As humans, we have incredibly short-sighted vision. We only see what’s in the limited scope of our imagination and only imagine what’s feasible. But, looking back at our journeys, it’s easy to see how God, in His infinitely limitless vision, places people and things in our path to change something, to nudge us in a particular direction, and make incredible things happen that we could never have imagined.
Community Rescue Mission was established in the Fort Smith area in 1980. Created by two families, the Millers and the Grimms, the Mission was the answer to prayer for men, women, and children in need whose lives were in a desperate place, searching for help to get back on their feet and have a chance at a future. And as easy as seems forty-odd years later to see how God set the two families on a path of convergence to find one another, it wasn’t always so evident where the plan was leading.
Coming off the heels of WWII, the fifties were a time of economic boom in the United States. Still, not everything was prosperous—especially for Robert E. Miller, who was intent on breaking into the oil business in Abilene, Texas. With many obstacles in the way, the Miller family was barely making it—and feeling desperation. After attending a religious retreat, they found their hearts and lives transformed, and later when Robert decided to go into business for himself, he leaned on the faith he had gained. Even in their darkest days, the Millers remained faithful and relied on God to keep them on the right path and guide them. Over the years, Robert’s faith was tested and rewarded, and he received clear affirmation of God’s blessing. Robert retired at fifty, having found prosperity and looked forward to following God’s plan for the next stage of his life.
Robert received what he felt was a glimpse into God’s plan through a flash of insight, a fleeting thought that seemed nothing at first. A winter blizzard hit, and as Robert realized how fortunate he was to have warmth and shelter, he knew others were not as blessed. Robert and his wife began working with and volunteering at a homeless shelter for single men in the Fort Smith area, and Robert joined the board. The entire Miller family helped serve wherever and however they could, and soon the desire to do even more would be placed on their hearts.
Much like God was guiding the Miller family, He was also whispering to Jon and Sam Grimm, who had previously owned Twin City Ambulance. Through their work, and Jon’ serving on the board of the men’s shelter, they witnessed firsthand the hopelessness many living in the area faced. One evening they received a call from the outreach program at Immaculate Conception Church about a family living under a picnic table in Creekmore Park. When they arrived, they discovered two families instead of one. Determined to help, the Grimms housed the two families in the unused Twin City Ambulance hub during the three months it took for the families to get back on their feet.
Through their work to help those two families and serving at the men’s shelter, the Grimms quickly learned that the Fort Smith area was without any place that assisted families in need. Jon and Sam worked at the shelter for eighteen months learning how it functioned and finding ways to help families and women with children. The Grimms toured other facilities in the tristate area to observe their successes and challenges when working with families and women with children.
During this time at the shelter, the Grimms’ and the Millers’ paths intersected, and their desire to serve families and women with children led them to combine forces to create Community Rescue Mission (CRM). What they have achieved in their four decades of operation is something they could never have imagined when they opened their doors.
“The work we do instills hope and empowers the lives of families and children in crisis due to homelessness,” says Executive Director Heather Sanders. “We provide safe shelter, meals, case management, and spiritual enrichment to prepare families to acquire jobs and live successful, independent, productive lives.”
For families who come to CRM, they find it’s more than just a meal and a place to stay. It is a place to find your footing, someone willing to take your hand in support, and a network of people invested in your future. On average, 500 individuals live at CRM. For many, CRM is a haven, a safe place to lay the foundation for a better life. Over the past five years, nearly 4,000 men, women, and children have benefitted from the mission’s efforts, providing families in Fort Smith and surrounding areas with expert case management, life skills programs, and transitional housing.
Independence means they are no longer facing hunger or homelessness and that the hopelessness of their old life is in the past. CRM equips them with the tools they need for a new life—including spiritual enrichment as they navigate future challenges. Any family in need of shelter and case management with children under eighteen living with them, single fathers with children, single mothers with children, or married families with children are eligible to receive assistance at CRM.
As important as their work is, CRM is not funded by the city, state, or government. Instead, they depend on the generosity of private donors, local foundations, and churches to keep their operations running. They also rely on the support of individuals who feel the call to serve the community with their time and talents by getting directly involved. “Relationships make the difference, and we need our community to not only support our work financially but also to become mentors, employers, and support teams for our families,” says Heather. “It takes a holistic approach and long-term commitments.”
Sometimes, we have to wait for the big picture to come into view to see just how far we’ve come and how greatly we all have impacted one another. Sometimes we don’t know how our work at the moment will impact someone’s life later down the road. Sometimes we only see what’s in front of us. But God is always working, moving the pieces to create something we’d never have imagined. And along the way, we are all moved, and we are all changed.
Community Rescue Mission
310 North F Street, Fort Smith
For more information, call 479.782.1443 or visit fscrm.org.