Q & A with Wendy Goetz

Utica Rescue Mission’s executive director: ‘We were lucky that we really didn’t lose staff when COVID-19 hit’

By David Podos

Q: How long have you been executive director of the mission?
A: I began my career with the Utica Rescue Mission as its executive director in April of 2019.

Q: Do you have prior experience working for nonprofits?
A: Yes, I have 20 years’ experience working for nonprofits, primarily as a health administrator.

Q: What is your educational background?
A: I have an MBA from RPI and I have a Master of Science from SUNY in Health Care Administration.

Q: How long has the Rescue Mission been operating in Utica?
A: They have been in Utica for 131 years. As a historical reference for your readers, the mission started in the late 1800s in New York City with two missions. Interestingly, from those two missions people traveled upstate and eventually connected with a group of Presbyterian churches in 1891. They wanted to establish a mission in Utica to primarily address alcoholism, homelessness and poverty in the Utica area.

Q: How many people does the mission employ?
A: Approximately 105.

Q: What are the main services that you offer?
A: The Rescue Mission provides many services such as counseling, advocacy, clothing and food for the needy as well as safe lodging to name just a few. One of our most important services we offer is our Addiction Stabilization Center. It’s a residential program with 25 beds for both men and women who are dealing with substance use disorders. The facility provides a safe environment for our clients as they work through their recovery. The facility is regulated by the New York State Office of Substance Abuse Services. We have a food pantry program for those in need and that is located at 1013 West St. in Utica. Another residential service we offer is our Enriched Living Center, which is a 52-bed residential program for adult men and women diagnosed with mental illness. Many services are provided to those clients such as medication management, community-based health care, social recreation, education and counseling to name just a few. To see the full menu of services we offer people can go to our website.

Q: Are there any strictly administrative-only services that your organization offers?
A: Yes. We have a direct payee program where we pay the bills for people who might not be able to pay their own finances, so if a person is living in a supportive residence for example, we make sure that the rent is paid for as well as all other services that are provided.

Q: Who are the people you serve?
A: Predominantly we serve those who are 18 years of age and older. So, for the most part our services are for adults. However, our clothing program as well as our meal program is for adults as well as for children.

Q: Where does the Utica Rescue Mission receive its funding to keep the doors open and the lights on?
A: Well, one of our major funding streams is personal donations. We also have several fundraising events. We get funding from New York state and the federal government, but that funding is less than the state funding.

Q: What is your annual operational budget?
A: About $6 million.

Q: COVID-19 has affected just about everyone in some matter. How has the virus affected your organization?
A: For instance, we used to have our community dining room open to the public for Thanksgiving prior to COVID-19. Now because of COVID-19 we do not have the space to social distance with a large group of people. So now we have had to implement a take-out service for people who needed food. We also encouraged people to call in for a meal then our volunteers would deliver the meal to their residence. We were lucky that we really didn’t lose staff when COVID-19 hit. The only issue with staffing was when we did have a vacancy it was harder to fill.

Q: Are there any special events coming up that you plan on doing as the year winds down?
A: Yes, we are planning on holding our second winter coat give-away. These coats are for both men and women. We held our first winter coat giveaway in early fall but ran out of women’s coats. More information can be obtained on our website. We will also be offering a full Christmas meal and that will be handled the same way as we did with our Thanksgiving meal giveaway. The website for the Utica Rescue Mission is: Uticamission.org