MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Ministerial Association Temporary Shelter threw a birthday party Thursday to celebrate it's 25th year of service to the Lakeway area.
M.A.T.S. opened in 1986 shortly after a homeless man froze to death under a bridge in downtown Morristown.
Several Christian leaders opened the shelter in the Kingmeyer Hotel with dorms for men and women and a seperate room for prayer and counseling. It opened with a mission to help people overcome the obstacle of homelessness, get a job and find a permanent home, while serving all ages, genders and races.
25 years later leaders say they're proud to have maintained the original mission.
"Many of the shelters have gone to doing a niche demographic where they just have a particular group that they minister to, but we've continued to serve the whole family of all ages," said director Gary Brewster.
Today M.A.T.S. shelters as many as 450 a year.
"We have seen literally thousands of people come through these doors. Many have seen their lives restored," said Brewster.
David Hall is one of the staff's favorite success stories.
"I had a long spell of drug and alcohol abuse over many years. It finally just caught up with me. My family didn't really want anything to do with me anymore," said Hall.
He moved into M.A.T.S. in June of 2010, by October he was back on his feet.
"Everyday I think back to what it was like to live there. And how it's transformed my life to a better place then it ever was before," said Hall.
Today he's a manager at Home Depot, and he's been happily married for a year. Hall says he still thinks back to his time in the shelter on a daily basis.
"They're always on my heart. I know what it's like to walk in their for the first time, the hopelessness. But if you buy into the system and work the system the way it's supposed to be worked, anything's possible."
M.A.T.S. is described as a structured program, requiring residents to get jobs and to do daily chores. Everyone meets with a case manager twice a day to review job tracking sheets, mental illness, counseling, medical care, budgeting and more.
M.A.T.S. serves Hamblen, Jefferson, Grainger, Hawkins, Hancock, Claiborne, Union, Greene and Sevier counties.
It was recognized as a "best practice agency" by the state of Tennessee.