When you enter the parking lot of 181 Columbus Drive in New Castle, you may not think much of the building before you. The first thing you see is a large loading dock, heavy equipment and stacks of wooden pallets. The nondescript structure appears industrial and functional; not particularly churchlike. You might ask yourself, "Is this really where ministry happens?"
The outward appearance of the building camouflages the bustling, vital work happening inside. Housed here is the Mission Barn, one of seven supply depots for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Supplies for UMCOR relief kits are collected, verified, stored, and shipped all over the world from this depot. Additionally, a thriving ramp ministry operates out of this location for people in need locally. Volunteers from the local community and the Western PA, East Ohio and West Ohio United Methodist Conferences come to this site to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ through mission.
The Mission Barn got its start in 2008 in a repurposed dairy barn. After some discernment about the needs of the ministry, the Mission Barn relocated this past month to the former Praxair warehouse building in New Castle. Financial support from the Conference and various UMC congregations and organizations provided the down payment for the building.
“Everything was a God moment, getting to here,” said Katie Peterson, director of The Mission Barn. “We couldn’t find anything to accommodate our needs until we found this building. Now, we have space to grow.”
This new location provides more usable space, climate controlled storage, an accessible bathroom and loading docks for easier truck access. The Mission Barn plans to invest in better access by purchasing a scissor lift to expand the dock out for semi-truck access.
Numerous congregations in the area worked to prepare the building for operations. Christ Bethel Park donated shelving for the UMCOR work stations, while Grace United Methodist Ministry in New Castle helped to prepare the building. Ingomar UMC brought life to various rooms with colorful paint.
Every year, The Mission Barn responds to natural disasters by providing cleaning kits and other supplies. There is a natural rhythm to the need for supplies, generally peaking during hurricane season. Recently though, the Mission Barn was called to respond to a disaster closer to home.
After a train derailment in East Palestine, OH resulted in a long burning fire and the release of toxic chemicals, the Mission Barn was informed of a need for cleaning kits. In partnership with The Way Station in East Palestine, the Mission Barn provided 300 cleaning buckets to families who needed to clean their homes top to bottom. Within two hours, all the buckets were distributed. See local news coverage from Fox 53 below and KDKA here.
Support for the Mission Barn is always welcome. Katie Peterson emphasizes five specific needs: prayers, money, people, kits and supplies. The Mission Barn is actively seeking volunteers and can accommodate groups of at least two and no more than twenty, for people ages kindergarten and up. There are opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to volunteer.
In a recent letter to donors, the Mission Barn board treasurer Rev. Bill Lavelle writes, “I hope you will join me in praying that the ministry of the Mission Barn will continue to grow, and will support it in any way you can. Surely as we live into God's love for our neighbors, our Mission Barn's future ministry will continue to meet growing needs. We will help many, many people, families, and communities both near and far.” See full letter for ways to donate.
An open house to tour the new facility is scheduled for March 26- more details coming soon!