Local nonprofit seeks to spread mission throughout the Chippewa Valley

Hope Gospel Mission provides opportunities for community members who want to change their lives

Abby Johnson (She/Her)

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Abby Johnson

Hope Gospel Mission’s Code of Conduct is displayed in almost every room including residential living quarters, administration offices, volunteer areas and the shopping center.

One man’s calling to help the homeless 24 years ago has evolved into a nonprofit helping people throughout the Chippewa Valley. 

Hope Gospel Mission Program Director, Chris Hedlund, believes the organization’s mission can be misinterpreted. According to Hedlund, the focus of Hope Gospel Mission, founded in 1998, is becoming a place where members of the Chippewa Valley community can come and find help with struggles such as homelessness, hunger, addiction, abuse or unemployment. 

“We don’t consider ourselves a homeless shelter,” Hedlund said. “People who come here experience a total life restart by building a brand new foundation for their life.”

Hedlund has worked for Hope Gospel Mission for 18 years, managing the overall operations of the food service, housing, chaplin services, counselors, learning centers and overall resident experience within the organization. Community donations consisting of clothing, furniture, houseware and even vehicles sold at the nonprofit’s bargain center have helped fund three different programs residents choose to enroll and work towards completing to reside in the shelter. 

Shari Crandall, a woman who donated her old couch to Hope Gospel Mission’s bargain center, describes the volunteers handling donations as “extremely positive” and the entire operation a “well-oiled machine”. 

According to Crandall, her used couch was in great condition and she wanted to donate it to someone who needed it rather than sell it for her own personal profit. After a web search stating, “Where to donate a used couch in Eau Claire, Wisconsin,” Hope Gospel Mission’s website popped up.

“I had heard advertisements in years past, but didn’t really know about the place,” Crandall said. “They took everything out of our vehicle, asked questions about it, we didn’t have to do anything. There was a line of cars donating, and they were efficient.”

Aside from daily meals and housing, Hope Gospel Mission provides their residents with opportunities such as therapy, jobs and a chance to build relationships with mentors.

“To provide people with the best shot of changing their lives, it takes resources,” Hedlund said. “Our outcomes are higher because of our broad holistic picture.”

Hope Gospel Mission provides separate men’s and women’s quarters with separate self-development programs. According to Hedlund, the Short Stay mission program mimics an extended-stay homeless shelter. Residents are given clothing, food and a place to sleep while actively trying to find a job, a new home or create a better budget. 

The Renewed Hope mission program requires more input and dedication from enrolled residents. This program aids individuals who struggle in varying areas of their life including substance abuse, domestic abuse, homelessness or criminal activity. This program is designed to last anywhere from one to two years, depending on the severity of the resident’s needs.

Hope Gospel Mission’s third and final mission program is called Discipleships Transitions. Discipleships Transitions allows residents that don’t feel as comfortable or may not have the necessary financial resources to reacclimate themselves into their community alone the opportunity to reside in a separate quarter of the shelter for a year after completion of the Renewed Hope mission program. 

Hedlund stresses that men and women who choose to change their lives not only rely on the items donated and resold at the bargain center, but on the volunteers who give their time to help the entire organization run while simultaneously creating relationships with the residents. 

“It’s important for our residents to see people who want them to succeed and believe in this mission,” Hedlund said. “Not every day is easy and having mentors and good-hearted volunteers who truly care really do make all the difference.”

One volunteer, Susan Miller, who volunteers almost every week notes that though her job is “unglamourous,” it is no less rewarding. In January 2020, Susan began organizing the food pantry for the men’s shelter kitchen after learning about the opportunity from Sandy Polzin, Hope Gospel Mission’s Executive Director, at church.

“I just love the people here, and the organizing,” Miller said. “The volunteers are great, the staff is great; and the new residents are inspiring.”

According to Miller, Hope Gospel Mission is always in need of volunteers. Though volunteer activity usually spikes around Christian holidays, both Miller and Hedlund agree that people who commit to a regular volunteer schedule, even if only once a month, tend to be more useful than groups who come in to serve a meal once a year. 

“We have a man who comes in twice a month and fixes bicycles we get donated. We have a lady who comes in once a month to only test lamps,” Hedlund said. “I think people forget that the other 340 days of the year we have little jobs that need attention too.”

Overall, Hedlund is proud of the progress the non profit has made and hopes the organization can gain more advertisement and regular volunteers in the future. He stresses that by investing in the right resources for their residents, Hope Gospel Mission helps their resident’s change their lives for the long-term.

“We are playing the long game in fixing root issues, it’s not just a place to sleep,” Hedlund said. “At the end of the day, we don’t want to just support them, we want to help them end their cycle of crisis.”

For more information or ways to become involved with Hope Gospel Mission, visit https://www.hopegospelmission.org/fresh-start/ or contact Chris Hedlund at [email protected].


Johnson can be reached at [email protected]