Major improvements continue at the Union Gospel Mission at 405 E. Heron St. in Aberdeen, thanks in part to a $250,000 grant approved this week by Grays Harbor County Commissioners.
The grant comes from the homeless shelter housing fund created from document recording fees.
A portion of the remodel has already been done. What was once a large storage area on the east side of the building now serves as the eating and chapel area, expanding the seating capacity for meals from 54 to more than 100. It also has a stage under construction, where movies can be shown and where local ministries come to speak to the people who seek refuge and meals there, said Mission Chief Operations Executive Laurel Wiitala.
The kitchen has been moved from the west side of the building to the east, behind the new dining area, and includes a ventilation hood over the stove, something the building has never had before. “It could get up to 90 degrees or more in here when we’re cooking,” said Wiitala; the hood will provide relief for the volunteer cooks.
And for those who clean up after, there’s a new commercial dishwasher. “We’ve never had a dishwasher before, it was all done by hand,” said Wiitala. “The boys will really appreciate that.”
To the south of the kitchen are the walk-in freezer and cooler. Originally on the west side of the building, when the freezer was removed there was a significant amount of dry rot underneath, so much so it had eaten through much of the floor below, said Wiitala.
While the kitchen and dining areas are complete, or near complete, significant construction continues on the east side of the building, where the kitchen and dining area used to be. New restrooms and three showers are being installed.
“The old showers were on the upper floor, so if somebody wanted to use them they had to climb (20-plus) stairs,” which meant less able-bodied people had to seek those services elsewhere, which are scarce in Aberdeen, said Wiikala.
Along the northwest side of the building, new executive offices are going in, along with another feature new to the Mission, a conference room.
The 110-year old building has been falling into disrepair for many years, said Wiikala. Around 2005, the Mission was able to acquire the property adjacent to the building, and build a warehouse on the south end of the property. All the while the Mission was looking for another location to move in to, “but each deal seemed to fall through.” Then, when the economy took a big nosedive in 2009, the Mission found itself unable to afford a move the emphasis changed to upgrading the current location.
Wiikala said the construction project costs a little more than $1 million dollars, the bulk of which was awarded in 2014 when the City of Aberdeen applied on the Mission’s behalf for a State Commerce Department Community Block Grant of $750,000. According to Wiitala, the Mission was also able to raise about $140,000 in additional funds from private foundations and local donations.
Construction is still a couple of months from completion; Wiitala hopes to have a grand opening some time in late August.
Union Gospel Mission is a rescue mission for homeless or “near homeless” people on the Harbor. The mission, according to its website (ugmgraysharbor.org), can house more than 38 men a night at their Heron Street facility. Between that facility and the women and children’s facility, Friendship House at 315 North G Street, the Mission was able to offer 18,454 bednights to homeless men, women and children in 2015.
Meal Times at Union Gospel Mission of Grays Harbor are Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. breakfast, noon lunch, 7 p.m. dinner; Saturday, 10:30 a.m. brunch, 5 p.m. dinner; and Sunday, 7:30 a.m. breakfast, 4 p.m. dinner. According to the Mission’s website, nearly 60,000 meals were provided to men, women and children in 2015.