OUR HISTORY

In 1886, Walter Rauschenbusch came to New York City to pastor the Second German Baptist Church, located on 45th and 9th Avenue, just a few blocks from where RMM operates today. The area was already known as "Hell’s Kitchen" and was described by the New York Times as “one of the most miserable and crime-polluted neighborhoods in this City…there is more disease, crime, squalor, and vice to the square inch" than anywhere else in New York. 


As Rauschenbusch pastored his church, his eyes were opened to how society viewed the human beings in his neighborhood as expendable material, toiling in factories in the service of great profit for the very few. He saw how families suffered because of low wages, no insurance, and a lack of education, decent housing, and basic healthcare. Most difficult were the funerals he had to perform for the youngest: “The tiny boxes. They gripped my heart—why did the children have to die?” he later wrote. Rauschenbusch is regarded as a leader of the early 20th century movement that viewed the role of the church as one that would bring healing and justice to the world here and now, not some future time and in some heavenly realm. 

 

In 1984, a small congregation by the name of Metro Baptist Church sought after a new building in which to workshop and organize the community ministries that had become central to the church's identity. They found a home at 410 W 40th Street, in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen. Metro's congregation relocated with a strong conviction that this was where they were called to be a church. The day the building purchase was finalized, Pastor Gene Bolin stood across the street and prayed, “Lord, don’t give us this building if we can’t put it to use for people who need it 24/7.” In the spirit of Pastor Bolin's prayer, a growing social ministry program developed, providing food, clothing, and educational services to the community.

 

In 1995, recognizing the widening set of community needs in Hell's Kitchen and envisioning the broader scale of impact a non-religious organization could have, members from Metro Baptist Church formally incorporated a new secular 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization and named it Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries, in homage to Walter Rauschenbusch—whose vision for social reform and meeting the basic needs of the most vulnerable became paramount in RMM's mission.

  • 1995

    Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries (RMM) incorporates as a secular 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization in order to more fully meet the rising community needs in Hell’s Kitchen.


    RMM offers a weekly Food Pantry, an after school homework center (later named Page Turners) for children in grades 1-6 (in partnership with Clinton Housing Development), and clothing distribution through a Winter Clothing Closet. 


    RMM names David Waugh the first Executive Director of the organization.


    RMM begins providing expanded weekly support for individuals with HIV/AIDS, sending volunteers to the Spellman Unit of St. Clare's Hospital while partnering with Ronnie Adams and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for program support. 

  • 1996

    RMM offers its first summer camp program, serving children in grades 1-6 with a volunteer support staff team from across the United States, later renamed CLUE Camp (Children Living the Urban Experience) since 2006.

     

    RMM begins offering free English classes for speakers of other languages (ESOL), later expanding the program in partnership with the Garment Workers Solidarity Union to address justice issues arising from garment district workers' inability to communicate with their employers.

     

    RMM begins organizing, supplying, and enlisting volunteers for Free Medical Clinics, sponsored by Nancy Michevich, a school nurse at the time. After recognizing an unmet need  in the garment district ESOL program and in other communities served by RMM, Nancy enlists the help of other medical professionals to run three clinics per year through 1999, serving more than 600 individuals.

  • 1997

    RMM launches Resident Staff Program, greatly expanding capacity of programming by bringing on new staff onto the RMM team in exchange for housing within RMM.

  • 1998

    RMM begins its annual Holiday Toy Store, working in partnership with Toys for Tots, allowing parents to select gifts donated from neighborhood complexes for their children.

     

    RMM celebrates its 5,000th Food Pantry client served.

  • 2001

    RMM begins to offer after-school tutoring, including SAT preparation, two days a week for teenagers in grades 7-12.

     

    RMM expands literacy education through the Page Turners after-school program with a grant awarded from the Robert Bowne Foundation, providing homework help and enrichment opportunities for children in grades 1-5. Page Turners aims to enable children to do their best, both in and out of class by providing kids with a non-threatening, non-competitive work and play environment.

     

    RMM converts to an emergency shelter on September 11, 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Center, remaining open 24 hours a day for more than four days, providing overnight housing to stranded families and individuals, and offering meals and counseling to hundreds seeking relief.

  • 2002

    RMM begins partnership with New York Cares to provide volunteers for the ESOL program and other program areas. Today, New York Cares helps to connect RMM to over 800 volunteers a year.

     

    RMM celebrates its 20,000th Food Pantry client served.

     

    RMM celebrates over 500 children and teens supported and mentored through its Youth Programming (Page Turners & CLUE Camp).

  • 2003

    RMM opens its first annual School Supply Store for neighborhood families, offering free/heavily discounted school supplies at the start of each school year for local families in need, partnering with churches and volunteers for supply donations.

     

    RMM celebrates its 5,000th warm holiday (Thanksgiving and Christmas) meal served.

  • 2004

    RMM celebrates its 5,000th Winter Clothing Closet client served.

  • 2005

    RMM opens the Teen Center, a drop-in center for young people focused on academic support and character development. The program builds a safe, inclusive, enriching, and educational community for teenagers through service opportunities, retreats, SAT classes, social events, mentoring, and cultural outings throughout the year.


  • 2007

    RMM begins partnership with Connecting to Advantages, referring RMM Food Pantry participants to other critical benefits for which they are eligible.


    RMM names Tiffany Triplett Henkel the second Executive Director of the organization, who previously served as RMM's Director of Children and Family Programming.

  • 2008

    RMM hosts the first annual Enfolding Space production, a dance benefit featuring the children in our after-school program, through a collaboration with Mark Lamb Dance and the Metro Movement Project.

     

    RMM celebrates over 1,000 children and teens supported and mentored through its Youth Programming (Page Turners, Teen Center & CLUE Camp).

  • 2009

    RMM celebrates its 50,000th Food Pantry client served.

  • 2010

    RMM celebrates 15 years of serving hope in Hell’s Kitchen.

     

    RMM launches the Sanctuary Arts Initiative, providing a haven for local artists through shared space for rehearsal and performance and a collaborative partnership allowing artists to give back to RMM. Key artist partners include Upstart Creatures, Abby-London-Crawford Presents, Ruby Rims Does the Can Can, and Mark Lamb Dance, and many others.

     

    RMM launches its Urban Immersion program, designed to allow student and church groups a chance to focus on social justice issues by learning, listening, and volunteering alongside one another in the heart of the quintessential urban environment, New York City.

  • 2011

    RMM becomes a founding partner in the Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project, an urban rooftop farming effort atop RMM's building at 410 W 40th Street managed and run by volunteers to address issues of nutritional security, especially a scarcity of affordable fresh produce, in Hell’s Kitchen. Fresh produce grown on the previously underutilized rooftop is distributed through RMM's Client Choice Food Pantry.

     

    RMM celebrates its 10,000th warm holiday (Thanksgiving and Christmas) meal served.

  • 2012

    RMM begins housing the Homecoming Life Skills Empowerment Program (LSEP), initially in partnership with the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. Homecoming assists veterans in developing essential life skills and aids in the process of recovery from the joint trauma and crisis of homelessness and military service by working with mentors (veterans themselves), sharing life stories, establishing a community of trust, and connecting with people and organizations that can help them move along their chose path for a more empowered future.

     

    RMM converts to an emergency day center following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in New York City in October 2012, serving meals and distributing toiletries to impacted neighbors, remaining open to all needing to access power, restructuring its building to serve as a central facility for receiving and distributing donated food, clothing, and emergency supplies to the hardest hit areas across the five boroughs, and partnering with New York Disaster Interfaith Services to provide more than $60K in forgivable loans for emergency relief efforts.


    RMM celebrates its 10,000th Winter Clothing Closet client served.

  • 2013

    RMM launches the Living Well Life Skills Empowerment Program (LSEP), a sister-program of Homecoming, offering a trauma-informed care program developed to assist women who have experienced the joint traumas of domestic violence and homelessness through personal narrative development, case management support, psychoeducation. The Beck Institute at Fordham University supports these groups through research on trauma reduction and increased coping skills developed from the Living Well program.

  • 2015

    RMM launches its Hell's Kitchen Farm Project Youth Internship Program, acquainting local New York City high school students with issues of food security, social justice, urban farming, and community supported agriculture. 


    RMM celebrates over 2,000 children and teens supported and mentored through its Youth Programming (Page Turners, Teen Center & CLUE Camp).

  • 2016

    RMM launches the Stomping Ground Theater Company, along with Metro Baptist Church, creating a space for creative, socially-conscious artists to share work primarily focused on telling stories of human need, or stories otherwise untold due to discrimination artists face because of skin color, gender, sexual identity, economic status, or religion. 

     

    RMM begins its partnership with New Alternatives, housing an organization working to increase the self-sufficiency of LGBTQ+ homeless youth by enabling them to transition out of the shelter system into stable adult lives.  

     

    RMM celebrates its 100,000th Food Pantry client served.


    RMM celebrates its 50th Homecoming LSEP graduate.

  • 2017

    RMM, in partnership with Metro Baptist Church and local residents, business owners, and neighborhood groups, forms the Hell's Kitchen South Coalition (HKSC). In response to design proposals drawn up in 2016 for a new expanded Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) that did not enlist meaningful community participation and would have used eminent domain to destroy the fabric of the neighborhood (including important community facilities like RMM, low and moderate-income housing, and neighborhood small businesses), HKSC hosts recurring town halls attended by 300+ community members at RMM, puts forth a new HKSC Neighborhood Plan to address broader issues of air quality and affordable housing (among others), and helps PABT adopt a new approach involving meaningful community participation. 

  • 2018

    RMM celebrates its 25th Living Well LSEP graduate.


    RMM celebrates its 25th Hell's Kitchen Farm Project Youth Internship participant

  • 2019

    RMM celebrates its 15,000th Winter Clothing Closet client served. 


    RMM celebrates over 3,000 children and teens supported and mentored through its Youth Programming (Page Turners, Teen Center & CLUE Camp).

     

    RMM celebrates its 15,000th warm holiday (Thanksgiving and Christmas) meal served.

  • 2020


    RMM celebrates 25 years of serving hope and empowering the most vulnerable in Hell’s Kitchen.

     

    RMM keeps its doors open during the COVID-19 pandemic as an "essential service" in New York City. RMM staff continue to operate the Food Pantry as RMM sees a 60%+ uptick in clients requiring emergency food assistance. RMM delivers nearly 100 meals per week to permanent affordable housing residents at Clinton Housing Development Corporation. Youth programming and LSEP support for Living Well and Homecoming participants and alumni all shift to virtual engagement.