ANCHORAGE, AK – Faith-based organizations in Anchorage and Fairbanks are welcoming hundreds of volunteers with open arms, providing them food, transportation and shelter as they prepare for the final leg of a journey to help rebuild communities hit by last year’s flooding and ice jams along the Yukon River. Armed with a wide range of construction skills, men and women from across the country began arriving in Fairbanks on the first of June and more arrived in Anchorage starting the first of July.
The host groups are partnering with the State of Alaska and Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure the volunteers have a local base where they receive training and orientation before heading out to the affected communities. Many are returning to continue the repair efforts they supported last summer.
“I feel really good about the volunteers coming in,” said FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison Susie Calvert. “The churches are prepared to host them in ways that will be a pleasant transition. I feel we have the staff to support them and spent the whole winter preparing for their arrival.”
Where volunteers stay prior to their departure depends on which community they will assist. About 55 volunteers from Disciples of Christ and Mennonite Disaster Service stationed in Emmonak or Alakanuk are scheduled to connect in Anchorage throughout the summer.
The majority of volunteers, around 210 from the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Samaritan’s Purse and Mennonite Disaster Service aiding Galena or Circle will arrive in Alaska via Fairbanks.
“This year, eight different churches in Fairbanks have stepped up to the plate to share the hosting responsibility,” said Disaster Response Coordinator Debbie Ervin for the Alaska Methodist Conference. “We’re all taking turns and helping one another to make sure that this goes as smoothly as possible to help Galena and the other communities return to where they were before the flood happened.”
Churches and other faith-based organizations hosting volunteers in Fairbanks include the Fairbanks Native Chapel, Fairhill Community Church of God, Friends Community Church, First United Methodist Church, University Community Presbyterian Church, Monroe Catholic School, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Bible Baptist Church, True Victory Baptist Church and the Salvation Army.
Participating organizations in Anchorage include the First Presbyterian Church, Prince of Peace Mennonite Church, Trinity Christian Reform Church, Anchorage Lutheran Church, the Presbytery of Yukon, St. Patrick Catholic Church Parish and First Christian Church Disciples of Christ.
“I think there’s been a good collaboration between state and federal government and the voluntary agencies,” said Anchorage pastor John David Thacker with the Mennonite Disaster Service and chairperson of the Alaska Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster. “We all have a common goal in mission: serving Alaskans who have been affected by the disaster, and if we all work together, great things can happen.”
Follow the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management on Twitter @AlaskaDHSEM and on Facebook. You can also follow the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Twitter @femaregion10.
FEMA recovery photos and videos can be found online by visiting www.fema.gov/disaster/4122, selecting “Blog, Newsroom, Videos and Photos,” and clicking on either “Photos” or “Videos” under the Multimedia Library section.