Haven of Rest Ministries was founded in Akron, Ohio, in 1943 by Rev. and Mrs. Charles C. Thomas. Their love for poor, homeless, and spiritually destitute individuals led them to establish a rescue mission in a tiny storeroom in Akron. Supported by a small group of Christian friends who shared their vision, Rev. and Mrs. Thomas gave themselves totally to the work of this ministry.
In 1943, Rev. and Mrs. Thomas moved Haven of Rest to a former hotel on North Howard Street. Dedication ceremonies took place on Easter Sunday, and Akron had its first rescue mission. Four years later an alcoholic ward was added, and Haven of Rest soon became a recognized facility for the treatment of alcoholism.
In 1952, Haven of Rest broke ground for a new rescue mission building that contained a clinic for those suffering with alcohol abuse addiction on East Buchtel Avenue near The University of Akron campus.
When expansion of The University of Akron made it necessary for Haven of Rest to give up that location, God provided an even better one. Construction of a modern, more functional rescue mission was completed in 1974. Two years later, Rev. Charles C. Thomas passed away and was succeeded by his son, Rev. Curtis Thomas.
Times were changing. So dramatic was the increase in female homelessness that in 1979 Haven of Rest constructed a separate facility specifically to meet the need. The Marjorie Ruth Thomas Harvest Home for women and children in crisis situations.
Homelessness continued its upward spiral, and by 1987 additions and renovations to both the Rescue Mission and Harvest Home were necessary. Completed in the summer of 1989, Haven of Rest’s capacity increased by more than 50%.
In 1993, Haven of Rest observed its 50th anniversary, pausing to reflect upon a half-century of faithful service and plan for future expansion in facilities, programs and services.
Marjorie Ruth Thomas passed way at the age of 88 on April 9, 1996. For more than 33 years Mrs. Thomas and her husband labored side by side, extending the Samaritan hand of help to thousands of needy men, women, and children.
After 90 combined years of service at Haven of Rest, Rev. Thomas and his wife, Eileen, retired on June 30, 2003. Rev. Thomas assumed the title of executive director emeritus and served as a consultant to the ministry, particularly in the area of development. Eileen serves in a volunteer capacity.
Rev. Ben W. Walker was asked by the Haven of Rest Board of Trustees to succeed Rev. Thomas as executive director. During his 23 years at the mission, Rev. Walker has continued the work of care and encouragement and has seen God miraculously change lives.
In October of 2009, Rev. Walker announced his retirement. In April 2010, Rev. Jeffrey A. Kaiser was named executive director elect. He assumed the role of executive director in 2011.
While changes in leadership are inevitable, one thing remains constant at Haven of Rest: an unwavering commitment to serve and glorify God through a Christ-centered outreach of love and compassion. The Christian love and compassion upon which the mission was founded in 1943 continues to be the standard by which Haven of Rest operates.