EXIT 196

By Betsy Thorpe

Thanksgiving Day Dinner Volunteers, Nashville Rescue Mission, November 26, 2009

Dozens of travelers leave I-40 at Exit 196 everyday, some to visit friends and family, others for fuel, refreshment or lodging. They all have a story to tell and we are here to share a tale or two that we heard at Exit 196.

Thursday evening after volunteering at Nashville Rescue Mission several family groups who lived near Exit 196 stopped by to talk about how they spent Thanksgiving Day. One community member who was unable to volunteer her time shared how after making a donation to help purchase food for the holiday dinner , she received a phone call from a resident of the shelter, personally thanking her for the donation.

In 1953, Dr. Charles Fuller led a revival in Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. As he walked from his hotel to the Ryman, he passed numerous homeless men. Some asked him for money, all touched his heart. Seeing the state of homelessness moved Fuller in such a way he incorporated it into his sermon. By the end of his visit, the radio preacher from California was given a love offering for his service, which he then returned to the people of Nashville to care for the city’s homeless and hurting.

Thus in 1954, with the signatures of eleven hundred Nashvillians supporting it, the Nashville Union Mission, now known as the Nashville Rescue Mission, opened its doors to serve Middle Tennessee’s hurting and homeless men, warm beds, hot meals and Christian guidance. Since the beginning, they have desired to provide not only meals and beds, but also support and long-term treatment for men and women with addictions and other debilitating problems.

In 1967, a Ladies Auxiliary began to work with the Men’s Ministry and in 1968, through various fundraisers, a women’s division opened on the second floor of the Men’s Mission. Seeking space for the children to play and privacy for the women, the Women’s Mission later moved to a separate location.

Today, the Men’s Mission is located at the corner of 7th Avenue and Lafayette Street in the old Sears building and the Women’s Mission, which includes the Hope Center and the Family Life Center, on Rosa L. Parks Boulevard.

All of the Mission’s services are free of charge, and being a faith-based organization, their ministries subsist without relying on any governmental funding. As a result, the Nashville Rescue Mission operates almost entirely from donated foods, materials and the generous contributions from individual donors.

At Exit 196 we are very proud that so many families in our community,leading bountiful lives, expressed their gratitude by working to serve others who have not been so fortunate this year. Thanks to their work and the financial support offered by others the Nashville Rescue Mission provided more than eight thousand Thanksgiving day dinners to families and individuals in need.

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