In 1995 a group of individuals from the Shickshinny area had a heart for those in need. They established a non-profit 501(c)3 entity known as the Wyoming Valley Rescue Ministries. This entity laid dormant until 2005.
In 2005, CityGate Network, formerly known as AGRM (Association of Gospel Rescue Missions), a national organization with over 100 years of experience in rescuing people, had an initiative combined with localized Missions to plant new Missions in areas where none existed. CityGate, in combination with the Rescue Missions in York, PA, Lancaster, PA, and Washington, DC, decided they would provide the seed money and a Board for Wyoming Valley Rescue Ministries. The four organizations hired an individual to come to start the Rescue Mission. Initial talks were had with the formers of the non-profit entity from 1995, and a Mission was born in Northeast PA.
In 2005, the Wyoming Valley Rescue Ministries started feeding homeless individuals off the back of a box truck on the corners in Scranton. Soon after, the Scranton Rescue Mission name was added to the organization.
Late in 2006, the first buildings at 8–12 West Olive St. in Scranton were purchased. The buildings were dedicated on Jan 25th, 2007. Meals started being served in Olive Street’s building on Friday–Monday evenings. Over the next few years, clothing and food distribution programs began for the homeless and those in need.
In 2008, a private funder interested in altering the lives of those affected by addiction donated a building in Wilkes-Barre. The Wilkes-Barre location was specifically to begin a long-term men’s residential addiction recovery program. This program, called the Life Change Program, was in existence until 2019. The Wilkes-Barre location was named the Wyoming Valley Rescue Mission. Both Scranton & Wilkes-Barre, even though called different names, were always part of the non-profit organization called Wyoming Valley Rescue Ministries.
Having two (2) locations with different names confused whether the organization was one entity or two (2) different organizations. To try to reduce confusion and promote the Mission as one organization, in 2009, the corporate name was legally changed to the Keystone Rescue Mission Alliance, Inc.
Both locations offered food and clothing distribution programs to the public weekly. Besides, hot dinners were served four (4) nights a week in both cities accounting for thousands of free meals served every year, and tens of thousands of clothing and food items are given away to those in need. Hundreds and hundreds of volunteers make this possible.
In 2016 we moved to communicate better to both communities who we are and what we do. In today’s culture, the word “rescue” has become synonymous with animals. The name was shortened, and a new logo was introduced. As the Keystone Mission, we are working to “Build a community of HOPE.” Our Mission is: To be a catalyst for the community to provide help and hope to the homeless, hungry, and hurting people in Northeast PA. Our primary goal is to do this thru the Life-Changing word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Looking to the future, Justin V. Behrens was hired in May of 2019. He brings a wealth of knowledge with his background in Social Work. Since 2019, the Keystone Mission is focused to help men and women who are broken and experiencing homelessness. Distribution programs were discontinued in both locations to restructure staff and resources towards providing relationships to the homeless. In Wilkes-Barre a partnership was formed with Restored Church to provide a Keystone Mission is in the business of building relationships.
Now, Keystone Mission is gearing to open a 15-bed male Transformation Center in 2022. The center will be the hub for men in NEPA. Men will live at the center 27/4, with access to food, clothes, and a structured program with the sole focus to transform their lives and become productive members of society. The structured program is 5-pillars of transformation built on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The pillars are the Genesis Process, Job Readiness, Spiritual Training, Life Skill Training, and Self-Care. Learn more about the Transformation Center.
In Scranton, the Day Center has opened back up with a similar focus—building relationships with the hope of long-term sustainability and independence. The center will allow guests to come in during the day, receive food, clothes, case management with a trained Life Coach, and access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and community agencies to get the help they need on their journey of transformation.