Written By Lisa Breslin, Photos by: Walter Calahan
For just over a year, Carol Bernstein has served as the Westminster Rescue Mission’s associate director.
A Cornell graduate (B.A.) and a Johns Hopkins alumna (M.A.), Bernstein was previously the Hotline Manager of the House of Ruth Maryland. This year, she welcomed a new executive director, Rev. Steven T. Cochran, and helped oversee new forms of outreach after the Mission’s thrift barn burned down last April.
The Rescue Mission is a non-profit, faith-based residential recovery center located at 658 Lucabaugh Mill Road in Westminster.
What do you love most about your job?
We share hope with people who may have lost hope.
What drives you crazy?
Oh, that’s easyÉI speak with lots of really nice people who tell me they donate items to us regularly or shop in our thrift stores and think that is all we do.
How big is the farm, how is it worked and how does it “serve” so many?
We are blessed to offer a long-term recovery program on a beautiful 30-acre farm where the air is clean and the sky is big. At any given time, 35-40 men live and work there as they walk toward recovery. They do everything to maintain the facility: they serve the public through our food pantry or stores; and they grow healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually. They learn through the structure and discipline of the program that they can achieve success. They develop skills they can take with them. They learn through the teaching, mentoring and study of Scripture that they realize they are not alone in their struggle. They develop deep and meaningful connections, which they carry with them once they return to live a clean, sober and productive life in the community.
The rescue mission has had some tremendous transitions during the last few years, some engendered by the fire. What were the lowest points?
The fire was awful and completely destroyed a structure, which held a lot of memories for people. It was definitely a low point to realize that our insurance coverage would fall way short of current replacement costs.
How did the Rescue Mission climb back?
We resumed operations of the Thrift Barn in the gym of our main facility; we are still trying to figure out how to rebuild. We don’t want to take on new debt.
When you think about the people whom the Rescue Mission helps, what or who comes to mind?
I think about how we support the local church in serving our “invisible neighbors;” those in need and those who feel trapped in addiction or poverty.
What are the three best things about the Rescue Mission that most residents are not aware of?
One: Lives are changed in our residential recovery program. Two: Our food pantry serves 500 households each week. Three: We collect and re-distribute surplus food from restaurants and stores to other pantries and soup kitchens in the area.
What are your short-term challenges?
I am so excited about building new partnerships in the community; with local churches, local businesses; all who have a heart for others. There are so many people who don’t know about the Rescue Mission, it is a great joy to be able to share the work that is going on here.
What are the challenges for the Rescue Mission?
Like most non-profits, our staffing is barebones, and we would love to involve those in the community who have skills, time and heart to share in ministry with us. We need folks who might be able to offer vocational training, or might be willing to mentor one of our clients through the online GED program, or might be willing to cook a Sunday supper for our clients to give the kitchen crew a day off. There are many ways to get involved.
What are the long-term challenges?
We want to make sure that all of the resources we are blessed with are fully utilized to meet needs in the community; so we are always looking to understand the needs of the community and how we might expand our ministry to serve more of the lost and hurting in our midst.
At the end of a day, when you look back at it, what makes you declare it good, if not awesome?
A good day is one when I’ve had the opportunity to help someone move in away from darkness and toward light; to help someone experience the love of God, or even when I’ve been a witness to that awakeningÉthat birth of hope and life, which happens all the time at the Rescue Mission.
What are your current favorite read(s)?
I usually have more than one book goingÉright now I’m reading America the Beautiful by Dr. Ben Carson; Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown; and Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian.
What music rallies you?
I love all worship music, from the sacred to contemporaryÉit centers me and enables me to breathe deeply. When I have to clean the house I listen to ColdPlay – which I guess is a different kind of rally, right?
What is the best advice you have for community members who want to give?
Come see us! I’d love to give you a tour of our facility. We are an open bookÉevery single time I give a tour of the Rescue Mission to someone, they say, “I had no idea you do all this for the community!”