By Jo Anne Embleton

reporter@jacksonvilleprogress.com

Nearly a year following its official launch, a local faith-based ministry has an opportunity to own the site from which it operates, and hopes to raise $200,000 through an Aug. 24 auction at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce to help meet that goal.

The 203 N. Jackson St. commercial site is owned by an Elkhart resident, who has offered the sale for a price far below what the property is appraised at, according to Billy Bateman, founded the ministry.

“If we can't pay for the property, we can still lease it, but with the money used to pay to lease, we could feed 100 families or even more,” Bateman said.

Highway 69 Mission was formed by a group of local citizens responding to an ongoing challenge to help area residents facing emergency situations. By focusing on its motto, “People helping people,” the goal is to match residents who possess a wide variety of skills, gifts and ministry with those who need help on a temporary basis.

The ministry was officially formed in September 2018, receiving its nonprofit organization from the State of Texas.

“At that time, we filed for our 501c3, which we received in April of this year,” Bateman said. “That has been a big help – it's opened more doors for us, and also for the people, because anything thing bring us is 100 percent tax deductible. And, it allows us to go out for grants: Money, which is essential, is the number one need (to meet operational needs). When you get past that, then the other needs get addressed.”

The mission takes approximately $10,000 to $15,000 to operate annually, “just to open the doors,” he said. “That's not supplying any needs or food or things like that, it's basically overhead. And currently, we're receiving about 75 percent of that through different organizations, churches, individuals.”

Support comes not only through financial contributions but donated items as well, including canned, non-perishable or frozen foods..

“It can be one can of food or a bicycle or whatever they might want to donate,” he said, adding that many of the donated items will be part of the Aug. 24 auction.

The mission has four target groups it strives to help: Children, elderly, widows and veterans, “and the more support we have, the more we are able to do,” he said. “The need never goes away.

“What people don't understand is that they think we're a homeless mission, but we're way more than that. I don't want to be known as a homeless mission; if they read our mission statement we're here for emergency needs, and our number one goal, above any and all, is that no child goes without food. No elderly person goes without food or medication.”

Along with supporting year-round food drives in response to disasters, local meals, a summertime fan drive and a Christmas bicycle drive, Highway 69 Mission provides folks in need a place to sleep for a limited amount of time. There, the site is set up with a shower, washing machine, food and clothing; the ministry also helps provide funds for fuel needs, medication – even arrange to get people back home.

“How can we make this better? We want to help you get out of this, we'll get you better,” Bateman said of the goal to help those in need.

Social media helps others see what Highway 69 Mission accomplishes, primarily through Facebook posts and photos.

“People love to hear, love to see. So when we received 113 fans that we'd given to the elderly or the veterans, we're blessed. I can do a Biblical post, like John 3:16, telling and explaining everything (our mission is about), and we get seven shares and 14 likes (on FB). But I can put online, 'At Thanksgiving, we fed 70-something people,' and we get a hundred shares,” he said. “People are very interested in 'Where do my funds go? Who am I really supporting? Am I feeding the ones that are hungry? Am I helping those in need?'”

He invited people wanting more information about Highway 69 Mission – especially its operation – to “come down and see the work in progress; see what we're doing and why we are doing it. I'll make you a believer,” he said. “The goal of this whole mission is to be Christ-like, to build up the kingdom of God. My job is to plant that seed (of faith to help unite people with God).”

To be able to purchase the site where the mission operates would allow “numerous additional opportunities to advance the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him, and to provide aid and support to people and their families in this community, during times of hardship,” he added.

ABOUT THE AUCTION:

Auctions benefitting the Highway 69 Mission, will be held Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, 526 E. Commerce St.

Early viewing of items is from 4 to 6 p.m., with live music provided by Ian Chandler. In addition, barbecue plates will be served for $10, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The live auction begins at 7 p.m., with a silent auction concluding at 8:30 p.m. Drawings and door prizes will be offered, as well. To learn more, contact Billy Bateman, 903-284-1710.

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