Cornerstone Mission offers hot meals

Wendy Rusciano has been helping the homeless in Kingman for 24 years, but she does not take kindly to panhandlers.

"There is no reason to have people on street corners asking for money or food when there are resources in Kingman for them to turn to," she said.

Rusciano, who is on the board of directors at Cornerstone Mission, a shelter for homeless men, said there are several agencies in Kingman that offer assistance to people down on their luck, including the Salvation Army, the Kingman Area Food Bank, the Kingman Resource Center and St.

Vincent de Paul.

In addition, Cornerstone Mission will begin offering hot meals to anyone who is hungry beginning Sunday.

Last year Rusciano, her longtime partner, John R.

Burch, her daughter and two grandchildren served food to the homeless in front of the grocery store she owns and operates in downtown Kingman.

Throughout the years she has doled out food, money and encouraging words to the homeless and others who endure financial setbacks because of injury or bad health.

She calls her store Helping the Needy, and although she stocks food items for purchase, if someone can't pay she gives them what they need, including non-food items that can't be found on the shelves of what she calls "the smallest grocery store in the world."

For years Rusciano has lent a hand to those in need, whether on the phone at the store arranging a ride somewhere for someone, or answering the phone on behalf of a friend who could not afford a phone but needed a number to give a prospective employer.

She has also helped people get utilities turned on at a new place, something that is not just a matter of money but good credit history, something most homeless people don't have, she said.

About 75 percent of the people she helps do not have transportation to look for a job or to leave town, she added.

Helping the Needy has been helping people for 10 years, but Rusciano has transferred her time and energy to Cornerstone Mission, which opened its doors early this year and will start serving hot meals at the mission's soup kitchen Sunday.

"We want to make sure no one goes hungry in Kingman," she said.

Rusciano said the kitchen will be open from 9 a.m.

to 2 p.m.

Monday through Saturday for breakfast and 4 p.m.

to 6 p.m.

every day for dinner.

A donation is accepted but not required, and a van is available to pick up people at designated stops and transport them to the mission.

"It is taxpayers' money that opened this shelter," she said.

"Citizens should direct panhandlers to Cornerstone Mission or another resource instead of giving them money.

Many panhandlers spend the money for drugs, alcohol or cigarettes."

Rusciano said at end of the day she has seen panhandlers head for the nearest liquor store to buy a 12- or 18-pack of beer and then head for a warm motel.

Agencies in Kingman help with food, clothing and vehicle expenses such as gas and repairs and even emergency housing expenses.

There are even places that offer an emergency supply of pet food so that people don't have to give up their pets.

"If someone is truly in need of food or money to get back on the road there are plenty of places to go for help in Kingman," Rusciano said.

"There is no need for panhandling here."

Rusciano said that in addition to hot meals, those in need can take a hot shower and get a change of clothes at the mission.

Some additional security requirements must be met before the mission can take families as residents.

Currently, 22 male residents occupy the 4,700 square-foot homeless shelter.

Cornerstone Mission project administer Debra Herr said it has always been in the works to do a soup kitchen.

The Cornerstone Mission board was formed in 1999 with the intent of opening the homeless shelter, which was remodeled in two stages.

Herr is the only full-time paid staff member at the mission along with one part-time paid employee.

She said there also is a core of 10 dedicated volunteers and that more are always needed.

To volunteer at the soup kitchen, or to make a donation call 757-5312 or 753-5903.

Kingman City Manager Roger Swenson said Cornerstone Mission planned from the beginning to offer alternatives to panhandling.

"Part of Cornerstone's mission is to help, so that these folks have options," Swenson said.