For an agency that’s spent the last half-century humbly sheltering the city’s homeless, the Atlantic City Rescue Mission sure knows how to party.

On Thursday, about 400 supporters and guests of the mission gathered at the Stockton Student Center at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township to celebrate its 50th anniversary with a formal gala.

While the job never ends for the mission, Thursday’s celebration offered CEO and President Dan Brown an opportunity to reflect on his facility’s first half-century.

“The Rescue Mission has helped a lot of people over 50 years being in existence,” Brown said. “We’ve been through hurricanes, we’ve been through economic depressions and hard times in the 70s, and all during those years the rescue mission has been there with its doors open offering help to those in need.”

Plates were $125 apiece for the dinner and the nonprofit also held a silent auction featuring art, jewelry, sports memorabilia and other goodies in the student center lobby. Brown said he was hopeful the event would bring in about $100,000 for the group. Its expenses totaled more than $5 million in 2012.

Harry and Sarah Chaikin, of Brigantine, surveyed a few of the auction items in the lobby before settling down for dinner. The couple were guests at the dinner because of Harry’s support of the mission through the Battle Against Hunger, an annual 200-mile bike ride that raises money for soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

Sarah Chaikin said she came to the gala because she believes the mission serves an important role in the community.

“People need a safety net, and government isn’t always stepping up to provide that,” she said.

Following dinner, the guests were addressed by Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The last time the mission held such a grand event was about 15 years ago, Brown said, and it had been looking for a good reason to hold another. If all goes well, he said, it’ll have another good excuse to celebrate in 50 more years.

“I just hope and pray people know that what the Atlantic City Rescue Mission does is very, very important work,” he said “And that they’ll come alongside of us and support us, so the mission continues into the next half-century.”

Contact Braden Campbell:

609-272-7215

@ACPressCampbell on Twitter