SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Reverend Everett Cook and his wife Esther started Victory Mission in 1976 to help feed homeless individuals in the Downtown Springfield area, offering free sandwiches and coffee out of their station wagon. Since then, the organization has transformed into offering assistance in a much more impactful way.
Executive director Jason Hynson had a vision five years ago and determined that their facilities needed a new direction. Hynson then developed the idea of “doing life together” with Victory Mission attendees through a restoration program to give them what they need to live a better life.
Their restoration program helps individuals get back on their feet by giving them basic necessities and teaching proper hygiene. The program also ministers to them and acts as a resource to help attendees get through struggles in life. Individuals live together during the program on Victory Mission’s campus and work together as a community to help everyone stay on the right path.
The program is run by Restoration Director and Chaplain Mark McKnelly and typically lasts 12 to 18 months.
Recently, Founder, President, and CEO of SRC Holdings Corporation Jack Stack reached out to Victory Mission with the idea for a workforce development boot camp program, which now runs Monday, Wednesday and Thursday for eight hours per day.
The boot camp program teaches attendees interview skills and tips, proper etiquette in work situations and proper workplace attire, among other things.
“These guys come in off the street and in a week’s time, they have developed such a community,” Outreach and Workforce Development Manager John Pace said. “They are staying in the same rooms, they care for one another. It grips your heart, it’s really good.”
At the end of the boot camp program, a graduation ceremony is held for attendees where they have the option to wear a traditional cap and gown, an experience many of them will never forget.
“One guy put on the cap and gown and said, ‘I never had this’,” Pace recalled. “He said, ‘Look at me, there are family members who said I would never amount to anything.’ He is working a job now. When they leave here, they feel equipped because they have self-confidence.”
Pace told The Heartlander that several local companies have also stepped in to help residents achieve their goals. Hudson Hawk has donated free haircuts while Carhartt has donated clothing.
“When they go to their interview, they look brand new, feel brand new on the inside and they look brand new on the outside,” Pace said. “It is fantastic. There are several from that very first boot camp who have moved out of the shelter and have their own apartments, houses, and are doing their thing.”
The organization plans on opening a new facility soon called Victory 2.0 in their vacant lot off Commercial and Broadway Avenue in Springfield. The facility will house additional residents and host other programs such as SingleMomzRock, which provides several resources to single mothers through meetings and events.
“This will be a very nice facility that is reflective of a restored life,” Pace said. “We’re about incremental change, intentionally working with people to make those small steps to become better.”
The men’s shelter is located at 1610 North Broadway Avenue, Springfield, Missouri while the distribution and donation center is located around the corner at 700 West Chase Street. Individuals interested in helping Victory Mission can visit their website or Facebook page to donate or find more information on future volunteer opportunities.