Volunteer Stories: Facilities Staff "Ride for Runaways"

Dec. 16, 2021

Princeton's MacMillan Building is home to three dedicated staff members — Field Manager Laura Carlson, Project Communication Manager Karen Fanning, and Carpenter Keith Stickles — who each volunteer their personal time to raise money for a 24-hour youth homeless shelter.

Laura Carlson waves at the camera as she rides her bike.
Laura Carlson waves from her bike.

Photo by Martin Griff.

Located in Trenton, Anchor House reports that youth homelessness accounts for nearly 25% of the city’s homeless population. Since its inception 44 years ago, the shelter has provided more than 1,000 youth with safe housing and support services to help them succeed and thrive. The shelter’s mission is to move runaway and homeless teens off the streets and assist them in reuniting with their families.

Anchor House’s largest fundraiser is a seven day, 500-mile bike ride across state lines known as the “Ride for Runaways.” Together Laura, Karen, and Keith boast a combined 58 years of involvement with the Ride as both volunteers and participants.

Laura Carlson registered for her first Ride for Runaways in 1998. As an avid cyclist, she initially felt inspired to tackle the Ride’s challenging terrain. As soon as she witnessed the positive changes Anchor House made in the Trenton community, her focus shifted to supporting the shelter. Laura is now a chair member of the Ride Committee alongside volunteer member Karen Fanning.

“I’m sure Laura and Keith can agree with this, it’s like coming home every time we get together. It’s a family.” — Karen Fanning

For Karen, raising money to support Anchor House is a family tradition — her father-in-law, husband, children, and extended family all support the shelter and its cause. Karen met her husband during her first ride in 2002 and her two children currently volunteer with registration and event set-up.

Since his first Ride in 2005, Keith Stickles’ greatest accomplishment has been raising enough money to keep the doors of Anchor House open. “When you meet the kids and you see the difference Anchor House made in their lives, it’s easy to feel inspired to keep going.”

Keith hopes to raise awareness of the Ride for Runaways among cyclists in New Jersey by posting training videos on social media. His goal is to increase the number of riders and in turn increase the number of teens and young adults that receive Anchor House support.

Although their stories vary, Laura, Karen, and Keith each share the same motivation behind their volunteer efforts: to help their community one Ride at a time.

To donate or become a volunteer, visit Anchor House or Ride for Runaways.