History – Our Founder

CottoIn 1967, Reverend Alfredo Cotto-Thorner was pastor at the South Third Street United Methodist Church. In the neighborhood surrounding the church, he saw many signs of drug addiction. He prayed for ways to help these people who were hurting. There was a notorious drug user named Sabo who lived in the neighborhood; one Sunday Sabo came to church. After the service, Sabo asked the Pastor to write a letter to his Probation Officer. Reverend Cotto-Thorner told Sabo that if he helped him work with some of the addicts, he would give him a letter. Sabo was asked to bring 10-15 addicts to the church and the churchwomen would give them food and coffee. When he brought 30-40 addicts Reverend Cotto-Thorner didn’t know what to do. After the meal, they began to pray. The encounter was so well-received that the pastor decided that they would meet regularly. Reverend Cotto-Thorner thought that having their own building and a place to stay would help them battle addiction.

The Brooklyn and Long Island Church Society purchased 976 Park Place from United Methodist Church. Once the building opened, Reverend Richard Rice and wife Nancy came to work with the program. Nancy and Dorothy Cotto-Thorner asked women in Brooklyn and Long Island to provide furniture, pots and pans, dishes, utensils and anything that was needed to make the program function. At the time, there was no paid staff, only volunteers. Reverend Cotto-Thorner became friends with Sabo. Together, they went to “shooting galleries” where Reverend Cotto-Thorner had many addicts die in his arms. No one ever attempted to harm Reverend Cotto-Thorner or any of the volunteers. Dorothy Cotto-Thorner and Nancy Rice organized `Neighbors of Anchor House (NOAH). The men’s facility grew from 20 men at Park Place to a newly built facility for 50 men in 1996 at Bergen street. It was then the women’s facility was born and provided hope to 20 women and most recently expanded to 28 women in 2014.