Skating rink a blessing for Community Rescue Mission

Skating rink a blessing for Community Rescue Mission

The circumstances that bring someone to Community Rescue Mission are very rarely happy ones. In general, the people who move in to the 10 single-family apartments have lost a battle with substance abuse, lost a job, lost a spouse, lost their home and simply have nowhere else to go.

It is Heather Sanders’ goal to give them back hope and direction, along with full stomachs and a sense of community. This Christmas season, there will also be joy, of course, some of it coming from a new fundraising endeavor. The CRM board, volunteers and residents who are able to help will be running a synthetic ice skating rink on the lawn of the Riverfront Pavilion in downtown Fort Smith. Thanks to sponsorship from First National Bank of Fort Smith, all the proceeds from the ice rink will go back to the Community Rescue Mission.

CRM can always use the money; the 40-year-old nonprofit receives funding from neither government entities nor the United Way. Most days, 30 to 37 people — including 13 to 22 kids — are living in the apartments on Community Rescue Mission’s one-city-block campus.

And right now, CRM is relying even more heavily on the community. Because of remodeling to turn a dorm into more apartments, there is currently no kitchen on campus. Breakfast is currently continental style or some days, Sanders says, they are blessed with some sandwiches provided by Starbucks, and residents eat sack lunches or microwaveable lunches. But individual volunteers, corporate entities and restaurants have filled every evening slot on a “meal train” since September. “December is looking a little iffy,” Sanders says, and donors are definitely needed, whether it’s for pizza, pasta, a taco bar or any other kind of hot dinner. She’s hoping to have a kitchen back in operation by February.

The response has amazed Sanders — but there’s nothing new about that. She says “amazing blessings” come to CRM all the time. Sometimes that’s in the form of collaboration with landlords to get residents into long-term housing. There’s a partnership with The Next Step to help with the transition to independence. There’s a new subdivision going up at Chaffee Crossing that will offer more affordable housing. And there are the volunteers, without whom much of CRM’s work couldn’t happen.

Sanders came to CRM from the Downtown Business Association, but she learned about community as a military wife who had to get a new job and create a new home every three years. With experience in management and “a heart for giving back,” she knew when CRM asked her if she was interested, she wanted to take the job.

“Imagine how you would feel if you did not know where you would lay your head tonight nor from where your next meal would come,” the website muses. “Multiply those concerns several times over if you have children in tow. Whatever the circumstance, we are here to instill hope and empower lives while offering Christ-like hospitality and care.”



Fort Smith Ice Rick

WHEN — Through Jan. 2; hours are 5-9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday; extended hours Monday-Thursday began Dec. 20

WHERE — 100 N. B St. in Fort Smith

COST — $12 adults, $8 children younger than 11. Includes skates.

INFO — 782-1443 or

FYI — Volunteers can also sign up on the website to help with the ice rink or join the meal train.

Categories: Family Friendly