Rescue Mission History


History of the Winston-Salem Rescue Mission

1967 – Several pastors and businessmen became burdened for the homeless and hurting men in Winston-Salem and determined that there was a real need for a rescue mission ministry in the city. A building on North Trade Street was obtained, and Rev. Neal Wilcox was chosen as the first director. He and his wife Barbara moved to Winston-Salem on June 1, 1967, to begin what would become a long and fruitful ministry. The Winston-Salem Rescue Mission officially opened its doors on July 22, 1967.

1973 – The Lawrence Apartments (formerly Lawrence Hospital) were donated to the Mission. This building was remodeled and refurbished, and in October 1974, the Mission building moved from North Trade Street to its current location at 717 Oak Street. This new location enabled the Mission to house up to seventy men each night. During this time, the Mission provided meals and shelter to men who had no home.

1975 – The purchase of a store at 705 North Trade Street provided work opportunities for the men who stayed at the Mission and also helped to bring in income to support the Mission.

1976 – A ladies division was opened and operated for eight years. Due to staffing shortages, it was necessary to close the women’s ministry. The building was renamed “Bethel Hall,” and the Mission was now able to accommodate eighty-five men.

Also, an apartment building in the Ardmore section of the city was donated to the Mission. This building was traded as a down payment on a farm in Davie County. This farm was used to raise pork and beef as well as some vegetables for the Mission and also provided more work opportunities for the men.

1986 – The Mission purchased a nearby warehouse and established the Industrial Division to provide job therapy and training to the countless men who came to the Mission for help and direction.

1994-1997 – The farm in Davie County was sold, and a 110-acre camp in Yadkin County was leased. The camp property was purchased in 1997, and a long-term drug and alcohol program was established and became known as Alpha Acres, “The Place of New Beginnings.” A computer-based learning center was introduced, and a Bible-centered recovery program became a reality.

2000 – The Mission received their certification from the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, which recognizes missions that have demonstrated a high quality of service to their communities through well-managed programs and operations.

In September, Rev. Neal Wilcox retired as Executive Director, having served the Mission for thirty-three years. Mr. Danny Parsons, a former Mission Board Member, was named as the new Executive Director. The Mission continued to grow, and the demand for shelter for more homeless men increased.

2003 – 2008 – The Mission purchased the USA Hotel on Trade Street for future expansion of the Mission ministries. Construction of the New Life Center, which housed a one-year residential recovery program for men, was completed in 2008.

2013 – In June, Ken Heater was hired as Assistant Executive Director to serve a six month transition period with Danny Parsons, and on December 31, after 14 years of ministry, Danny Parsons retired as Executive Director.

2014 – On January 1, Ken Heater began serving as the third Executive Director of the Mission. Ken led the Mission in evaluating and improving upgrading policies procedures, and organization structure, upgrading equipment, and software programs, strengthening the recovery programs and discipline structure and formalizing the work therapy programs to better help residents be accountable and prepared for returning to work. Ken also increased attention on balancing work therapy reasonabilities with eduction and recovery.

2015 –The Mission completed and received ECFA certification.

In addition, Centergrove Baptist Church led the way in our Food Pantry renovation by donating cash and labor and coordinating with community vendors to complete this $100,000 project. The new space allows us to serve more clients, and upgrades included new equipment shelving, and new refrigeration and freezer units.

2016 –The Mission completed and received AGRM certification.

2017 – On July 20th, the Thrift Store had a devastating fire that destroyed all the store’s internal contents. The supporters of the Rescue Mission donated cash, two truckloads of clothes, a warehouse full of furniture, and many more items. The Lord miraculously provided exceedingly and abundantly beyond our expectations.

In October, our 50th-anniversary banquet celebrated the Past, Present and Future Vision of the Rescue Mission. It was a grand night of worship and celebration. Pastor Rob Decker opened the meeting in prayer, followed by the Piedmont International Choir singing praises to the Lord. We were blessed to have all three executive directors Rev. Neal Wilcox, Mr. Dan Parsons and current Executive Director Mr. Ken Heater. Testimonies were shared by men in recovery, and Pastor Frank Thomas blessed the audience with his incredible voice.

2018 – The Mission saw an exciting increase in volunteerism from local church and school groups, businesses and individuals who served a combined total 18, 500 volunteer hours through the year.  Many of these volunteers assisted in the Alpha Acres Banquet, WSRM Banquet, Golf Tournament and Mission 5K.

2019 – In May, Ken Heater submitted his resignation as Executive Director and Lou Carrico was named as the Interim Executive Director.  Lou had been with WSRM for 15 years serving in various Program Department roles.

2020– In March, the Mission began experiencing the effects of COVID-19.  The Thrift Store was closed for 6 weeks due to the government mandate.  All Mission non-essential staff were furloughed with pay, the campus was closed to outside guests and volunteers and the residents were restricted to campus.  The closed campus and resident restriction to campus continued to the end of 2020.

In August, Alpha Acres was sold after a recommendation by the Board of Directors.

In September, there was a fire in Bethel Hall which was the result of a faulty exhaust fan.  There were 10 program graduates living in Bethel Hall who were either in school or working off campus. Due to the smoke damage, all program residents from Bethel Hall and Life Builders had to spend the night in the gymnasium of a local church. The Bethel Hall fire was too extensive, and the residents were moved back into the New Life Center.

In October, the Mission held its very first Virtual Banquet due to COVID-19.

On November 9th, the Board of Directors voted unanimously to name Lou Carrico as the 4th Executive Director of WSRM.

In September 2020 Bethel Hall caught fire and would later be torn down in March of that year to create much needed additional parking for employees.  Bethel Hall was over 100 years old at was used in the capacities of a women’s shelter, employee apartments, Clothing Closet and Transitional Housing during the COVID pandemic.

In January 2021, after 40 years of faithful service Rev. David Moxley retired from the Rescue Mission

In March of 2021 the Mission began a partnership with Oaklawn Baptist Church to open an off-site Food Pantry to help meet the needs of the Hispanic community in the surrounding area of the church.

In October 2021, the longstanding banner and emblem, Jesus Saves cross on top of the Life Builders Center is relit after many years of needing new lighting!

In November 2021, the Lord answered prayers for the paying off of the New Life Center mortgage, through a large gift given by an anonymous donor!

In March of 2022, The Life Builders Center, formerly “Old Mission Building,” begins a process of much needed renovations on the 103 plus year old building.

On July 27, 2022, the Rescue Mission celebrated its 55th anniversary praising the Lord for His faithfulness and goodness in sustaining the ministry!

On August 16th 2023, the Rescue Mission holds its first Crusade services help by local Evangelist Kevin Clapp.  During the 3 day Crusade, 4 men call upon the Lord for salvation and a number of men recommit their lives to the Lord!

The WS Rescue Mission has a rich history of supporting those in the community who need it most. Learn how we got our start.

Rescue Mission History
Rescue Mission History - Executive Leaders
Rescue Mission History