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An Anchorage Breakfast at First UMC have taken place for several years with new accomodations added for people such as showers on Friday, November 15, 2019.

THE ISSUE

Since 2015, First United Methodist Church in Lancaster has hosted Anchorage Breakfast every weekday morning, with about 200 people coming for a meal to begin their day. Additionally, the church recently began making its on-site showers available for guests two days per week, LNP’s Earle Cornelius reported Saturday. Anchorage Breakfast, however, now needs to raise additional funds to support its operation and offerings in 2020.

Some of the most vulnerable members of our community are being helped in a most extraordinary way by this program and its crew of about 250 volunteers from all across the county.

A warm morning meal can make all the difference for those who face daily challenges that most of us can hardly fathom.

Anchorage feeds 140 to 200 people every weekday, Cornelius reported, with Monday being the busiest morning. Some quick math shows that’s more than 40,000 breakfast meals served per year.

“We’re here every weekday, so we’re here Thanksgiving, we’re here Christmas Day, the Fourth of July,” Anchorage’s executive director, Patty Eastep, told LNP.

And that’s why there’s a need for so many volunteers. A different team handles each of the five weekdays. Some volunteers come weekly, some come a couple times per month, giving what they can of their time.

And then there is the food, which “comes from several sources, including Community Action Program and Lancaster Food Hub,” Cornelius reported. “However, the majority of the food — 1,200 pounds per week — comes from a grant from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.”

It takes the connection and coordination between all of those organizations to make the meals happen, and we applaud all of them for the work they do.

Whenever we can give those who are less fortunate the dignity of a good meal in a safe place to start the day, it makes a difference.

“It’s an opportunity to welcome everybody to the table ... and (offer) respect to each and every person,” Eastep said. “One of our goals is to look everybody in the eye and say, ‘I’m glad you’re here.’ ”

A beautiful and worthy goal, indeed.

“I really felt a lot of gratitude for the folks this morning,” a man who goes by the nickname “Penny” told Cornelius on a recent chilly morning before heading back outside.

A broad look at the demographics of those who show up for breakfast shows there’s not a common thread — only that these are fellow human beings who need a break, need some help.

They are, Eastep says, high school dropouts and people with graduate degrees. Parents. Teenagers. Victims of domestic violence. People with mental health issues.

The homeless, the hungry, the needy often are stigmatized. But the real stories of those at Anchorage Breakfast show us there is a fine line between getting by and getting lost in the shuffle.

“I finally experienced — very humbling — being displaced,” a woman named Crystal, who was there with her sons, told LNP’s Cornelius. “The Anchorage Breakfast is a really good program when it comes to feeding displaced and homeless people. It’s just an all-around good environment.”

In October, “the church made its on-site showers available for guests from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. two days per week, thanks to a grant for security from the Community Foundation,” Cornelius reported.

Eastep said the church provides a towel, washcloth, soap, shampoo and hairdryers. Those who would like a shower must fill out a form in advance and schedule an appointment, of which only 12 per week are offered.

“That’s nice, because in the city, there’s no place to get showers,” Crystal said.

Imagine not being able to shower. Imagine then the relief of finding a place that will provide you with that most basic amenity.

Added time for Extra Give

First United Methodist and the Anchorage Breakfast staff and volunteers are doing great work for the community. But Anchorage still needs help meeting basic needs while meeting its nearly $200,000 annual budget.

“Beyond the need for basic budgeted items,” Eastep told Cornelius, “(Anchorage is) in need of funding for several projects — $6,000 for a digital walkie-talkie system, $3,600 to replace dining chairs, carpet mats to protect the church’s carpets at a cost of $350 per mat. Additionally, we need to raise about $7,000 to continue offering showers in 2020.”

To better coordinate its efforts, Anchorage reorganized as a 501(c)(3) two years ago. Contributions can always be made by mail to 29 E. Walnut St., Lancaster, PA 17602, or by going online to Anchoragebreakfast.org.

And, today only, there’s one more way to help.

Because of website glitches experienced by Lancaster County’s Extraordinary Give on Friday, online donations for this year’s event will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. today.

“This is an intention to help donors who were denied the chance to give their gifts,” Tracy Cutler, executive vice president for the Lancaster County Community Foundation, told LNP. “The site was glitchy ... this was a way to make up for it.”

That means you can still give to Anchorage Breakfast — and more than 500 other worthy community organizations — via the Extra Give today and be part of more than $10 million in charitable contributions for this year’s campaign.

We’re thrilled that Anchorage Breakfast exists and hope its compassionate outreach can continue as long as the need exists.