Anchorage woman collecting donations for Centennial Campground

Shellie Sarah Gooden is on a mission to make life a little easier for the people living at Centennial Campground.
Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 4:51 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Shellie Sarah Gooden is on a mission to make life a little easier for the people living at Centennial Campground.

Gooden formed the group Anchorage Quick Response for Homeless Action with the purpose of quickly providing for the needs of homeless campers. Gooden said her motivation was — in part — sparked by the fact that many of the campers in the park could be her.

“These are moms, dads, these are kids, these are someone’s children,” Gooden said.

In 2008, Gooden said she was living in Colorado when she became so ill from untreated multiple sclerosis that she was forced to quit her teaching job.

“That put a huge dent in our income,” Gooden said. “We had five children to support and that was during the housing crisis.”

Gooden said the family eventually lost their home and ended up on the street.

“We lived in our car, we were in a shelter, we camped,” Gooden said. “We camped with a little one, my daughter was 3 months old.”

Like many in the campground, Gooden said they never thought it would happen to them.

“My husband and I worked, we’ve never abused substances, never drank and paid our retirement, you know did all those things and yet, we were close enough on that edge financially that we couldn’t make it.”

Gooden is grateful to have bounced back, and now she’s giving back. She started by digging through her closet.

“We had jackets our kids no longer wore, we had a few things I no longer wore, (I) came out of our home with two bags of things,” Gooden said. “So I’m a working mom, single parent, and I thought if I had that much, other folks have that much, so let’s get together and pool our resources.”

Gooden posted about her group on the Next Door App, and in a week’s time nearly 90 people had signed up. She’s encouraging people who want to help to go to the group’s page for information.

“This is Alaskan-style,” Gooden said. “We are used to being against the elements and having to team up together.”

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