Wheeler Mission to merge with Bloomington relief group

Indianapolis-based Wheeler Mission Ministries Inc. plans to merge with a similar relief organization for the poor and homeless in Bloomington, the two groups announced Monday.

Founded in 1893, Wheeler will take over the operations of Backstreet Missions Inc., which was founded in 1995 by Linda and Gene Kelley.

"When my late husband, Gene, and I founded Backstreet in 1995, our number one objective was to care for the homeless by demonstrating the love and compassion of Christ,” said Linda Kelley, who is planning to retire. “As I transition to the next chapter of my life, placing Backstreet in the hands of Wheeler Mission with their rich history of serving the homeless made perfect sense."

Wheeler is the larger of the two organizations. It reported $14 million in revenue in its 2013 tax year, largely through contributions and grants. For the same year (the most recent for which tax data is available), Backstreet reported $679,000 in revenue.

In 2013, Backstreet served 42,236 meals and provided 7,512 nights of lodging, according to mission statistics on its Facebook page. In the same year, Wheeler provided 321,000 meals and 140,700 nights of shelter.

Wheeler Mission already has a presence in the Bloomington area with Camp Hunt, which was established in 1953. It houses a long-term addiction recovery program for men.

“There is definitely a need for our services in Bloomington,” said Steve Kerr, chief development officer for Wheeler. “This is an opportunity for us to enhance the services already provided in the area.”

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