Refuge of Hope Ministries (ROH) is a non-profit Christian rescue mission located in downtown Canton that strives to glorify and serve God by providing meals for the hungry and emergency shelter and transition to independence for homeless men. From the beginning, ROH has provided help and hope to anyone in need, with all services free of charge. We asked CEO Duane Wykoff to tell us more.
When was ROH founded and how has it grown?
ROH was founded in 2000 when it offered a free coffee house, Bible studies and a Sunday worship service. The organization also served a meal after the Sunday worship service. In 2003, ROH began expanding ministry services to the entire Stark County community with a mobile soup kitchen and in December 2004, opened an emergency homeless shelter for men with 22 available beds.
Since 2009, the organization has focused on being the best possible service provider in just two ministries - a food ministry providing nutritious, free meals to hungry men, women, and children and an emergency and transitional housing shelter for men, the only such entity at that time in Stark County.
In July 2019, we moved into a newly constructed facility with 66 beds in our shelter. We went from providing 8,800 bedded nights per year to over 16,000 in 2019. The number of nutritious meals provided at ROH have increased from 14,500 in 2008 to just under 92,000 in 2019. Despite the chaos caused by the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and into 2021, we still served just under 80,000 meals to hungry men, women, and children in 2020.
ROH’s Board of Directors and staff are a strong group of Christian men and women with diverse backgrounds and experience. They have hearts to serve and strive to build relationships with homeless men, hungry men, women, and children, and those living in poverty in Stark and neighboring counties.
What community needs does ROH serve?
ROH meets a long list of vital community needs by providing: hope for those with little; spiritual guidance; hot meals for the hungry; shelter, meals, showers, clothing, transportation and other basic necessities for homeless men; social interaction, a feeling of belonging, and a sense of self-worth for meal guests and shelter clients; opportunities to find housing and employment; and a conduit to other local social service agencies.
Hunger, homelessness, and poverty are serious issues in Stark County. In Canton, over 32% of the people live at the poverty level or below. In Stark County, one in seven people, including one in four children and one in ten senior citizens, are food insecure which means they do not have regular access to affordable, nutritious food.
We offer hungry and hurting men, women, and children of all ages eight meals per week, more than any other such organization in Stark County. We serve dinner Monday through Friday and lunch on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.
What challenges does ROH currently face?
Two major challenges for ROH currently include funding, to make certain we have the dollars necessary to operate the ministry. We are open every day of the year and never want to be in a position of having to shut down, even for a day, due to lack of resources.
A second challenge is volunteers. We operate with a small staff so we depend on the help of volunteers especially in our Meal Ministry. We have been blessed with a great group of loyal, supportive volunteers but can always use more. We are constantly on the lookout for those who have a heart to serve people who live daily in dire circumstances in our community.
How can the local community support ROH in order to help your mission serving those in need?
1) Pray for ROH – As a Christian organization, we believe in the power of prayer and have been blessed time after time at ROH by prayers being answered by a loving and caring God.
2) Be a volunteer – We love our volunteers and it would be difficult to operate efficiently without them! We can always use volunteers who have a heart to serve people in need.
3) Support ROH financially -- We need financial support to meet our annual budget. Support comes in a variety of ways – donations made online, in person, via mail; sponsorships and participation in fundraising events like our annual gala, spring banquet, and 5K race; monthly/quarterly gifts, company matching donations, legacy gifts, and in-kind donations.
How can we learn more about ROH?
The best way to learn about ROH is to visit and tour our facility. We currently provide tours but always adhere to the necessary precautions due to the Covid-19 virus. More information is available on our website at RefugeofHope.org There you can join our mailing list to receive our newsletters which include stories of the people we serve. You can follow us on Facebook or watch video testimonies of former shelter residents on our You Tube channel.
Please consider participation in our upcoming Thanks + Giving = HOPE Gala to be held on Friday, November 12. This year’s Interactive Digital Extravaganza is our major fundraiser for the income necessary to provide meals, shelter and HOPE to those we are called to serve. Information regarding this event is available our website.