Donations enable rescue mission to remain open

Posted: Friday, July 20, 2007

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks philanthropist and an Iditarod dog musher, as well as numerous others, responded to an appeal for help and stepped forward with contributions to keep open the rescue mission in Fairbanks.

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Philanthropist Dennis Wise, who built the faith-based shelter and turned it over to the community in 2000, made a contribution of $30,000. Iditarod dog musher Sonny Lindner, owner of Johnson River Enterprises, dropped by with a check for $10,000.

"He did the same thing last year," mission director Rodney Gaskins said. "He donated tools for our carpentry program and gave another large donation."

Numerous other smaller donations have been received, Gaskins said, amounting to an additional $16,000.

Gaskins said he is grateful for all the letters, calls and encouragement the Rescue Mission has received in the past week, enabling it to remain open.

"I'm just humbled by the response, especially those who gave $10 or $5," he said. "I'm overwhelmed by them."

Rescue Mission Board President Heather Rauenhorst said that the board will intensify its efforts to diversify the mission's revenue sources. The mission is almost exclusively donor funded.

A 65 percent increase in utility expenses over the past two years as well as increased occupancy throughout 2006 indicates a need for even more revenues in the future. Insurance costs also continue to grow.

Mission operating expenses average up to $10,000 per week, or $15.50 per day for each of the approximately 90 homeless men, women and children served.

Rauenhorst said fiscal uncertainty has been a historic constant since the mission started in 1974, and trying to lessen the day-to-day stress of maintaining operations is an ongoing focus.

Recently, mission leaders met with city and borough leaders to begin to develop a community plan to help keep the operation going. Another meeting is in the works. Two fundraisers are planned.

"We know we can go to him (Dennis Wise) for support," Rauenhorst said. "But we are fiercely committed to plan long range and don't want to go beyond what the community can consistently support."

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