Calvary Mission an example of Dr. King’s dream of restoring lives

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- As we look toward the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., News Channel 3 will be sharing 50 stories of how Dr. King's legacy is very much alive.

One example is Calvary Rescue Mission in Memphis.

It's a place with a unique tie to Dr. King's fateful visit to Memphis and his dream of restoring lives.

These steps of the rescue mission can be lifesaving ones for men who call the streets of Memphis' home.

"They don't have any hope. They just down and they don't think that nobody care about them," said Robert Oliver with the Calvary Mission staff.

Calvary Rescue Mission is a source of shelter, food and salvation, having served hundreds of thousands of homeless men for more than 50 years.

"My husband and I began the mission April 1st, 1967, in a little storefront over on Jackson Avenue, " said Betty Hatcher.

Calvary's had several homes since then, but its current location on South Third Street holds a unique connection to Dr. King's fateful visit to Memphis in 1968.

"The night that Martin Luther King was assassinated, just a few blocks from here, this building was firebombed and it sat vacant, " said Betty.

The building was a former church and even once used by Holiday Inn for storage.

The badly damaged building was eventually given to the Hatchers, and the Mission opened on South Third in 1972.

Betty sees Dr. King's vision of restoring lives at work everyday.

And while Milton Hatcher died in 1995, Betty still plays a day-to-day role in helping run the Mission.

"People lose jobs and sometimes they have no place to go. There are others that have gambled down in Tunica and lost everything and need a place to stay," she said.

And there are other reasons.

Robert Oliver fell victim to drug abuse in 1999.

"And I stayed here and there, out in the street, down on Beale Street. I had no where to go, so I ended up coming to Calvary Mission," he told WREG.

Oliver is on the staff at Calvary and so is James Odum, who became homeless after his divorce back in the 80s.

Odum said he knows from experience what a hearty meal means to men who come to Calvary for help.

"They haven't ate, you know, no more than like cakes or crackers or something like that. But they haven't had, like, a good solid meal in a couple of weeks or something."

Betty hopes the men who turn to Calvary Mission daily for help will also find the spiritual nourishment they need to turn their lives around.

"And that's what our mission is...rebuilding the lives or homeless men. We want to help them get back on their feet," she said.

And to continue its work Calvary needs to expand!

Plans call for four new dormitories with space for 112 men, doubling the number that can fit into the present sleeping area.

The handicap-accessible facility will help homeless veterans and help men get an education to improve their lives.

Construction is scheduled to begin soon.