By Lisa Shell
The rain, wind, cold temperatures and snow are on the way, increasing the struggle for area’s homeless to find a dry place to sleep, healthy food and a warm shower. The weather is wet and the nights are dark, lonely and stormy. Being outside in the cold, alone with no home is a harsh way to spend the days and nights here in the northwest. For some, refuge is found at The Union Gospel Mission – a shelter in a time of storm.
Whether you’ve been a client or volunteer over the past decade you have probably had a chance to meet Mark and Linda Bailey. During the past decade Mark and Linda have worked together at the mission. This year the kind couple celebrates 21 years of marriage. They find delight in helping the homeless at The Union Gospel Mission of Grays Harbor. Mark oversees the daily operations. Linda leads development.
Linda’s story starts at the The Friendship House, as assistant director. The Friendship House is a safe place for homeless women and mothers with children. After only a short time on staff she assessed the need for a new play area. Linda planned a fundraiser and raised enough money to help fund a small play area in the backyard for the kids staying at the Friendship House. After that successful endeavor she was asked to join the team led by Executive Director Gary Rowell.
Mark’s first day working at the mission was September 11, 2001. He’ll never forget the date. Together this local duo strives to reach hearts and change lives of men,women and children in need.
Mark oversees the daily operations at the mission, assigning tasks to the clients and supporting their search for legitimate work and housing. He says, “We often have guys that don’t have a high school diploma and we help them receive a GED.” His favorite part of his job is simple. He says, “It’s helping these guys. Many have troubled backgrounds that include sexual abuse, drugs and alcohol. We try to teach them how to function in their daily lives and it all starts with faith in God.” The mission is often referred to as the ARM of the local church.
Linda’s time is spent in administration, creating newsletters, updating the database, planning, organizing and executing holiday parties. She said, “We always need new toys, women’s clothing and men’s pants.” Mark adds that men’s size 32 and 34 pants are in special need.
One distinctive event Linda is planning this year is the annual holiday party for adults in need. People from around the county are invited. This particular party is for adult men and women that have a low income and are in need. “We try to give them a few articles of clothing, and a special gift,” notes Linda. “For some, it’s the only Christmas they get. We serve them a meal. We have volunteers work in the kitchen. We provide entertainment, a Christmas message, and a night to remember.”
During a tour of the Union Gospel Mission, I met Douglas. Linda explains that Douglas was a client of the mission and is now the kitchen manager.
Douglas explained, “Over the years I came here, on and off. I first came in 2005 and started doing side jobs. The third time I came back I took it as a sign, like somebody wanted me here. I couldn’t get a job and I am really good at getting jobs. So I went ahead and joined the team. I’ve been in the restaurant business for about 40 years. One of the program guys cooks breakfast, but I do lunch and dinner plus all the catering.”
“The programmer’s take a bible study and work eight hours five days a week. They have their own rooms. We can have anywhere from three to four guys in our official program at anytime. Sometimes we have seven or eight,” continued Linda. “Plus all the clients stay here at night. We house around 30 on the average and we always make room for more.”
The Union Gospel Mission feeds anyone. The Bailey’s added that they recently started playing bingo on Fridays with special prizes.
Mark and Linda Bailey raised their combined family and recently became “third party guardians” to their new daughter, Alayna. Linda says,”we have known Alayna since she was two days old. She has shared many holidays, birthdays and overnights with us. She asked us to take third party custody in May.” Since then the Bailey’s home is now officially Alayna’s home too.
If you would like more information about The Union Gospel Mission or The Friendship House check out their website, call Linda or talk with Executive Director, Gary Rowell at The Union Gospel Mission. Stay in touch with the Mission via their Facebook page.
This year’s holiday party is scheduled for December 18, at the Rotary Log Pavillion. If you know someone that might be interested in attending or volunteering call Linda at 360-533-1064 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.