Rescue Mission welcomes back former international intern

Finnish woman returns 17 years later to volunteer

YOUNGSTOWN — Jessica Emaus, a former intern at the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley, has returned from Finland to Youngstown 17 years later to volunteer.

This time she’s brought husband Tom, and their kids Erik, 8, and Ingrid, 6.

Jessica, who is from Finland, learned of the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley while searching the internet and requested to be an intern at the mission in 2006 as part of her social work degree program. She spent six weeks at the Rescue Mission and enjoyed the work and the people of Youngstown.

After her internship, she returned to Finland, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social science and now has more than 10 years of experience, working as a deacon and immigrant worker (social work in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland).

Asked why she was originally interested in the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley, she said that she “wanted to see how homelessness happens in America and how the mission helps those in need.”

In Finland, only 0.08 percent of the population is homeless. Her hometown Vaasa only has a domestic violence shelter and no emergency shelter such as the mission.

In Finland, Jessica counsels immigrants and families who face various challenges. She also arranges church events such as camps, forest walks and sauna evenings. Saunas are very popular in Finland and are often used for socializing and relaxation. Jessica’s team shares a short gospel message during these events and invites people to play board games and fellowship.

Jessica said she was greatly impacted by her time in Youngstown in 2006 and her internship at the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley and has maintained many of the friendships she made 17 years ago. Her dream has been to come back to America and volunteer at the mission and her goal was to someday see the newly-built Rescue Mission building.


For the past 10 years, Jessica has been talking about this trip.

She and Tom began saving from every paycheck about five years ago and started to put travel dates on the calendar two years ago. Working closely with the Mission’s Chief Development Officer, Lynn Wyant, and Lynn’s husband Dave, Jessica and Tom had numerous Zoom meetings to work out the logistics for what they call a “trip of a lifetime.”

Jessica and her family arrived in Youngstown on June 6 and will stay until Thursday. They are staying at an Air B&B in Youngstown. In her volunteer role at the Mission, Jessica has been helping with organizing the storage room, reading case logs, gathering items that clients need, attending client and staff meetings, working in the office, and other various tasks.

She is taking time to get to know the guests at the shelter and is enjoying reconnecting with friends she made in 2006.

Husband Tom and the kids have been exploring the area and learning about the Valley’s culture. The family visited Mill Creek Park, The Butler Institute of America Art, Geneva on the Lake, a concert in Austintown Township Park, and spent many evenings in the homes of staff members from the Mission and new friends sharing meals and playing games.

Jessica and Tom said their hope for this trip was to experience American culture and expose their children to the United States. The family of four fluently speaks Swedish (their native language), Finnish and English.

Jessica said she hopes to share her experience with her church members and friends back in Finland.


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