Frances Mott recalls husband's founding of Valley Rescue Mission 50 years ago

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comJune 8, 2013 

Valley Rescue Mission Director of Development Donna Pearce was expecting to find Frances Mott in the mission lobby as the two were to go on an outing together, but Mott was nowhere to be found.

Pearce walked down a hallway seeking the 90-year-old woman.

As she passed a sitting area, Pearce heard Mott's voice.

Peeking in, she found Mott holding the hand of an elderly woman who had just lost her husband, and Mott was praying for her.

"Mrs. Mott's significant contributions to Valley Rescue Mission set the standard for a successful ministry to its clients. Even in her retirement years, Mrs. Mott continues to be a faithful prayer partner to those in need," the mission's executive director Rhonda Mobley said Wednesday.

"Every time I see her she tells me, 'I pray for you and the Valley Rescue Mission every single morning.' In this ministry, the challenges are many, and sometimes the resources are few. The assurance of knowing there are godly people like Mrs. Mott, standing in the gap in earnest prayer for us, is truly a blessing."

Valley Rescue Mission is celebrating its 50th year of service in Columbus, and Mott has been around since the beginning. It was her now deceased husband, Howard Mott, who had the inspiration to open a mission, and she helped in numerous ways to make it a success.

The mission opened with just a small church chapel and three "shotgun houses" on Second Avenue, the same location as the present facility.

"It is amazing what God has done. Every single year it has improved," Mott said. "I never dreamed it would become what it has. Unfortunately, the need for a Valley Rescue Mission is greater than ever."

There are many programs. One is a transient program that offers short-term overnight lodging to men in need. Damascus Way provides beds and life-skill programs for women and children. The River Ministry delivers food, blankets, medical supplies and more to those who live on the streets; and a family services ministry provides food, clothing and furniture to the needy in the community. Addiction recovery programs are available for men and women. Camp Joy offers a camping experience for children ages 7-11.

In 2012, the Valley Rescue Mission served 138,304 meals, provided 42,026 nights of lodging, distributed 6,383 food baskets to community members who were in need, gave 1,616 families clothing items and presented toys at Christmas to 1,171 children. In addition to that, 418 fans were distributed during the summer and 31 heaters during the winter.

"Cumulatively, thanks to Mrs. Mott's good record-keeping, we know that in our 50 years of ministry we have served 3.7 million meals, provided 1.2 million nights of lodging and seen 12,000 children attend Camp Joy now in its 40th year of ministry," Pearce said.

Howard Mott was a traveling salesman for Southern Foods, a meat packing plant. As he visited churches and missions in different cities such as Macon, Ga., and Montgomery. Ala., on the way home, he would pick up hitchhikers and realize they had nowhere to stay here, and he would put them up in a motel.

One day he told his wife that a mission was needed in Columbus and God wanted him to start one.

He presented his plan to the Christian Businessman's Committee, of which he was a member. They liked the idea and work began to make Mott's dream become a reality.

Another man, Bill Roberson, who had come to Columbus to start a mission, was the first director, but the mission wasn't a year old before he went back to school. Howard Mott, a father of four who had quit his job, took charge.

Remembering the early hard times, Mott laughed and said people told her, "you are going to starve to death."

"We didn't have much," she said.

At first, she did not see herself playing a key role, and it was thought it would be only men being helped at the mission but many women, some who had been abused, showed up.

"There were more people in need than we expected. I worked in several areas. There were moments when I wondered how I could possibly do all that God seemed to be asking. I thought I was going to be a lady of leisure but that is not what God had planned," Mott said.

"A lot of people are grateful for that," Pearce remarked.

The first two years Mott worked without receiving pay because the mission was low on funds. "I didn't see it as a job. It was a calling from God. The mission was our life," she said.

The nonprofit organization operates on donations and also profits from its bargain stores. There is one in Columbus and one in Phenix City. Pearce said one in north Columbus is being planned.

"We have never accepted government funds," Mott said. "Too many restrictions. We wanted to be able to have our people attend church. We wanted Bibles in the rooms. This has always been a Christian organization. We did not worry about whether we would make it because we knew God was in control."

She is very proud of Camp Joy and its growth. Her first summer spent at Camp Joy was not pleasant.

"I got eaten by chiggers. We slept in tents and no ice for our drinks," she recalled. There was also a makeshift shower.

It is a modern facility these days.

The Motts retired in 1989 but never stopped supporting Valley Rescue.

Howard Mott took a part-time job as pastor for the seniors at Trinity Temple Assembly of God and after his death in 2006, Frances Mott took over the position.

She doesn't drive now but still likes to get to the mission when possible.

"It's a wonderful place," she said. "I miss the people.

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