The occasion was certainly festive. There were only a few days left before Christmas and the Bridgeport Rescue Mission was certainly abuzz (not that it isn’t abuzz every day).
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch was hanging out with Wally the Green Monster, the official mascot of the Boston Red Sox, Mission Executive Director Terry Wilcox was reminiscing about his days growing up as a Pittsburgh Pirates fan and sports media types were flocking to the facility like there was a free meal involved, which of course there was.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, left, shares a smile with Bridgeport Rescue Mission Executive Director Terry Wilcox, center, and Wally the Green Monster as the Boston Red Sox donate 100 sets of bedding to the shelter. (Contributed photo)
So why all the hoopla? Why all this talk about baseball on the cusp of winter? And why at the Bridgeport Rescue Mission?
The answer is simple. Members of the Boston Red Sox organization delivered new bedding supplies to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission as part of a series of special festivities scheduled to commemorate the upcoming 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, which was built in 1912. The Red Sox also won the World Series that year, by the way.
As a way to highlight and support the important work done by the many charitable institutions throughout New England, the Red Sox are performing “100 Acts of Kindness” within various not-for-profit organizations—including Bridgeport Rescue Mission—throughout the anniversary season.
“The Red Sox have very generously purchased 100 complete sets of bedding—in red and blue—to replace our very old and worn-out sheets, blankets, pillows and pillow cases,” explained Wilcox. “And we’re just thrilled Wally, the Green Monster mascot, is helping to deliver them in person!”
When asked about his reaction when he heard the news, Wilcox said, “Do I look like a deer in the headlights or what? Our beds are used almost every night. We can’t thank the team enough for choosing the Mission to be the recipient of this much-needed gift and be part of this historic celebration. We’re excited to welcome the Red Sox to Bridgeport Rescue Mission and have the opportunity to share our work with them firsthand. And if the Yankees don’t like it they can step up to the plate.”
Stephanie Maneikis, the Red Sox manager of fan services and entertainment, told the assemblage, “Our visit is part of our 100 Acts of Kindness to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. We’re beginning with a visit to each New England state. We haven’t had a long history with the Bridgeport area so we wanted to do something in this part of Connecticut. We did some research and the Bridgeport Rescue Mission was exactly what we were looking for.”
The bedding was much needed by the Rescue Mission and indeed a generous gift by the Red Sox organization. However, the visit also underlined the important work undertaken by the Mission and how much the organization needs the support of the community.
Finch took the opportunity to highlight the food services provided by the Mission and managed by chef Paul Byron.
“Let me tell you something. This is by far and away the most productive kitchen in the city of Bridgeport,” shouted the mayor, referring to the hundreds of meals served each day, both on site and through the mobile kitchen. “And let me tell something else. Chef Paul’s relishes are the best you can find anywhere.”
The chef knows he could probably be making a fortune in a high-end restaurant somewhere, but he is not interested in that type of cooking.
“This is about service. After all, we’re a Christian mission and this is what I believe in,” explained Byron. “But don’t be afraid for you or your readership. Let me know when there’s a chili cook-off somewhere ‘cuz I’ll come in there and blow them away.”
The Rescue Mission’s mobile kitchen is a strong presence in Bridgeport and services poor Park City neighborhoods and housing projects such as The Greens, P.T. Barnum, Stratford Avenue, Trumbull Gardens, Marina Village and Washington Park. The van also supplies residents with coats, toys and books.
The Rev. Michael Moran, director of Program and Ministry, described the Mission by saying, “You’re asking me to talk about what I love. What we are is good stewards. We believe that everybody has personal dignity and we emphasize that. If God has said I’m important, who am I to say that I am not?”
Still, there are challenges for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission and one of them will be here Jan. 31. With just a few days remaining until the close of its Restore Hope Campaign, Wilcox reports the Mission has $300,000 yet to raise.
As the new year begins, the Mission projects it will be called on to provide 55,918 meals and 3,430 nights of shelter each month through the year and will continue to see a steady demand for its long-term addiction recovery programs and vital community outreach services.
Mission officials budgeted accordingly with the intent of raising $1.3 million through its four-month-long Restore Hope Campaign, and Wilcox emphasized the importance of a continued push to meet the goal.
“We simply can’t let down before we reach our target,” Wilcox said. “Our $1.3 million goal is a major portion of our annual budget, which was carefully and prayerfully determined based on the assistance the community we serve will rely on the Mission to provide in the year ahead. What happens in the next three weeks will seriously impact our ability to assist our neighbors in need throughout the year. I pray our donors will recognize the severity of this situation and help us secure the remaining $300,000 before the campaign deadline on January 31.”
Donations may be made online at www.BridgeportRescueMission.org or mailed to Bridgeport Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 9057, Bridgeport, CT 06601.
For more information on Bridgeport Rescue Mission’s programs and services for homeless and hurting men, women and children contact Linda Casey, the mission’s director of development and strategic planning, at (203) 333-4087.