Anchor for the Soul holds Mardi Gras party

Published 2:24 pm Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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NORTH SHELBY – A Mardi Gras party on Tuesday, Feb. 25, was just the latest occasion for guests and volunteers to have fun during Asbury Methodist Church’s Anchor Respite ministry.

Local veterinarian Dr. Andy Sokol and his famous Alabama short-tailed terrier, Party Mardi, entertained guests on Fat Tuesday.

Volunteers and attendees at Asbury Methodist Church’s Anchor Respite ministry enjoy many activities together. The group gathers every Tuesday and Thursday to provide fellowship and fun for those who suffer from memory loss while giving their caregivers a break.

On a Tuesday morning at Asbury United Methodist Church, a group of people is gathered around tables putting together puzzles, doing seek-a-word activities and enjoying each other’s company.

Although the number of volunteers outnumber the participants, they all wear white laminated name tags to keep continuity as everyone there is doing the same thing.

The Anchor Community Respite Ministry began meeting Oct. 1 but had been months in the making. The purpose of the newly-formed ministry is to provide fellowship and stimulation to people who are living with memory loss due to dementia or stroke, while also giving their care partners a break.

Those care partners can also participate in a monthly support group to share ideas and concerns with other care partners, as well as learn more from memory loss professionals.

The name for the ministry came from the Bible verse Hebrews 6:19 that describes an “anchor for the soul,” and this program is to be an anchor for caregivers and their loved ones everywhere, offering hope, support and stability.

Each friend’s—as the participants are called—morning begins with a greeting by volunteers upon their arrival, then they enjoy coffee and social time, followed by a short devotional and the Pledge of Allegiance. The rest of their day is filled with physical fitness, brain fitness, activities and games, lunch, stretching, dancing, art and music.

Specific activities include parachute time, bingo, poker chip trivia, card games and balloon volleyball with balloons and pool noodles.

Just three weeks into the program, five friends came to the group on Tuesdays and seven on Thursdays. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. they enjoy a time of fellowship and fun, catered just to them.

While the majority of the friends are not Asbury members, most of the volunteers are. Ministry Director Gina McIntyre said she has had no problem getting members to sign up to help with this ministry, which is open to the entire community. Volunteers are needed for several activities and are in two- and four-hour slots.

Anyone who wants to volunteer is welcome. McIntyre, wants this to be an easy volunteer opportunity and offers a two-week signup.

McIntyre and several other Asbury members visited Canterbury Methodist and Montgomery First United Methodist, which both had similar programs, and then put together one that would work for Asbury.

To raise money before the program began, the church hosted a BBQ & Chili Cook-off on June 22, 2019, and have also received donations along with money from the church’s mission and action team.

The cost of the program is $40 per day, but McIntyre said they do not want cost to be an issue, and they offer scholarship opportunities.

In December the sessions featured a holiday theme, including making gingerbread houses and felt ornaments and things they can give as gifts because most of them can’t shop anymore. They will also make boxes to send soldiers at Christmas and make Operation Christmas Child boxes.

Anchor for the Soul helps the guests realize they still have a purpose and are able to give back to the community.

Feedback from care partners so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

Future plans are to add chapel twice a month, when one of the Asbury pastors will come speak followed by communion.

One volunteer’s mother had Alzheimer’s, and she also cared for her husband who suffered from the disease. She now volunteers with the Anchor Ministry and said she feels like it helps her as much as it helps the friends.

McIntyre said the most eye-opening thing for her is the friendships she has made with the friends and their families describing it as an instant connection.

To register someone for the program or sign up to be a volunteer, visit