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Michael Teague; President of Union Rescue Mission


Michael Teague, president and chief executive officer of Union Rescue Mission, died unexpectedly Wednesday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hollywood.

Teague, who was rushed to the hospital after being stricken at his Hollywood Hills home, was 41 and died of undetermined causes.

Union Rescue Mission is the largest inner-city rescue mission in the nation, serving 2,500 meals a day and providing beds for 1,000 men, women and children each night. It also runs rehabilitation programs for alcoholics and other substance abusers.

Under Teague's leadership, Los Angeles' oldest rescue mission substantially expanded its services for women and launched legal and health clinics for its homeless and destitute clients or "guests," as Teague insisted on calling them.

He was known as an administrator who rolled up his shirt sleeves to scoop ice cream in a food line or supervise children in a bounce house at special events.

"He was thoroughly dedicated to God and to the poor," said Stanley A. Ratzlaff, chairman of the board. "Anyone who met him was a friend."

Teague became chief operating officer of the nondenominational Christian charity in 1994 when it moved from cramped quarters at Main and 2nd streets to a sparkling $29-million, five-story facility on San Pedro Street. He rose to president in 1997 and chief executive in 1998.

Ratzlaff said one of Teague's major accomplishments was expanding the mission's support of homeless women and children, whose numbers on downtown streets have exploded over the last five years.

Teague shouldered a "great burden for women's ministry," Ratzlaff said, overseeing efforts that resulted in tripling the number of beds for women to 300. An additional 80 to 90 beds for children were added. During the last fiscal year, the mission provided 81,000 nights of lodging to women and children and served them 167,000 meals--about 20% of the total of 860,000 meals it supplied during that period.

He created smaller dormitories to separate older women from those with young children and established a day-care center to keep preschoolers off the streets during the day.

Last year, Teague supervised the mission's first live Webcast of its annual Thanksgiving meal. The three-hour event attracted 140,000 computer hits, which Teague said enabled many of the mission's 600,000 donors who are leery of its skid row location to experience the event virtually.

The Webcast allowed them "to see the face of the homeless for the first time, possibly ever," Teague said.

Last December, he introduced a "Twelve Days of Homelessness" Web site, which featured a different theme each day about the realities of life for homeless individuals.

Under his supervision, the mission opened a dental clinic staffed by the USC School of Dentistry, which has seen 2,049 patients since it opened almost one year ago.

It was one of three free clinics Teague helped open. The health clinic, run in conjunction with the UCLA School of Nursing, has seen 7,018 patients in its first 11 months, while a new legal clinic operated with the Pepperdine University School of Law has served more than 800 people in 14 months.

Teague was born and raised in Chicago. He studied business administration at Bishop College in Dallas and earned a master's degree in divinity from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Ill.

Before joining Union Rescue Mission as its chief operating officer, he spent three years as its chief accountant and assistant to the superintendent. He left in 1986 to become an administrator at Union Gospel Mission in Seattle. He also worked as a financial analyst for Texaco and as an associate pastor in Chicago.

In a 1996 issue of Christianity Today he was named one of the country's top 50 evangelical leaders 40 years of age and younger. He also was honored by the Martin Luther King Legacy Assn., the nonprofit social service arm of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Teague is survived by two brothers, three sisters, eight cousins and many nieces and nephews. Donations may be sent to Union Rescue Mission, 545 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles, CA 90013.

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