West Poplar: Helping Hand Rescue Mission Transforms the Lives of Those in Need


Helping Hand Rescue Mission has given homeless and impoverished people within its community a chance to revitalize their lives through religion and its services. Located at 610 N. 6th St., the mission offers Thursday night Bible studies for those in need.

About 25 homeless people line up at the fence outside of the Christian church to attend the Bible studies. The services are an hour long and start at 7 p.m.

“It is a routine. We come together. We talk to the men and sing a few songs to lift the Lord up,”  said Pastor Matthew Gallashaw II, director of Helping Hand Rescue Mission. “That’s a good way to get them involved and lift them up too.”

Church members enjoyed refreshments while services took place.
Church members enjoyed refreshments while services took place.

Another way the Bible study lifts the spirits of those who attend is by offering refreshments, care packages and clothing. The care packages are bags of toiletries, including toothpaste, toothbrushes, wash cloths, deodorant, soap and disposable razors. Gallashaw said the donations come from private sectors, like ShopRite and Wal-Mart, and people who donate through its website.

In a 2013 interview on CBS Talk Philly, anchor Mitch Prensky spoke with the executive director and board president of the Homeless Advocacy Project. Prensky said 4,000 homeless men, women and children seek emergency shelter every night in Philadelphia.

With the high number of homelessness, services like the ones offered at this organization are in need. Gallashaw said the organization serves about 400 impoverished families in the area.

Helping Hand Rescue Mission has served people like church member Vernon Tinnen, who said he wanted to change his life when he became homeless. After getting shot and suffering from paralysis, Tinnen had to stay with his sister. His sister’s house burned down leaving him without a place to live.

“This ministry made me look at myself in a different direction and how to better myself,” Tinnen said. “I said, ‘Wow. I’m at rock bottom.’ I have nowhere to go but up and I might as well have some help to get me up and that’s why I come here.”

Pastor Matthew Gallashaw II held a care package of basic toiletries.
Pastor Matthew Gallashaw II held a care package of basic toiletries.

Rommie Parker has been attending Helping Hand Rescue Mission for six years, coming off the streets, homeless with an addiction. Parker said he goes to the ministry to learn about Christianity.

“You got good teachers and people that’s very enlightened about the word. We were talking earlier about the sword of the spirit which is God’s word and I get it here,” Parker said. “I’m very enlightened with these people here and the way they treat people from off of the streets.”

The volunteers and staff at Helping Hand Rescue Mission meet with people to assess what their needs are and then see what they can do for them.

“People need to be encouraged to be motivated so we have people who will come and share and speak, and let them know what’s available and try to encourage them to do what they can for themselves as well,” Gallashaw said. “I’m not a giveaway program person. I forget who wrote the phrase, ‘Give a man a fish, he eats a day. Teach him how to fish, then he can eat forever.’ We want to be able to teach them how to fish.”

One way the organization has taught those less fortunate how to “fish” is by helping them obtain proper identification. Youth Director Adam Bruckner said, “Part of the program that we run here at the Helping Hand Rescue Mission is we help these guys to get IDs out on the Parkway on Monday afternoon. We get 5,000 men, women and children a year that come for help getting IDs.”

Church member Rommie Parker prayed during the service.
Church member Rommie Parker prayed during the service.

Bruckner said he used to have ignorant misconceptions of the poor and would question why homeless people didn’t just go out and find jobs. He said, “Over the years I’ve learned, a homeless guy can’t just walk into a McDonald’s and get a job because he doesn’t have an ID. He doesn’t have a mailing address. He doesn’t have a phone number to call you back on and he might not even have the proper work clothes.”

Not only can homeless people find jobs with an identification card, but, “one of the benefits of getting someone an ID is that they can register to be an organ donor,” Bruckner said. A woman who donates money to the ministry is married to a man who needed a kidney transplant. A homeless man who was able to get an ID through the organization recently passed away. Because he was able to register as an organ donor, his kidney was donated to the husband.

Helping Hand Rescue Mission has benefitted the homeless as well as the community as a whole. From feeding the homeless to teaching them about Christianity, this organization has been helping those in need throughout Philadelphia for over 100 years.

To get involved in this ministry, visit www.helpinghandphilly.org.

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