Rotary Club hears hope from Whosoever Gospel Mission

The folks at the Whosoever Gospel Mission like to say they’ve been giving hope and changing lives since 1892.

Executive director Robert Emberger and executive assistant Heather Rice spoke about the organization at a recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Frankford-Northeast.

The mission is based at 101 E. Chelten Ave. in Germantown. It was established 120 years ago by a recovered alcoholic who wanted to help “the least, the last and the lost.”

The focus is on providing homeless men with meals, lodging, clothes, counseling, education, transportation, work experience and other assistance.

“It’s a comprehensive soup-to-nuts program,” said Emberger, a Fox Chase resident.

Services are free. The mission receives no government help.

A portion of its budget comes from two thrift stores, including the Lighthouse Thrift Shop at 6515 Rising Sun Ave. in Lawndale. The public can donate clothes and household items Mondays through Saturdays from 9:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Gently used children’s coats can also be donated at Food Basics (8920 Frankford Ave.), Walgreens (8828 Frankford Ave.) and Holmesburg Baptist Christian Academy (7927 Frankford Ave.).

Emberger has been with the mission since 1989. He views the mission as a home, not a shelter or institution.

Rice is his trusty executive assistant and eventual successor.

“If I keel over and die, she’ll come right up and continue this presentation,” he told Rotary members.

Rice is a Lawndale native who began working at the mission in 1993 as a 13-year-old. She likes the work.

“It’s like a family,” she said.

The mission’s 21-person staff includes seven graduates. The facility is home to 51 beds, with 30 men on a waiting list.

“Lights out are at eleven-thirty,” said Emberger, adding that exceptions are made when a late-night football game is on television.

Some 200 men graduate from the mission each year. Requirements are to work for three months, have housing and be drug and alcohol free.

At one time, even ex-felons were easily able to find employment. Today, finding work is harder for everyone.

Two years ago, the mission relaxed its work requirement. Graduates can work part time or seasonally, not full time.

Emberger said the mission “rebuilds the lives of broken men brick by brick.” He spoke of several success stories.

Dennis was a crack cocaine addict when he came to the mission. He went on to graduate from restaurant school and was hired by a Center City hotel.

“A few years ago, he was eating from a Campbell’s soup can at a soup kitchen in Germantown,” Emberger said.

For more information on the mission, visit

In other news, the rotary club presented a Vocational Service Award to Marcello Cancelliere, owner and head instructor of Red Tiger Taekwon-Do, at 1912 Welsh Road in Bustleton.

Cancelliere spoke at the club’s June 5 meeting and explained that students must perform community service before earning their black belts.

The students take part in activities such as cleanups, charity walks and volunteering at soup kitchens.

The club is collecting adult men’s coats through Nov. 13 for the St. Francis Inn Ministries in Kensington. Drop-off locations are at Cannstatter’s (9130 Academy Road), Northeast Community Center (2840 Holme Ave.) and Holmesburg Baptist Christian Academy (7927 Frankford Ave.).

Coats can also be dropped off at the club’s weekly meetings, on Tuesdays from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. at Cannstatter’s. ••

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or