SoV – Meet an Executive Director

Jonathan Rocke, Peoria Rescue Ministries

Jonathan joined Peoria Rescue Ministries as their Executive Director in November 2016 after spending most of his career working in his family’s company, RMH Foods, which produced fully cooked meals for sale at national retailers from Walmart to Kroger. In 2016, Jonathan was asked to leave the company, which had been acquired a few years before.

But God seemed to have a plan in mind for Jonathan. Just a few months prior to this, Jonathan had been asked to join the Peoria Rescue Ministries board, an agency which had already been finding its way into his prayers for several years. So when the previous director decided to retire and approached Jonathan about taking over his job, it seemed as though the stars had finally fallen into alignment.

When he first stepped into the role, Jonathan didn’t know anything about the world of nonprofits, and he spent much of the first year learning from his staff and developing a theological foundation for the work of Peoria Rescue Ministries.  The latter was especially vital because the previous Executive Director had held his position for 48 years, making the transition a God-sent opportunity to re-examine the agency’s mission.

Through this process, Jonathan and his staff realized that Peoria Rescue Ministries had inadvertently fallen into a service-as-relief model – meeting the client’s immediate needs, but not helping them move towards self-sufficiency and growth.

For example, their downtown men’s shelter has 92 beds. Two years ago, 80% of those beds were for emergency shelter. Today, 90% of them are for men in medium to long-term renewal programs, who reside there while they receive case management, search for jobs, and work to obtain permanent housing. In the last 18 months, they’ve placed 300 men in jobs and 160 in permanent homes.

At the same time, their agency culture has shifted from one of compliance and control to one of gospel and grace. They have come to believe that by taking a holistic approach and leading with faith, the people they serve can transform their lives and build pathways out of poverty.

In his personal life, Jonathan and his wife, Jolene, have three married children and ten grandchildren ages six to fourteen. He and his wife love riding their tandem bike, and when he’s not out riding or spending time with his family he enjoys composing and singing his own contemporary worship music.

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