Anchor Academy Moving to Vanduser
By: CJ Cassidy
VANDUSER, Mo. - A small southeast Missouri town prepares for a population boost, but these aren't your average citizens moving in.
The Anchor Academy describes itself as a faith-based academy reaching out to troubled young men.
Next month, directors plan on moving students to Vanduser after shutting down their school in Havre, Montana.
Vanduser, Missouri has a population of 217.
The cotton gin is the biggest employer, so it stands to reason it would help boost Vanduser's population in a big way.
"We ginned more cotton last year than we've ever ginned. The young boys did a man's job," Suzy Johnson said. Her husband owns the gin.
Those young boys began working at the gin, to raise money for the Anchor Academy.
Program Director Dennis McElwrath is a native of southeast Missouri.
Turns out he was looking for a new place to "drop anchor" as he travelled with the boys.
"Our program reaches out to many types of struggling youth would it be abandoned by their parents or struggling with drugs, alcohol rebellion that type of thing," McElwrath said.
With a donated church building at their disposal, the Anchor crew has already built on additions to house the students.
McElwrath plans on leaving it up to the teens to build some rapport with their new neighbors and ease community concerns.
"We don't know what kind of boys are coming to our town or what kind of trouble they've been in, in the past," said Brenda Bryant, a Vanduser resident.
But she's willing to keep an open mind.
"Initially the community will be nervous. Once we're here for awhile, they'll really understand and jump on board," McElwrath said.
"They're not delinquents. They're men who've had a problem reaching out for help," Suzy Johnson said.
One thing's for sure.
You can look for the population sign to change when the next census rolls around.
The teens will continue to work in the cotton gin and attend classes at the academy.
They hit the road to head back to Montana Wednesday afternoon.