Before and After

Dearest friend and supporter,

As we begin a new year of ministry, I'm so grateful for God's tremendous faithfulness at Hope Gospel Mission throughout the previous year. Though the needs of our dear neighbors were great, His kindness to us truly never wavered.

This year, we will celebrate our 20th year of service in the Chippewa Valley. The programs we offer look a little different than they used to, but one thing hasn't changed a bit: we're here to share the redeeming love of Christ with the hurting. God loves to restore broken lives, and we know He has called us to share His hope with these precious men and women.

In The Hope this month, you'll hear from Matthew, a man who first came to the Mission nearly 7 years ago. He was trying to overcome a drug addiction that had derailed his life, and our dear Lord made a way for him to go through the Renewed Hope Program not once, but twice.

It's a story of second chances, and it's a testament to the new mercies that are available to us each day.

We will continue to rely on God in 2018, and we look forward to ministering in partnership with YOU! We're grateful for your compassion, and we give thanks to a God whose love truly never ceases. Great is His faithfulness!

Sandi Polzin
Executive Director


In 2011, Matthew was addicted to drugs and growing desperate. He left home and took a job selling magazines to support his habit, but after a few days, he felt badly about misleading people. He used what money he had left to purchase a bus ticket, and found out the farthest he could go was Eau Claire.

The bus let him off near a gas station, and as he was walking down the road carrying all his possessions, a man pulled up and offered him a ride.

"He gave me a ride downtown and pointed out the Mission," Matthew says. "He said, 'This is a really good place, and they'll help you with whatever you're going through.

"I found out that you have to work in the Bargain Center to stay at Hope, but I'm no stranger to hard work. I was at the very bottom. I was in the basement of rock bottom, and I had nothing else to lose so I decided to give it a shot."

Matthew entered the Renewed Hope Program and began to work through many of the issues that led to his addiction. He accepted the Lord and was baptized here, and after he graduated in 2013, he moved back home to start a new life.

Unfortunately, once he returned to his family, his old lifestyle caught up with him.

"Being with my family, I went back to my old habits. But soon, I felt Christ tugging on my heart, and I just said, 'Lord, I can't do this anymore.' I've been in and out of rehab since I was a teenager, but Hope Gospel Mission is a place where I feel at peace, so I knew I needed to come back."

Matthew returned to Hope, praying they'd let him have another chance to go through the program. He was expecting a "no," but what he found was a warm welcome.

Making it Count

"Everyone was very accepting and loving," he says. "Not once did I get the feeling that I shouldn't be here. I think it's the Christ-centered aspect… they don't teach that anywhere else, and it shows they really care."

Once again, Matthew entered the Renewed Hope program, but this time, he has a different perspective. He's working at Building Hope and the Bargain Center, and he's finding joy in being able to share his faith with others at the Mission.

"Your relationship with the Lord is a major part of being sober," he shares. "The other day I was talking to someone at the Bargain Center, and we were just talking about faith and what God has done for us. It's great to have those conversations because you can't really do that in other rehab facilities."

Set up for Success

As he works through the program, Matthew is taking it slowly this time around. He's saving money and taking classes on addiction recovery. He's also learning to ask for help when he needs it, and has built a great relationship with counselors and mentors at the Mission.

And when he needs a little extra encouragement, he remembers his life verse: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

"I've learned a lot, and I feel like I'm ready to start life again," he says. "I hope I can reach out to people the way others here reached out to me. To have someone willing to guide you along the way, it's definitely helpful.

"I don't know where I'd be without this program, I really don't. Probably in prison or dead… 'Thank you' doesn't even begin to say how thankful I am."

Your support makes stories like Matthew's possible. Just as Christ gave each of us a second chance, your partnership helps Matthew, and hundreds of other men and women like him, break the chains of addiction and move forward with hope. Thank you being part of this life-changing ministry!

Names and photos in stories may have been changed for privacy.

Upcoming Events

Hope Connection
Tuesday, January 23, 12:00 PM
Bargain Center Conference Room

RSVP: Linda Velie,715-491-0905,

Join us for a light meal, connect with mission representatives and hear resident stories. Capture the vision of the mission, and learn how you can use your time, talent and treasure to make a difference.

Celebration Dinners
January 26, February 23, March 23 and April 27, 6:00 PM

Celebrate the progress our residents have made at these free dinners at Grace Baptist Church in Chippewa Falls. See firsthand how your prayers and gifts are making a difference at the Mission. All are welcome!

Easter Community Dinner
Saturday, March 31, 5:00-7:00 PM

Our annual Easter Community Dinner will be held at our downtown location, 8 South Farwell Street in Eau Claire. Individuals and families from all over the Chippewa Valley are invited to join us for this FREE community meal as we celebrate Easter at the Mission.

Hope Gospel Mission
Awarded Grant

Last December, Hope Gospel Mission was awarded a grant from the Green Bay Packers Foundation. Rob Gerber, our Stewardship Director, attended the award luncheon at Lambeau Field and gratefully received the grant, and we're happy to report that in 2018, our Emergency and Renewed Hope programs will be funded in part by a grant from the Green Bay Packers Foundation.

We'd also like to thank the following organizations for their generous grants:

  • Anderson Corporate Foundation
  • Wells Fargo Foundation

We're grateful to God for His provision through these organizations, and we look forward to using these funds to serve our hurting Chippewa Valley neighbors this year.

Hope Gospel Mission's Partners in Hope is a growing group of financial partners who give monthly to support the life-changing work of the Mission. These valuable Partners help sustain our work throughout the year, especially during times when giving is typically lower.

Consistent, monthly gifts make our budgeting more reliable and ensure that help will always be available for our neighbors in need. Plus, giving by credit card or electronic funds transfer (EFT) reduces administrative costs and check processing fees, ensuring that each gift is used more efficiently.

For more information about this vital program, please contact us at 715-552-5566, ext. 1300.

This year, Hope Gospel Mission is celebrating 20 years of hope and ministry. Throughout the year, we're going to use this newsletter to share how God has faithfully led the Mission through the last two decades and how we're trusting Him to carry us into the future.

This month, we talked to Mark Donnelly, founder of the Mission and current board president, mentor, and Bible study leader, about how God paved the way for Hope.

The Hope: When did you first sense God calling you to start a rescue mission?
Mark Donnelly: In 1993, my pastor challenged me to think about what I was going to do for the Lord. I had a desire to help those less fortunate, and he encouraged me to consider rescue ministry. It took about five years for the timing to be right but I had an ongoing conviction that this was something that He really wanted me to do.

TH: What needs did you see in the Chippewa Valley area 20 years ago that made you realize a place like Hope was necessary?
MD: At the time, homeless men in the area had nowhere to go. The Salvation Army got all the calls from men looking for shelter, but the best they could do was give them a voucher for a one-night hotel stay. If they had funds available, they'd send the homeless men on a bus to a larger city like Milwaukee or Minneapolis that had a shelter. I decided this ministry would focus initially on providing a place here in Eau Claire that met the needs of homeless single men.

TH: How did you sense God leading you as you started planning?
MD: I had been looking at the old senior center building in Eau Claire, but at the time, it was being used for something else. I thought that meant God had another space in mind, but every time I drove by the building, I was convicted about using it for a rescue mission. Finally, in the summer of 1998, God opened the door for me to purchase it. I took a huge step of faith and did it! The renovation process took longer than expected, but God was faithful, and quite a few donors and volunteers pitched in to help.

TH: Can you share one of your favorite memories from the mission's first days of serving food and providing shelter to those in need?
MD: We started serving a community dinner on Thanksgiving Day, and because the turnout was so incredible, we started serving Christmas and Easter community meals as well. My fondest memories are being able to provide music for these events along with my family. It's such a blessing to feed people who have no where else to go and to work alongside the many people who come to volunteer!

TH: What do you hope the Mission looks like in another 20 years?
MD: I visited a lot of other rescue missions before this one started, so my hope is that it will look like some of the many others which have been around for more than 100 years! My wife Cindy came up with our name, Hope Gospel Mission because God offers hope to all through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I want to make sure that everyone staying with us continues to hear that message.

Many of our residents know what it is to be without a home. They've experienced the devastation of the storms of life brought on by addiction, abuse, job loss, or other circumstances, and as they continue to recover at the Mission, some of them are ready to give back. Last year, two teams of residents hit the pavement to bring hope and restoration to those affected by storms.

After a devastating tornado tore through Chetek last May, staff and residents filled a van and traveled to the area to assist with the clean-up. Hope coordinated with the Chetek Area Chamber of Commerce to be used wherever needed, and they brought some much-needed relief to other rescue teams.

Just a few months later, Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas, and once again, residents at the Mission stepped up to help.

Five residents and two staff members spent five days in the Houston area helping with relief efforts. They cleaned out flooddamaged homes, sterilized and replaced walls, and restored the houses to livable conditions.

"We worked on what's called a 'mud out' team, helping people whose homes have been flooded," said Program Manager Mike Minner. "We are all about helping those in need, so giving men and women who know what it's like to be homeless the opportunity to help others who are struggling, it just makes sense for us."

"To help people, that's exactly what the Lord wants," agrees Kevin, one of the residents. "It's volunteer work, and it's important, it's crucial."

Both groups worked tirelessly on their cleanup projects, and we're proud of the character and integrity they showed as they reached out to those in need. Just as the local community right here in Eau Claire is helping them get back on their feet, they were able to do the same for others.

When you drop off gently used clothing, household items, appliances, and even cars at one of our resale stores, you make a big difference to our residents. Not only do our residents gain valuable work experience by working in the Bargain Center, but the profits from each sale go directly back to the programs we offer at Hope Gospel Mission, allowing us to reach even more men and women in our community with the hope of Christ.

The Bargain Centers, Building Hope and Auto Center are open for shopping and to receive donations Monday–Saturday each week. Click here to find out what to donate, when to shop and how you can support these vital businesses!

Thank You

A big THANK YOU to everyone who volunteered at our Thanksgiving and Christmas Community Dinners! Many men, women and families attended these free dinners, and we enjoyed celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas together.

We'd also like to thank the Network Churches and Covenant Partner Churches that work alongside us to provide volunteers, financial support and prayer throughout the year. They welcome us and our residents into their services, and many of them provide mentors to speak into the lives of our residents as they grow in faith. We're grateful for the following churches that so generously supported us during the past year:

Crossroads Church
Eau Claire Wesleyan Church
West Ridge Church
Bethesda Lutheran Brethren Church
Grace Baptist Church
Jacob's Well
Salem Baptist Church

Many other churches and ministries throughout the Chippewa Valley and western Wisconsin also support the Mission, and we're grateful to God for ALL those who walk alongside us to serve the hurting. Finally, we'd like to thank our faithful supporters for graciously providing financial gifts, warm blankets, and countless other needed items throughout the holiday season. Because of these gracious partners, our resident's most basic needs were met!

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