So much of the ministry at the Frederick Rescue Mission is highly visible. From the residents in the Changed Life Recovery Program and Faith House to the daily activities surrounding the distribution of food and clothing, the Mission campus is bustling with the sights, sounds, and smells of people giving and receiving the love of Jesus in very tangible ways.
But a vital and sustaining aspect of our ministry – providing connection within our community through relationships – may not be as obvious, even though it touches each program, food item, and article of clothing. We were recently encouraged by the strength of the relationships cultivated at and through the Mission in an unexpected way. This is the story of how God worked through Mission volunteer Tom Bagel and his wife Marilyn, and their recently deceased neighbor, Susan Pushkin, to present the Mission with a significant legacy gift.
In 2011, Tom and Marilyn moved from Bethesda to Frederick. They settled in a charming brick row home in the downtown area where they were delighted to meet their new neighbor, Susan. She had lived in the neighborhood for twenty years when Tom and Marilyn moved in. They quickly established a flourishing friendship. “It was love at first sight,” remembers Marilyn. “She was my best friend and sister. We were joined at the hip!”
The three friends were together often, starting the day with coffee in the kitchen or enjoying the local flavors of Frederick. “All our social plans included Susan,” says Marilyn. In October of 2017, they attended the Mission’s Souper Sunday event together. “Susan was very familiar with the Mission’s work,” says Tom. “She loved to learn how she could help people in need.”
Although Susan was unable to attend the 2018 Souper Sunday event, Tom and Marilyn went. One of the speakers that day was a graduate of the Changed Life Recovery Program (CLRP). The longer he spoke, the more compassion stirred in Tom’s heart. “No one makes plans to end up hungry or homeless, or struggling with addiction,” says Tom. He knew before he left the event that he wanted to volunteer his services to the Mission.
And just three months later, he was serving breakfast in the George L. Shields Bread of Life Kitchen each weekend. He always enjoyed his “shifts,” especially getting to know the guests he served as well as residents in the CLRP. In fact, he got to know some of the men so well that he attended their graduations when they completed the program. “Since I’ve been involved at the Mission, I’ve been very blessed,” Tom remarks. “I want to do the Lord’s work. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
As Tom volunteered week after week, he shared his experiences and observations with Susan. “She had a huge heart and was incredibly sensitive to people’s needs,” says Marilyn. Even though she was not a volunteer herself, through Tom she learned more and more about the Mission’s ministries and their effect on people’s lives. In this way, Susan maintained a connection with the activities and needs of the Mission.
When Susan discovered she had cancer in the spring of 2019, Marilyn helped care for her physical and practical needs. Just ten short weeks later, Susan died. “We were heartbroken,” says Tom. After learning that they were the appointed executors of Susan’s will, Tom and Marilyn began the painful process of sorting through her personal effects. They also discovered that Susan’s will specified that a generous legacy gift was to be made to the Mission.
Susan’s heart to help others in need did not stop at her death. Because of her compassion and forethought, the lives of many in the Frederick community will continue to be touched. “We are extremely thankful for the gift Susan made to the Mission,” says Partnership Development Director Niccole Rolls. “It will enable us to expand and grow our programs, supporting the needs of our neighbors for many years to come.”
The invisible hand of our loving God worked through the connection of relationships to culminate in a tangible and practical means of loving others. Who would have dreamed that the friendship formed by next-door neighbors, nurtured by years of affection and a mutual interest in helping those in need, would bring such blessing to the Mission? We are grateful to God for His provision of volunteers like Tom and His kindness to us through Susan Pushkin’s generous legacy gift.
What will your legacy be? Find out more about naming the Mission in your will or estate plan. Call Niccole at (301) 695-6633 x210 to learn more.