As much as Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry provides a helping hand to the homeless and hungry in Jackson County, the agency receives a lot of support in carrying out that mission.
So far this year, the nonprofit organization has provided more than 10,500 nights of shelter to children, men and women seeking help and provided food pantry distributions to 4,785 families, representing more than 14,115 individual distributions.
The staff has received a big help from 118 different volunteers combining to give more than 2,025 hours of service.
Anchor House also has received grants and donations from various entities and individuals to make improvements at the main shelter at 250 S. Vine St., Seymour, and the East Shelter, which opened in February at 326 Dupont Drive on the city’s far east side.
On Tuesday, all of those who have helped Anchor House renew hope and rebuild lives were invited to an open house to celebrate what has been accomplished so far in 2022.
“It means a lot that you took time out of your day to come here and support us,” Executive Director Megan Cherry said at the start of the event. “We cannot do what we do without the work of the community, board members, volunteers and just organizations that care — people that grant us money, people in the community that want to see us succeed so we can lift up our neighbors in need.”
Cherry said Anchor House started in 1991 and has come a long way since then, including two expansions.
The first was moving the homeless families from the main shelter to a nearby apartment building. The result was seven one-bedroom apartments and an expansion of the food pantry.
The second was getting the East Shelter up and running with three additional family rooms and men’s and women’s dorms to house individuals. That facility can hold up to 46 people and recently has been hovering around 38 every night, Cherry said.
Over the last several months with families, she said Anchor House has been operating full at the apartments and the East Shelter with a waiting list.
“The need is definitely there, and we have not even reached the winter months yet,” Cherry said. “We had some people in the community who were unsure that we had a homeless population or in need, and I think that has definitely been proven.”
Since opening in February, she said the East Shelter has served 462 people.
“It has been a pretty amazing need that we’ve been able to help meet for the community,” Cherry said.
The food pantry at the Vine Street building is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and from noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays, and Jackson County residents can visit twice a month. All they have to do is provide proof of Jackson County residency and sign a form agreeing they are within certain income guidelines, and then they can begin their shopping experience, which works off of a point system.
Anchor House collaborates with Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana to help keep the pantry shelves stocked.
“We’re considered an anchor pantry for our area, so we’re one of the largest ones around in our area, and we put out some of the most food,” Cherry said before sharing the numbers of people served so far this year.
“That is amazing that that many people didn’t have to go hungry because we assisted,” she said. “A lot of people, especially as the times grow tough now for all of us to even go to the grocery, need us more than ever because it may just be a supplement to what they already have. It’s vital right now that we are able to maintain us as a resource in the community.”
Cherry then shared a lengthy list of individuals and entities to thank for their support thus far.
AARP awarded a $16,000 grant to Anchor House for a new awning on the east side of the Vine Street building where the pantry entrance and exit doors are located and for a new mural to be painted on the south side of the building. The AARP logo is included on both.
Linda Smith Dunno with AARP Indiana said there were 84 applicants in the state, and the agency narrowed it down to 10 to send to the national office, which has the final say on grant recipients. She was happy to see Anchor House be among those chosen.
“It’s beautiful,” she said of the new awning and mural. “I think sometimes, small towns like this kind of get overlooked, and we have a soft spot for them. That amount of money was amazing for this size of a community. We’re thrilled to be here today to see what you’ve done, and we like to see where the money goes, so we’ll be going back and reporting to national that you’re doing a good job.”
Cherry said the awning had been a goal of hers since she took over as executive director in 2019 because it gets people out of the elements if they have to wait outside to enter the pantry. The Awning Guy Inc. of Seymour made the awning.
“We really value the peace of dignity for people that come and shop here,” she said.
The mural was completed by Nick Walden of Medora. It features Anchor House’s logo along with images of a man, a woman lifting a baby and two hands representing a helping hand.
Walden said at 6,000 square feet, this was the largest mural he has ever done. It took him about 50 hours over a span of 10 days to complete, and he used 11 different colors.
He said this mural has extra meaning because it was done for a nonprofit organization that does a lot of good things for the community. He knows a thing or two about helping the community, as he’s involved with the Medora Covered Bridge, Medora Christmas Festival and Medora Brick Plant and has painted in several locations around the county.
“Doing things for nonprofits is just extra special for me. It makes you want to do an extra good job,” Walden said. “What I just love is the brightening up it did for the community.”
Artist Bill Bickers also was thanked during the open house for presenting two paintings he created for the East Shelter.
“A faithful monthly donor, he went even further to donate his talents to bring beauty into our client shelter space,” Anchor House stated on its Facebook page.
Bruce Otte Painting was thanked, too, as that company transformed the exterior of the Vine Street building from a tan color to gray.
Cherry also thanked Gleaners for awarding a grant to Anchor House to add a new commercial refrigerator and freezer and make roof repairs at the pantry building.
“We reach out to Gleaners and they are there for us, so we are really grateful for their partnership, as well,” she said.
Between the pantry building and family apartments, a new playground soon will be installed. Cherry said volunteers from Toyota Material Handling Inc. of Walesboro recently disassembled the old playground equipment, and Goecker Construction Inc. of Seymour helped obtain the new one.
Toyota volunteers also recently painted inside the apartments.
Cherry said Anchor House’s capital campaign is still going on, and information about contributing to that was available at the open house. People also can reach out to Anchor House about donating to that effort.
Soon, the organization will jump into the holiday season by partnering with First Baptist Church of Seymour to provide Thanksgiving meal baskets to 250 families. Donations are being accepted for those, too.
“We put in a lot of work to serve those in our community,” Cherry said.
At a glance
Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry is at 250 S. Vine St., Seymour.
There are seven one-bedroom apartments available for homeless families, and the community food pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and from noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays. Jackson County residents can visit the pantry twice a month and must show proof of Jackson County residency.
The Anchor House East Shelter is at 326 Dupont Drive, Seymour. It features men’s and women’s dorms for individuals and three rooms for families and can house up to 46 people.
The nonprofit organization accepts nonperishable food donations and monetary donations, and it also is looking for volunteers to help with the food pantry.
For information, call 812-522-9308, email [email protected] or visit anchorhouseshelter.org or facebook.com/ahfamilyassistancecenter.