The Urban Mission has been been serving the Ohio Valley for over fifty years!
In 1959, the Urban Mission received its start as the Mill Men’s Hostel, an outreach to Wheeling-Pittsburgh Company workers. For fourteen years, the Mill Men’s Hostel and its only Director, the Rev. Robert Henthorn, provided hard working mill workers will a place of refuge between shifts. Workers would come to rest, refuel, worship and receive pastoral care.
Once the mills began to shut down, the purpose of the Mill Men’s Hostel changed. There was now a need to reach out to an entire community – a community hurting from severe economic decline.
In the early 1970’s, the Urban Mission was established. In 1973, Rev. Fred Gaston was appointed as Urban Minister to the Steubenville area under the United Methodist Church. His mandate was to explore places and situations where a Christian presence and ministry seemed viable.
With the retirement of Rev. Gaston, Rev. Robert Hutton was appointed Director in 1981. He served until his death in 1987. Rev. Hutton was influential in expanding the ministry of to families and the homeless, as well as to Vietnam Veterans.
The Mission operated from the Calvary United Methodist Church until 1984 at which time the agency moved to Adams Street. These facilities proved to be too small and in December 1986, a three story building, located at 317 North Street, became available.
Rev. Roger Skelley-Watts was appointed Executive Director in April 1988. The ministry with the homeless was enlarged with the establishment of the Hutton House, a temporary shelter for families in need.
In 1989, the Mission was given the present Mission Center on 301 North Fifth Street, which was the former Fifth Street United Methodist Church.
In 1992, Rev. Ricky Riggs became the Executive Director and during his years of ministry the Mission continued to expand. In 1994, a four story building was purchased to serve as the Warehouse.
In 1993, a local Women’s Center based out of the Simpson Community Developer’s Program merged with the Urban Mission. This merger combined two inner city ministries of the United Methodist Church. This program was renamed the Neighborhood Community Development Center to reflect the inclusiveness of the ministry.
Mrs. Sharon Kirtdoll, founder and director of the Community Developer Program, continued as Director of the outreach ministries to the African American community of the Steubenville area, and serves to this day.
In 2002, Rev. Bruce Hitchcock stepped into the Executive Director’s role. During his tenure, the Mission provided approximately 1,400 familes with food each month, over 300 hot meals each week, an annual Christmas Kids program providing gifts to 800 children and teens, the expansion of the Hutton House to house up to 12 families, a JOSHUA work camp ministry, and a variety of children’s programs. Rev. Hitchcock was also involved in the creation of a the 4th Street Health Center in Steubenville, OH, a separate non profit.
In 2011, Rev. Ashley Steele became the first female Executive Director at the Urban Mission. Rev. Steele remains committed to the Urban Mission and its long standing history.
As the Urban Mission begins another year in service to the community, it upholds its long-standing motto, “to listen with compassion, to serve with love.”