On August 5, 2019, Topeka Rescue Mission officials notified the local media by press conference of a financial shortfall estimated at over $1 million. According to their news release that day, this translated to a monthly deficit of roughly $180,000. The impact would at least include the shuttering of a variety of services, if not the outright closure of its shelter within weeks. A shelter that was currently serving no less than 250 people each night.
Some local government officials were reticent to offer an immediate comment, but the Shawnee County Commission responded within 72 hours, offering a $100,000 donation from a contingency fund set aside for emergencies. Topeka citizens were not; with people of all ages and statures answering the call; TRM reported $273,000 in donations one week after that press conference. By August 17, donations had surpassed $400,000 (Tim Hrenchir, Topeka Capital-Journal).
Mission Possible launched five days later, a coordinated effort between Lamar Advertising, WIBW, Topeka Capital-Journal and CoreFrist Bank + Trust – matching donations received at the bank up to $100,000. It took 19 days to complete the mission (average of $5,250 donated daily) and then on September 10, TRM announced a local anonymous donor offered another $50,000 match. Adding to these funds are additional large public and private donations and a bit of diversion funds from the DA’s Office on September 12.

By our calculations, that’s a million dollar “capital campaign” completed in a mere 38 days, with no signs of losing steam.

In light of the tremendous public support of private donations, many felt in the dark. Critical scrutiny of TRM operations was requested, along with their 990s. Ultimately, and due to an ample public response, Feaker declined the potential donation from Shawnee County Commission. Nonetheless, this move by the Commission raised questions, as Topeka Rescue Mission prides itself on being privately funded. Many of its services and programs have been introduced in the last decade, a relatively short period of its 66-year existence. With just under 100 employees, multiple partner agencies, and a growing client population, was TRM’s model becoming too great to sustain?
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By Martinez Hillard

Martinez Hillard

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