Anchor Center Beekeeping Program Awakens Patience, Pride

Classes rehabilitate women on their way out of the criminal justice system

Jessica McDanniel monitors bees at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids. The probation officers and freedmen at the Anchor Center have been breeding bees and harvesting honey to donate and use in the residential correction center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Mary Nelson holds a frame from a beehive at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids. The probation officers and freedmen at the Anchor Center have been breeding bees and harvesting honey to donate and use in the residential correction center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Jessica McDanniel (left) and Mary Nelson (right) check for bees at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids on Aug. 25. The probation officers and parolees at Anchor Center have raised bees and harvested honey to donate and use in the residential correction center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Bees were pictured on a hive last month at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids. The probation officers and freedmen at the Anchor Center have been breeding bees and harvesting honey to donate and use in the residential correction center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Jessica McDanniel stokes a smoker before checking bees at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids. The probation officers and freedmen at the Anchor Center have been breeding bees and harvesting honey to donate and use in the residential correction center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Jessica McDanniel smokes a beehive at the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids. The probation officers and freedmen at the Anchor Center have been breeding bees and harvesting honey to donate and use in the residential correction center. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS – A hive is a tightly managed system almost entirely managed by female worker bees. While the main purpose of the male bees, or drones, is to mate with the queen to fertilize eggs, the worker bees care for those eggs and larvae, collect pollen, make honey, and do all the other work needed to build the hive. to maintain .

Four of these female-run beehives are located just behind the Anchor Center for Women in Cedar Rapids, where the bees are raised and cared for by another group of hard-working women.

The Anchor Center is a rehabilitation center for women on their way out of the criminal justice system. The women at the center participate in many different classes and programs, which are determined based on each individual’s risks, needs and strengths.

The beekeeping program has been offered at the center for about three years now. The bees arrive at the beginning of spring and the women have the opportunity to help care for them all year round – with the help of professional beekeepers – until the honey can be harvested in the fall.

The Anchor Center’s beehives are housed in stacked white boxes, some of which have been painted by the residents of the center with images of bees, flowers, and nature.

Every week the women check the beehives to see how honey production is going and to make sure everything is running as it should.

Mary Nelson arrived at the Anchor Center in early February this year and started working with the bees as soon as they arrived for the year. Nelson left the Anchor Center two weeks ago, but she’ll be back when it’s time to check the hives.

“I’m proud to tell people I’m beekeeping, and a lot of people are interested in it,” Nelson said. “I really enjoy doing it, so as long as (the bees) are here, I’ll be there too.”

As she learned more about beekeeping, Nelson has taught other Anchor residents. She said she is happy to have the chance to come back to continue helping with the bees and to see her friends from the center.

“Working with bees is surprisingly relaxing, and it’s just really nice to be in nature,” Nelson said. “Just watch (the bees) and how they interact with each other, and learn what to watch out for with them. They’re pretty cute too. They are really cute and fluffy. It’s just very relaxing.”

Jessica McDanniel has been at the Anchor Center since June and has been working with the beekeeping program since her arrival.

McDanniel said she also finds beekeeping relaxing, and is thinking of taking care of her own hives after she leaves the center, which she will be doing in October.

“It’s different. Every time I go out I see something new,” McDanniel said. want to learn and be able to do it someday – especially for free honey.”

The women are currently preparing to harvest this year’s honey crop from their beehives. It should be ready in a few weeks.

After the honey is harvested, the women in the Anchor Center get to decide what to do with it. Part is kept for use in the center, the rest is donated to an organization of the residents’ choice. In previous years, the honey has been donated to the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program.

McDanniel said she is excited to harvest the honey and see the results of the work she has done throughout the year.

“It taught me to just be patient,” she said. “Time goes on and if you are patient, something really happens. You can achieve great things just by working towards it.”

Notes: (319) 398-8328; emily.andersen@thegazette.com

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