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Urban Mission completes purchase of Seventh Street Plaza

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT — The Rev. Ashley Steele, surrounded by supporters including, from left, Pastor Toni Hubbard; the Rev. Benjamin Calvert II; and Cynthia Lytle, announced Sunday at the Urban Mission’s 60th Anniversary Worship Celebration that the agency signed paperwork on Thursday to purchase the Seventh Street Plaza in Steubenville. -- Amy Neeley

STEUBENVILLE — The Rev. Ashley Steele announced Sunday the Urban Mission had finally been able to complete a dream started almost 11 years prior when on Thursday they signed the papers to purchase the Seventh Street Plaza in Steubenville.

The announcement was part of the agency’s 60th Anniversary Worship Celebration held at the plaza in what was formerly the Sav-A-Lot and Kroger grocery stores.

Steele said the mission was able to purchase the plaza and the two and half acres of green space behind the plaza.

“We have really fought to put love into action,” Steele said of the move which will give the already busy agency a larger and more accessible site to add to its list of services.

“This will allow us to reach more people through Christ and to serve more people through Christ.”

The anniversary celebration was held in the old store in front of racks of coats ready for the agency’s annual winter coat distribution that starts today. Steele said attendees of the worship service were encouraged to bring a new or gently used coat instead of a cash donation to the service.

She said despite the racks of coats already in the room, she expects they will run out by Friday. She said the mission is still taking donations and is especially in need of children’s coats.

The mission’s overall motto has always been “to listen with compassion, to serve with love,” this year’s theme was “love works.” She said this was both a call to action and a result of that action.

“We are thankful for the past, but it is a time to ‘begin again,'” she said. “You hear that a lot on the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus. Begin again and see what God has for us in the future.”

The worship service included musical numbers from the missions worship team, scripture reading and testimonials of the power of the mission’s work.”

One testimonial, read by a staff member of the mission, was written by a former guest of the one of the mission’s shelters. The guest, who is now living on her own and working toward employment, wrote about being the victim of intimate partner abuse in the past and using the shelter as a way to escape that domestic violence situation.

“The best part is I got back my sense of self-worth,” the woman wrote in her statement.

Steele said in the past year the agency has served 11 counties; 44 ZIP codes; 2,195 families at the food pantry; 571 new households; more than 500 residents in its shelters; more than 1,000 children during its Christmas give away; and more than 1,400 school children at the back-to-school distribution.

“Those numbers aren’t just numbers,” she said. “They each represent a person.”

Steele ended the service with a “love feast.” Baskets of food, like bread, apples and grapes, were passed among the crowd and everyone was asked to tell the person next to them “you are loved” before handing the offering over.

“That is a good word for today — love,” Steele said.

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