000 Appling Road, and featured entertainment for the evening will be Visible Music College graduate and “The Voice” star Sarah Simmons.
Calvary Rescue Mission was founded on April 1, 1967, by Milton Hatcher. In the beginning, Hatcher, a recovering alcoholic, would drive the streets of Memphis in a hearse, picking up homeless men to deliver them to area shelters. When Central Church moved east, its former home at Linden and Dudley was scheduled to be razed and replaced with a parking garage.
“Brother Jimmy Latimer told Milton that we could use the building until urban renewal took it and that they would pay the utilities and insurance on it,” said Betty Hatcher, Milton Hatcher’s widow and current board member emeritus.
Two years later, Holiday Inn offered the Hatchers a furniture warehouse that had been ravaged by fire. The roof had caved in, but the outer walls were still sturdy.
Evangel Church offered $2,000 toward a new roof, and the stained glass windows from the old Central Church were reclaimed before demolition and installed in the new location.
That same mission, located on 960 S. Third St. near Crump Boulevard, today sleeps and feeds 46 men per night in the building, which was built in 1921. Now a year into its $4 million Breaking Ground, Building Hope capital campaign aimed at constructing a new, expanded facility on the three acres of land surrounding it, Hatcher hopes to more than double the nightly population and spread the word of the Gospel to as many as possible.
Donors have already helped to the tune of $1 million, including an individual pledge for $250,000, and a $75,000 pledge from Central Church for a new dorm wing. Due to the increased cost of maintenance and line items such as food and utilities, many philanthropic organizations and foundations want to see at least half the goal raised “so that they can know that once you get the building up, that you’ve got a donor base that’s going to be enough to keep you,” Hatcher said.
With Calvary reporting that 1,800 to 2,000 are homeless on the streets of Memphis each night, need is greater these days than it was when Hatcher and her husband began the mission.
“With the economy like it is, we have people that just don’t have a job, which causes them not to be able to have a place to stay,” she said. “And, of course we’ve had some that have come through that have been down at Tunica and lost everything. It’s kind of been a multitude where, to start with, there were mainly people with drinking problems then went into drugs, then the gambling and economy, all of it continues to add to it.”
The fundraiser’s headliner, Simmons, was born and raised in Birmingham, Ala., and traveled the world with a musical troupe beginning at an early age. She came to Memphis in 2010 to attend Visible Music College, and credits its founder, Ken Steorts, with her appearance on the NBC talent show “The Voice.” She also gives credit to the music scene and tradition of Memphis.
“I played all the way from random venues and bars to B.B. King’s, just everywhere, and met the most incredible friends I could ever ask for in life,” Simmons said by phone from Los Angeles, where she’s busy recording.
Hatcher and Simmons said they have each loved someone touched by substance abuse and the damage it causes. Simmons said her father, now living in Virginia, was a crack cocaine addict, in and out of rehab over the years, and homeless for a year of his life.
“I really respect this mission because, whether the person was addicted to something or even just clean and homeless, they took them in and just want to help them get back on their feet and getting a job,” Simmons said.
Calvary relies on help from those like Simmons and the many churches in the Mid-South that provide services and resources for the mission, from that first building from Central Church to the new roof courtesy of Evangel Church, to nightly services conducted by preachers and meals provided by churches from as far away as Senatobia and Batesville, Miss., to Millington and Eads.
Calvary Rescue Mission’s annual Appreciation Dinner will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 each, $160 for a table of eight and $200 for a table of 10. To purchase tickets visit Calvary online at www.calvaryrescue.com, call 774-3399 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.