Ecumenical ministry serves thousands of meals each month
By Dan Russo
DUBUQUE — Nick Schiesl, a former chef at the Dubuque Rescue Mission, now a volunteer, conversed with current staff recently while juicy hunks of lamb sizzled on the kitchen stove.
“I was the chef here,” explained Schiesl. “I just got a job at a (local restaurant).”
Schiesl returned for a special event. While he focused on the main course, others put the finishing touches on side dishes. Desserts were brought to the serving line. Coffee began brewing. The kitchen and dining area filled with the aromas you’d expect to find at a five-star hotel bistro as guests took their seats. But this wasn’t your typical night at a Hilton.
This was at a nondenominational Christian mission that provides shelter for homeless men and serves about 4,300 meals a month to a diverse array of people in need. Schiesl and his colleagues were on hand for the occasion Nov. 7 to serve a group of several dozen Knights of Columbus and their wives. Council 15813 of St. Columbkille Parish had just donated $10,000 toward the mission’s effort to upgrade its kitchen.
Rick Mihm, the mission’s executive director, invited the group for a meal to say thank you, and also to answer questions about the organization’s efforts to provide food, shelter and a hand up to many in the community.
“We work really, really hard as a staff so that no matter who enters these doors is welcomed as Christ,” said Mihm, who has spent 12 years as the head of the charity.
The mission provides temporary emergency shelter to about 20 men who live there and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to anyone who is hungry. Staff and volunteers also manage the Father Tom Rhomberg, St. Francis and St. Benedict houses — transitional residences that provide longer-term housing for men who usually stay about one year.
The mission has a garden, green house, two thrift stores and a bicycle repair shop. These activities and others provide food and income that give the organization as much resiliency as possible and keep residents busy, according to Mihm. The mission, which was founded over 80 years ago, is supported by a variety of churches, businesses and individuals. The ultimate goal is to give those in need aid and opportunity for self-improvement.
“When I began in 2007, there were five staff plus myself,” reflected Mihm in a recent message to supporters. “Today we have 21 staff — most were homeless and struggling with addiction themselves. The mission was the one place that gave them a chance to prove themselves. That was all it took. They are loyal and faithful employees, giving back to their community.”
The mission’s kitchen is in need of a new stove, serving line, refrigeration equipment and other upgrades. The board of directors is looking to raise about $70,000. The organization is making great progress thanks to the generosity of donors, such as the guests at the recent dinner, according to Mihm, but more help is needed.
Les Oelke, co-chair of Council 15813’s golf tournament, explained that the Knights were able to raise the money they donated through the Sept. 15 sporting event. It was organized by council members and supported by local sponsors. He said the council thought the kitchen upgrade was a worthy cause.
“It’s a project that will have an impact for years to come,” said Oelke.
For more information on how to support the mission’s kitchen upgrade or to learn more about the organization, visit
dbqrescue.org or call 563-583-1394.