In 1978, professor Lynn Ballew moved to Anchorage, Alaska with her daughter Leesie, nicknamed “Bean.” Touched by so many in need of food and housing, she reached out to the local community to start a shelter, which she named Bean’s Cafe.
Her vision? Build a place for the homeless and hungry to eat, rest, or just relax. In February of the following year, Ballew leased an empty warehouse across from the Sheraton in downtown Anchorage. The first to arrive were the street people – they helped paint, remodel, arrange furniture, and organize the space. Word spread and soon Bean’s Cafe was a vision realized: a cozy place where those in need could find comfort, warmth, and a helping hand. In 1985, Bean’s Cafe relocated to a larger building to accommodate the growing need.
Today Bean’s Cafe operates as a day shelter that serves breakfast and lunch 365 days a year. It offers referrals to clients who need housing, jobs, medical care, mental health and addiction treatment, veteran services, and financial counseling. One of their programs, “The Children’s Lunchbox” provides meals at no cost to children through various other community organizations, such as after-school programs, a center for troubled teens, and housing nonprofit organizations. The number of meals often doubles in the summer, when kids don’t have access to school lunches.
n addition, the client services office of Bean’s Cafe provides free mail service for all clients, small hygiene products such as toothbrushes, nail clippers, and vitamins, as well as necessary essentials including gloves, hats, and eyeglasses. Executive Director Lisa Sauder, who took charge in 2013, is a native Alaskan who has been deeply involved in the nonprofit community for decades.