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Fifty Years of Serving 'Men of the Road'

Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano recalls helping at the Pajaro Rescue Mission as a child; now he's on the board of directors.

"Men of the road" was the term used to describe those who left their homes, choosing to wander the roads or railways with no particular destination in mind. Others would refer to this population as wanderers, hobos and even tramps. Today, the more recognized term is homeless.

Some are locals down on their luck or migrant farm workers searching for a job to support a meal, get out of the cold, and maybe enjoy a clean change of clothes and warm shower. Some are physically unable to hold down a job due to a disability or addiction, while some are trying to successfully re-enter back into society from incarceration.

The Pajaro Rescue Mission does not label the men who come through their door ... they offer dignity and respect with the goal of serving the body and soul. At no cost, food is provided along with a warm shower and a soft bed. In return, the Mission asks that each man set aside a few minutes of their time to hear a life-saving spiritual message. Some guests conquer life-controlling habits and re-connect with their loved ones while others go on their way but with a little bit more hope than when they arrived.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, from 12-5 p.m., the mission will be celebrating its 50th anniversary and invites the public to attend. The local refuge routinely serves over 3,000 meals a month and averages 70-80 men a night in modern, well-ventilated dorms. It is also home to Teen Challenge and Victory Outreach, cost-free substance abuse recovery programs and offers English and Spanish church services. A mobile medical clinic often visits the center for basic health care needs.

Rescue missions date back to 1872 with the first being the Waterfront Mission in New York City that was created to provide spiritual hope, food, clothing and shelter to people in crisis. There are now over 300 rescue missions throughout the country.

Our local mission was founded in June of 1962 by Jim Raymond, who had a burden to help men and women who had lost their way. The Mission is a nonprofit organization incorporated with the state of California and consists of an established board and mission director.

The Pajaro mission got its start on the Southern Pacific Railroad yard by preparing food and serving it out of an old truck to those who rode the freight trains into this area. While they ate, the guests would be treated to a short sermon.

The mission was first located at 99 Railroad Ave. in a building that had been used as a tavern (LaCoCo from 1959-62 and The Cantina before that). In about 1970 they moved to 111 Railroad Ave. After the devastating earthquake of 1989, a second story was added to the mission with the help of the local Red Cross.

Rev. Rufus Baker and his wife Maizie were the first Mission Directors, and served from 1963 to 1976. Rev. Baker had been a wanderer himself and he understood the need for a man to stop and rest to evaluate their life. Rev. Baker had one goal in mind, to help wandering souls. He gathered up like-minded community members and together they helped grow the Mission.

In March 1972, Rev. Baker hosted a guest by the name of Eugene Eastridge who said, “To the man without a home, the rescue mission is the greatest opportunity in life. I would never have made it without the help I found at the Rescue Mission”.

My family met Rev. Baker and his wife sometime in the 1960s. They were neighbors of my great grandmother on Second Street. My father and mother came to know them well and would often take me and my siblings to deliver food and clothing and visit with the men.

Today, I have the honor to serve on the board of the Pajaro Rescue Mission that has been meeting with members of the and other local service providers regarding a looming crisis. On Aug. 15, , leaving over 40 men in need of shelter. We anticipate many of the men will come to the rescue mission and have already made plans to accommodate as many as possible.

The work of the rescue mission is made possible by generous donations from local churches and the public. To learn more about the anniversary celebration or how you can donate, please contact the rescue mission at 831-724-9576 or info@teenchallengemb.org.

Editor's Note: This is one of several stories about homelessness in the Pajaro Valley. Patch is focusing on this issue during the summer because of the closure of Salvation Army shelters and the 50th anniversary of the Pajaro Rescue Mission. Read more here.

Patricia July 24, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I'm very proud of you, Manny. Serving and giving back to the community that served your family way back has always been a very special goal. Thanks to you and all those who serve in Law Enforcement ande to the community and all its people.
randy July 24, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Manny, it is a pleasure to know you and your family. Thanks for always giving back. Your family has set great examples as to what giving is about. Congratulations to Pajaro Rescue Mission. thanks to all that serve to help those that are in need.

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