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Anchor in a storm

By   /   December 25, 2009  /   Comments

Going home at the end of the day, knowing you’ve made a positive impact in the lives of others, is a very satisfying feeling.

Kenny Phillips, executive director of The Anchorage, an Albany residential drug and alcohol rehab program for men, finds satisfaction in knowing the work he and others do at the facility will have long-lasting effects on not only the men in treatment, but also their families and friends.

Founded in 1953 by the men of Hudson Malone Sunday School class at First United Methodist Church, The Anchorage is a Christian-based treatment program, though not affiliated with any particular denomination or church. The Anchorage initially treated only alcoholism, but in 1981 expanded to include drug addictions, said Phillips.

“We’ve had guys as old as 72,” he said, noting that 18 is the minimum age for treatment. “Black, white, Hispanic, college grads, doctors, lawyers, electricians; across the board, addiction doesn’t have any boundaries and can affect anyone.”

Men from around the country enter the program, which remains non-profit with no government funding to avoid the strings often attached to those dollars, which would prevent them from operating as a faith-based treatment program. With a small staff of five, The Anchorage relies heavily on volunteers and private donations to keep the doors open.

From 5:30 a.m. until nine at night, days are filled with 12-step classes, twice-daily Bible study, individual and group counseling, GED classes and social skills classes, including parenting, anger management and personal finance, most of which are volunteer-led.

“These are all things we think these men are lacking in,” said Phillips, who came to this role after 17 years in law enforcement. “Most of them started drugs or alcohol because of stress, most of which was due to financial difficulty.”

In addition to community volunteers, the facility is also reliant on the skilled labor of the men receiving treatment. From cooking, cleaning and gardening to carpentry, plumbing and landscaping, each man has daily responsibilities to uphold their end of the agreement, as they are not required to pay for treatment. In addition, their skills are often lent to community projects as well, added Phillips.

But it’s not all work and study at The Anchorage. The men also participate in leisure activities, including art and exercise. And there is a small amount of free time on the weekends. “There’s not a lot of time to sit and twiddle their thumbs and be inactive though,” he said.

The client program is four months, followed by an optional six-month aftercare ministry program, during which the client must find employment and continue 12-step and Bible classes. Those who choose to stay at The Anchorage for 10 months boast an 80 percent success rate for at least a year, which is the amount of time they are tracked. Those who remain sober often return to share their stories with clients in the program and frequently contribute financially or in a volunteer capacity.

With a maximum capacity of 55 men, The Anchorage typically carries a waiting list ranging from 10 to 100 names. The waiting list has remained high during the recent economic crisis, as some men turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping with lost jobs and financial strain.

“It takes us two to four weeks to get a person in. During that time, we encourage them to get to an (Alcoholics Anonymous) or (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting, somewhere to have some accountability in the waiting period. We also encourage them to get back to church or we can help find one for them to attend in the meantime.”

Usually, by the time a man seeks help at The Anchorage, he’s exhausted all of his resources, said Phillips, adding that in-kind donations of food, paper products, toiletries, stamps and office supplies help fill the gaps of the $318,000 annual budget.

“We’ve gone from mattresses on the floor to a clean, healthy environment,” he continued, noting that it costs about $480 per man per month to provide the program. “This is not the Taj Mahal, but they don’t have to worry about roaches and rats.”

While the physical condition of the facility has improved in recent years, meeting the budget is an ongoing struggle, said Phillips, grateful for the generosity of loyal supporters. He’s embarking on a campaign to encourage each man, woman and child to commit to donating $10 a month for a year.

Coming to The Anchorage after spending years arresting the very type of men he is now helping has been powerful in Phillips’ own life, strengthening his faith and spirit with each man who successfully completes the program.

“Some of these guys truly get it and get out of here and go on with their lives,” he concluded. “I get frustrated with some of it; it’s still a job. But there’s a huge reward in seeing one that does come through here and turn it around.

“We’ve experienced good, bad and all in between, but there’s been a lot of good, that’s for sure.”

For more information about The Anchorage, or to volunteer or make a donation, call 435-5692 or visit www.anchorageofalbany.org.

K.K. Snyder is a freelance writer and editor based in the Albany area. With over 20 years
in the industry, she writes for a number of magazines and newspapers around the country and
has published hundreds of articles, with topics ranging from travel and real estate to art
and personality profiles. In addition, she is the author of Frommer’s Atlanta travel guidebook,
which she rewrites every two years.

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