February 10, 2021

Surviving Through the Pandemic | By Christa Collier, Development Assistant

For over a year COVID-19 has impacted communities around the world to the point where many establishments have had to temporarily or permanently shut their doors. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, a non-profit, that has been in the valley since 1970. Since the 70’s the Mission has been able to provide food, shelter and recovery services to those in need while feeding individuals daily from their evening meal. With meticulous planning and the help of many donors, the Mission has been able to not only survive through an unprecedented pandemic, but continued to help our community.

In the few normal months before the pandemic, information from the state and connections in D.C. were already providing helpful feedback that would set a standard plan for the Mission to remain open. “As a community, we were all talking and preparing for it,” explained CEO Heather Engle. “Our team is good at perceiving what’s next. We are essential workers so it’s not an option for us to not be there. You don’t get the option of staying still in fear.” Shortly after, construction on set procedures were in motion for the day they would have to stop admitting individuals on property and into their programs.

Such a day came on March 12th, 2020 when Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak declared a state of emergency demanding all Nevadan’s stay in their homes. With the property now full of residents in the recovery program or those staying in the men/women’s shelter, the Mission was now operating all their divisions at their highest intake number. Newly implemented procedures were put in place to keep residents and staff safe while they waited out the stay at home ordinance. A home-schooling system was set up for the children on property and the daily evening meal became a to-go offering prepared early in containers for outside guests.

Now at full capacity and with a number of individuals who weren’t used to staying at a place for a long period, besides their own home, some issues surfaced. “Trying to convey to people that they can’t leave and come back due to COVID unknowns was the hardest to communicate,” stated Engle. “We sort of formed a forced communion in a way.” As the lockdown days passed and more people started to leave to be with family members, the pace at the Mission began to slow. The pandemic had now forced the Mission to shift their main goals. Times before the pandemic brought many in droves seeking help, but things had changed. They were now functioning on the main purpose of keeping people safe from COVID within the property and safely providing food services via drive-thru. “There were so many things that we used to be able to offer that we can’t offer now. Especially when it deals with figuring out intake in a safe manner,” exclaimed Heather Williams, Director of Development.

With COVID surfacing many unknowns in those early months, concerns of donations were also on most people’s minds. Fortunately, many community members rallied for the Mission to continue to help those who needed it. The pandemic was now on everyone’s mind 24/7, causing many to ask how they could help those in need. “Everyone came through and pulled together. Monetary wise the community saw the need and felt compelled to give,” explained Williams. Throughout the year the Mission never felt the need to increase asks while staying transparent about the happenings on property via their website.

Many things changed last year due to the pandemic but the focus still remains the same. “The goal is to keep serving as many people as we can and hope that they take advantage of the services we offer here,” Williams stated with smiling eyes.

The Las Vegas Rescue Mission is extremely thankful for all of the support from donors and the community. Without your help, we would not have been able to remain open during these unprecedented times. Thank you!

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