PORT MANATEE -- Last year about 4,000 seafarers whose ships docked at Port Manatee received services at Anchor House.
Some come for a internet connection, a sandwich, quiet conversation or transportation.
Others have a spiritual thirst and that’s what chaplains Tim Huppert and Trish Alligood and a team of local volunteers try to quench.
“We are not pushy, but anyone who wants to pray, can,” said Huppert, who serves as director of the facility. “We try to share the love of God with them.”
Last year, Anchor House served crew members from 37 nations.
“Our mission is to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of international seafarers,” Huppert said.
Anchor House is in a 4,000-square-foot building, a 5 to 10-minute walk from where many of the ships dock.
The building was formerly used as office space for one of the early companies doing business at Port Manatee. Later on, several restaurants operated there.
Today, the building provides a relaxing day room environment for seafarers a long way from home.
The nondenominational ministry, founded in 1992 under the guidance of the Ministerial Association of Manatee County, is financially supported by about two dozen local congregations.
Huppert, a Wisconsin native, had done similar work with seafarers in the Philippines earlier, and became chaplain when Anchor House opened in 1992. He did the early leg work setting up the ministry’s nonprofit status.
Huppert left the ministry for 10 years to work in business, but found that he missed the mission work.
“It was a like a grieving process,” he said. “I wanted to be on the waterfront with the seafarers.”
He returned two years ago. Now, he boards each ship that arrives at Port Manatee and invites the crew to come to Anchor House.
The loneliness of men and women separated thousands of miles from home by their work is one of the things that drew Huppert to the ministry.
While loneliness will always be part of the seafaring life, technology has helped close the gap.
Trish Alligood says that seafarers often lack an internet connection on their ships.
At Anchor House, they can bring their laptop, log on and catch up with what’s happening back home.
Alligood watched recently as a crew member from the Ukraine play peek-a-boo on Skype with his daughter.
“It tears you up to watch them,” she said.
It’s a big improvement from the early 1990s when the internet was in its infancy and seafarers seeking to communicate with loved ones back home had a much more difficult time. Staff at Anchor House would have to dial a phone for them.
Volunteers at Anchor House perform duties that they are most comfortable with. That could include anything from driving, to making a sandwich, or working a cash register.
One volunteer who worked the register would make sure that every seafarer who passed through Anchor House received a Bible printed in their own language, Alligood said. Versions of the Bible are available in more than 50 languages.
One of the challenges of any ministry is to find ways to pay the bills. Anchor House has its second “Golf for the World” tournament 8 a.m. June 18 at Imperial Lakewoods Golf Club, 9680 Buffalo Road, Palmetto, to benefit Anchor House.
For more information on Anchor House or the tournament, call (941) 722-0764.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.