The race medal awarded to runners of the now canceled 2023 Turkey Trot OC 5k race in Tustin, Calif., on Nov. 20, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
TUSTIN, Calif.—On the morning of Nov. 7, Bryan Crain, president of the Orange County Rescue Mission, looked out his office window and saw smoldering embers float from a fire at a nearby World War II blimp hanger and strike the grounds of the mission’s Tustin campus, just several blocks away from the massive burning structure.
“We were thankful to God that those embers didn’t cause any damage here,” Mr. Crain told The Epoch Times on Nov. 20. “We really felt His protection here during this fire.”
The Orange County Rescue Mission will soon celebrate its 30th year of providing the Orange County homeless community, with services including counseling, education, job training, shelter, clothing, health care, food, and an independent living community.
For Mr. Crain and his team, the hangar fire could not have come at a more challenging time regarding the ministry’s fundraising, ahead one of its biggest donation events held every year on Thanksgiving Day.
“Unfortunately, this year our annual 10th annual Turkey Trot OC 5K race celebration, which really helped us with our fundraising efforts, had to be canceled due to air quality issues caused by the fire,” he said. “Despite the cancellation of this, our goal remains our goal remains the same, which is to raise funding for 50,000 meals for homeless men, women, and children.”
Considered a local holiday tradition, which attracts runners of all experience levels, the race typically runs past the two historic Tustin hangars while generating money to feed the hungry, according to Mr. Crain.
However, despite this major setback to their fundraising efforts, the nonprofit’s goal of assisting the community is still the same, he said.
Men search for hazardous materials as a fire continues to burn inside a historic blimp hangar in Tustin, Calif., on Nov. 14, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch times)
To maintain its ongoing food outreach, the OC Rescue Mission has asked registered racers to consider donating their $35 fee instead of receiving a refund for it, along with this year’s race sponsors.
“We went back to all the event sponsors and asked if they could turn their fees into a donation for us,” Mr. Crain said. “And every one of them said they understood and they’re rolling their sponsorship into a donation.”
Mr. Crain also encouraged those who have donated to come to the Tustin facility and witness the impact of the OC Rescue Mission’s service.
“I want more people to come and see this place, and I would even throw that out there, that one could even go to the front desk and say, ‘Hey, I’m a donor or a potential volunteer and I want to know more about this outreach,’” he said.
“While the Turkey Trot was a great way of getting people connected here, we’ve really stepped up in trying to get more people to come, whether they be donors, first time volunteers, or just curious about what we do here.”
The Orange County Rescue Mission told The Epoch Times the nonprofit has served a record amount of homeless individuals and families over the past year due to potential reasons such as housing affordability, the fentanyl epidemic, and pandemic financial relief packages that have come to a recent close.
Bryan Crain, president of the Orange County Rescue Mission, stands in the cafeteria area in Tustin, Calif., on Nov. 20, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Anyone in need is welcome to seek help, said Mr. Crain, and the OC Rescue Mission hopes to give these people a “hand up,” not a “hand out.”
Individuals have the opportunity to engage in 18 to 24-month programs where participants have access to medical help, job training, and high school education certificates. While also providing food, clothing, and shelter, the mission gives participants the opportunity to hear about the Christian faith, where they believe that true hope and restoration is found.
“It’s common for our students to share with us that they found hope here, and found freedom from the guilt and shame that weighed their lives down,” Mr. Crain said.
In the cafeteria area of the OC Rescue Mission, dozens of families sat down for lunch together as Mr. Crain stopped and interacted with program participants, staff members, and volunteers.
For Mr. Crain, everyone in the large, sunlit atrium area is on the same level: broken people in need of the hope that faith brings.
“Some struggles are visible and some are well hidden. It does not make a difference here in the eyes of our Lord Jesus,” he said. “These are our brothers and sisters in the Lord, so we need to serve them.”
Those interested in donating or volunteering at the OC Rescue Mission can visit its website
The Orange County Rescue Mission in Tustin, Calif., on Nov. 20, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)