Retiree gives help, hope at Rescue Mission

Published Nov 26, 2017 at 9:00am

“There are happy endings.”

Since retiring as a substance abuse counselor for the state Department of Corrections, Jeannine Genevieve Segarra, 84, of Rome, has given her time helping those in need in her community. And she has witnessed several success stories along the way.

She recalled attending an event at Rome Rescue Mission more than 25 years ago when the organization operated out of a small building located on North James Street. From there the mission moved to the basement of First Presbyterian Church before operating out of its current location at 413 E. Dominick St. While visiting the mission for the first time, Segarra witnessed what went on there and developed an appreciation for its work, she said.

“I just liked what they were doing for the people and then I just starting helping,” Segarra said. “Then I just kept it going.”

Jeannine has mostly been at charge of administrative work over the years. Her daily duty is to take down the names of those who attend breakfast, lunch and dinner at the mission. She only takes first names unless there happens to be two Davids or Janes in the room, and then she’ll only mark down their last initial. The information is confidential, but the statistics are kept for funding and programming purposes, she said.

“I fill out the statistical forms. I keep track of the number of people and meals we serve,” Segarra said. “There’s also stats on age, racial background or if they’re veterans or non-veterans. If they go up for seconds, I keep track of that as well. We serve about 200 meals a day here, both sit-in and those that go out to the home-bound.”

Since Nov. 1, Segarra said Rome Rescue Mission has seen around 55 people per day. Besides faces she recognizes, the volunteer must also keep track of those who may be coming in and utilizing the mission’s services for the first time.

“I’m usually the first person they’ll see when they walk in and they’ll come in with their problems and tell me what’s really happening,” she said. “So I feel I’m sort of the in-between because then I’ll go to Matt (Miller, executive director) or Lisa (Patierno, director of operations) and I’ll say so-and-so needs help and has a problem and then they’ll get them that help. No one is ever denied assistance here, and no one ever goes hungry.”

Segarra said the number of people served by the mission tends to increase toward the end of the month when their public assistance is running low.

“Sometimes we get double the amount of people toward the end of the month because they run out of food stamps,” she said. “...We have grown because there are more hungry people in Rome than when I started, or maybe people are just more aware (of the mission).”

Awareness has been a key to the Rescue Mission’s efforts. The long-time volunteer said word has gotten around about what the mission does — it’s more than a soup kitchen — and there’s less of a “stigma” now than there was years ago about reaching out to get help.

Today Rome Rescue Mission offers several programs to assist those in need like Journey to Health. Launched in 2014, it strives to promote healthy behaviors and improve the quality of life for clients. Education, skill development and one-on-one support are the cornerstones of the program. Included are nutrition, cooking and parenting/childcare classes, Segarra said.

Besides serving meals daily, the mission also offers transitional housing to the homeless, a food pantry and its Mobile Mission — a truck that goes out to visit local neighborhoods to serve the needs of the community. The Mobile Mission offers hot meals, clothing, canned foods, chapel services, outreach for the homeless, veterans and seniors, as well as youth programs during the summer.

“If there is a need, the Rome Rescue Mission produces,” Segarra said. “It’s an integral part of the community. People have come up to me and they don’t believe that there’s that many poor people in Rome. They’re not aware of the poverty issue or the hunger issue here.”

Throughout her years of volunteering at the mission, Segarra said she has developed many acquaintances and good friendships along the way. She’s seen small children grow up through the mission and even three couples meet and get married. In 2006 Segarra became a Medicare counselor for the county Office for the Aging, and her work continues, but she still offers her services to the mission in her spare time. And besides her volunteer work, Segarra said she appreciates the fellowship the mission provides because she “never has to eat alone.”

“There’s high school students I’ve seen grow up at the Rescue Mission and then I’ll see them graduate, get jobs and get out on their own, or they’ll have new families that they’ve developed and occasionally they will come back here to say hello,” she said. “There’s a lot of fellowship that goes on here and the people kind of know they’re not alone. We provide such caring services at our ministry, and I’m so very proud to be part of it.”

Because working with the clients at the Rescue Mission is like being surrounded by family, the volunteer said she always looks forward to sharing the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with those she works with. On Thanksgiving, Jeannine volunteered at the mission until between 3-4 p.m. before joining her own family for dinner. Her daughter and son-in-law reside in Rome, as well as three of her four grandchildren. She also has four great-grandchildren.

“It’s not only a family, it’s an important extended family,” she said. “We see a lot of the same people, but there are some new too. Especially during Christmas, we’ll see people who no longer utilize the services of the mission, but have been able to make a life for themselves, come just to spend their holiday. So there’s happy endings out there.”