A volunteer who is working to unify the local community just took a big step to give everyone a place where they can meet and hold local events.
Brett Oakley, who operates a popular local podcast/call-in show, is now leasing the former Anderson Community Church, which he intends to renovate and turn into not only a church, but a community center. Community effort is helping to make it happen.
“We’re going to have an awesome place to do a lot of things for everybody,” he said, when he announced the project. “It’s going to be a hub of being able to do a lot of things for our community.
“We needed a place for the community — for the kids, for gatherings, basically to have a place to go where we can put things together.”
The 4,100-square-foot building is a former Assembly of God church that has been shut down for about 13 years, he said.
“It was shut down because of lack of involvement,” he said. “It was at a critical point when the town went very very small. It was costing too much to keep the building going here.”
“There is quite a bit of history here,” Oakley said. “The Assembly of God was started here by Dick Rutledge in 1963. He first held meetings in a quonset hut on the property. Later, he built a permanent facility here.
“He had a very vibrant ministry for many decades, until things started to taper off, and it eventually closed, just prior to 2010.”
Now, it is coming back to life.
Oakley declared March 17 as Groundbreaking Day. He and other volunteers cleared 41/2-feet of snow out of the parking lot, so they could gain access to the abandoned building. Fuel oil was delivered on March 23 and on March 24, volunteers turned on the heat.
“So we’re basically drying out the building right now,” he said. “We can start doing repairs inside and get things going.”
He hopes to hold an initial non-denominational church service on April 18.
Oakley revealed that he is also a pastor. His father was a minister for 54 years. His themes, he said, are community, love, support and unity.
He looks at this project as an extension of the good being done by his podcast/call-in show: “The Pulse in Anderson and Nenana,” which debuted in early November 2020 and has exploded in popularity. Currently, there are 1,321 listeners, he said.
“The show has gone crazy,” he said. “We have over 1,100 listeners now and that’s not counting downloads on the show. We have callers calling in from South Africa.
“We currently have 12 listeners in South Africa, 11 in Japan, 9 in India, 6 from Ireland, 10 Brazil, 22 in the UK and 11 in Romania. That’s not counting locals, other Alaskans and listeners from other parts of the United States.
The podcast, he said, averages 100 to 250 downloads per day.
For Oakley, it’s a dream come true.
“I had a calling to do something in Anderson since I’ve been here,” he said. “This just gives me one more thing of pleasure to do for the community.”
He moved to Anderson in 2017.
“I love the people here. I have great friends here. I can call them more than friends. This place has so much love in it, it’s unreal,” he said. “These people have heart here. It has nothing to do with pride or money or anything you can buy. It’s just being there for each other. That’s hard to find nowadays.
“Anderson is coming back alive again.”
Oakley launched a GoFundMe page to help with costs of renovating the building. Find it at GoFundMe/anderson-community-church-startup. Anderson Community Church is registered with the state as a non-profit, he added.
Donations can also be made through PayPaul.me\andersonchurch.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.