This article was originally written for The Spenardian.
Anchorage Community House has moved into the old parsonage connected to the Church of Love and members of the community can visit the new space for ACH’s grand re-opening on Feb. 14 from 5 – 7 p.m. for their Valentine’s Day celebration.
Meg Zaletel started ACH in October of 2015 when she and her husband bought the house across the street from their own. She found that they were struggling to bring people together; they would invite friends over, but her guests felt like they were imposing since they were always hosting. She needed a neutral space to host and meet with friends, but realized there was a bigger need for the community.
“[The space] was more malleable than I thought it would be,” Zaletel said.
Hobbyists and professionals in the community looking for an opportunity to share their skills can teach a class at ACH. Carpentry, yoga and cooking classes are just a few instances of what is offered. ACH has small classes, typically 8-12 participants, which allows everyone involved to get one-on-one time.
“The process is way more important than the product. If you take a pie class, you’re still going to get a pretty darn good pie, but as everyone talks about what cookbooks they use for pies and their experience with pies and we get someone’s grandma’s recipe, that stuff is invaluable. It’s a real exchange of meaningful information,” Zaletel said.
Candace Blas, manager of the Church of Love, met Zaletel in early November of 2017. Zaletel toured the space and had a vision for what the space could be. By the end of the month, they had already agreed that ACH would move into the church and had the contract signed.
Blas believes that the partnership with ACH will help fill a gap in the church’s schedule.
“[The Church of Love is] booked every weekend. We’re becoming known as a venue for performance art and concerts as well, but we have less going on during the day right now. It’s perfect that we’re partnering with Anchorage Community House who can provide the classes that we were wanting to see,” Blas said.
When Cook Inlet Housing Authority initially purchased the church, they had planned on demolishing it for more parking. Artists and community members had many conversations with CIHA about a grant they received, the ArtPlace Community Development Investments grant, which gives the recipient $1 million each year for three years. They eventually convinced CIHA to save the church.
Even though CIHA had kept the church, they had planned on removing everything attached to the nave until ACH came into the picture.
“Our thoughts all along were that the back half of this building was not going to stay. That has completely changed in the past two or three months,” Blas said.
Blas and Zaletel hope their event on Feb. 14 becomes an annual tradition, which includes s’mores by the fire pit, card making and a dance party in the nave put on by AK House Movement. Downstairs, people can view a Sewing Hive session in the COL classroom. Members of the community will be able to check out the nooks and crannies of the building, including the old Sunday School rooms, also known as the artist studios.
ACH classes officially start at the new location on Feb. 17.