PORT MANATEE -- A stranger in a strange port has a friend in Anchor House, an integral part of the independent ecumenical Christian ministry celebrating its 20th anniversary at Port Manatee.
With an all-volunteer board and a budget of about $140,000, Chaplain/Director Tim Huppert and Chaplain/Manager Trish Alligood board ships with an outstretched hand even when they can't speak the language of the crews to offer support, reading materials, worship and a listening ear to whoever's on board vessels that bring more than 5,000 international seafarers annually to the port.
Those able to get off their vessels are invited to come to the small building that houses the mission for free computer use, telephone access and other kinds of communication, as well
as food and other personal necessities. Some of the supplies are donated, while a small commissary sells items that contribute to funding the ministry.
During the day, port workers and various volunteers stop by Anchor House to help out or participate in programs or Bible study.
"They've got probably 30 different Bibles in 30 different languages. They're able to give them the Bible intheir languages. They give them computer access to talk to their families at home, take them into town to go shopping, help them with their families," said William Stanfield of Palmetto, an operations coordinator at the port who also participates in the Anchor House Bible study.
The port worker eats his lunch there, but said he makes that choice because of the environment the chaplains create. "You walk in here and its spiritual. These two touch us. They give everything, their whole heart and all, for everybody. It's good to be here," Stanfield said.
His pastor, David Quackenbush of Fellowship Alliance Church in Palmetto, stopped by with a delivery of baked goods. "Five or six years ago we found out about the port. Our church likes to do missions. We get Publix bread donations," Quackenbush said. "The chaplain before came to us and we said maybe we can give to the seafarers. Every Thursday we come out to the port. It's been a blessing. Sometimes it doesn't all go, but Publix is donating it to different causes."
Huppert, who trained at Lutheran Bible Institute in Seattle, now considers himself a nondenominational Christian. Since 1994, Alligood has been involved with Anchor House and worked her way into the full-time chaplain job. She and her family are members of First Baptist Church in Palmetto. "It's amazing how you can see God working in your life," Alligood said.
Supporters help the ministry by fundraising, such as with the fourth annual Golf for the World Tournament June 22 starting at 8 a.m. at Imperial Lakewoods Golf Club in Palmetto. Single golfers can play for $75. There are opportunities for sponsorships.
For more information or to register, contact www.anchorhousemission.com or call 941-722-0764.
Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7024, or tweet @DeeGrahamBH.