By Lex McMillan

In 1972, a man named Fred Neal, a devoted member and deacon of Gettysburg’s First Baptist Church, had a vision that led to the founding of the Adams Rescue Mission.  According to Bruce Dietrick, the ARM Executive Director, Neal was quick to say it was the Lord’s vision, not his; he simply listened and acted energetically to bring others in the community to share and act on that vision.

David Dunn, retired pastor of First Baptist, remembers Neal as a man who “had a passion for those in need.”  Neal was a humble man with a self-effacing sense of humor.  He was an executive at the Inland Container Corporation who helped many young people get a start in life, including Dunn’s own son-in-law.  Dunn recalls the ”beautiful memory” of one Christmas, when Neal and his wife, Ruth, took the Dunns’ three little girls to Washington for a performance of “The Nutcracker” ballet.

As Neal would have wanted, Dunn is quick to share the credit for ARM’s founding: “It was a community effort that gained widespread support from other local churches.”  Dunn cites St. James Lutheran as being one of its most helpful early partners.  That support has continued over the years across the Gettysburg community.  It was evident most recently in the Giving Spree when ARM received more individual gifts than any other local charity.

Its first men’s shelter was located in a building on the Chambersburg Road across from the airport, now Anthony’s Place. The recycling service was launched early in loaned warehouse space on Racehorse Alley. The first Thrift Store was also located in town. In April 1977, with support from the Musselman Foundation, ARM purchased the Armistead 5&10 building on York Road.  Above the store were four rental apartments; three of them were quickly converted to rooms to accommodate up to 30 homeless men.

When Bruce Dietrick was hired as Director of Men’s Ministries in 1983, he and his wife, Marilyn, with their six-month old daughter moved into the remaining apartment.  Their second daughter, Heidi, who is now ARM’s Promotion and Development Director, was born while the young family still lived above the Thrift Store and offices. Soon after his arrival, Dietrick was named Executive Director.  He was initially reluctant to accept the position because of his commitment to preaching and pastoral counseling, but the Board assured him that he could continue in those roles, which he does with love to this day.

In 1988, Dietrick recalls the “leap of faith” that led to ARM’s ministry to homeless women and children in a rented house at 19 East Stevens Street.  Six years later, with generous community support, the ARM Board took an even greater leap by purchasing a three-story building with six apartments and a separate house on Chambersburg Street.  Renovated and expanded, it is now The Agape House with ten apartments, the home of ARM’s Family Ministries.

Reflecting on ARM’s growth over the years, Dietrick gives all the credit to God’s grace and refers to himself as the Lord’s “bondslave” (Exodus 21:1-6). He feels that he has been blessed beyond his ability to repay by his years of service.  Of the 50th anniversary, he said simply, “it’s just the first 50 years.”

The Adams Rescue Mission exists to proclaim the passion of Jesus toward the hungry, homeless, abused, and addicted; to accelerate recovery and restoration to the least, last, lonely, and lost.  Lex McMillan is a board member of ARM.

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