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On a cold winter’s day in 1998, Ann Clark walked past the Salvation Army of Athens and noticed the overflow of people waiting outside for shelter. Clark took action and set up a temporary shelter for them in the basement of her church, St. James United Methodist Church. Clark decided to maintain the temporary shelter throughout the coldest months of the year, thus founding the Bigger Vision of Athens.
After Ann Clark relocated across the country, a retired couple from the same church, Barbara and Richard Andersen, took on the responsibility for running the shelter. When asked why she decided to spend her retirement in this way, Barbara Andersen said, “It’s more interesting than winning a game of golf or bridge, or anything else I might do in my retirement. Helping people is the most rewarding and enjoyable thing you can do.” The Andersen's mustered the resources to keep the shelter open throughout the entire winter and worked to expand Bigger Vision's service footprint.
After several years of moving from location to location, Bigger Vision opened a permanent shelter facility at 95 North Avenue in 2012, right outside downtown Athens. Local businesses and churches donated the resources to renovate the building into a functional emergency shelter that can safely house guests during the evening. Later that year, the building's previous owner, William Campbell, generously forgave Bigger Vision's mortgage, ensuring that the shelter will operate in service of individuals experiencing homelessness in perpetuity. In 2017, Bigger Vision expanded into a year-round facility that provides shelter, two meals, shower services, and laundry services for up to 35 individuals every single night. Today, Bigger Vision's hundreds of community supporters allow us to offer a diverse range of high-quality services to people experiencing homelessness in our community.
As we move into the future, our “Bigger Vision” continues to expand with the entire community’s help. In the years ahead, we hope to grow and develop to help more people living in homelessness in new and innovative ways. Come join us as we work towards achieving our goals for a better future!
In Loving Memory of Barbara and Richard Andersen
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