Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What to Send To The Alaskan Native Villages

In the last post I spoke about the great need in the native villages of Western Alaska. Here are some suggestions for what to send, from Jane Thompson of Miami, FL, and others who have been sending aid.

o TOILET PAPER (everyone is running out)
o Diapers Sizes 1, 3, & 6
o Similac Advanced Formula Powder
o Canned Evaporated Milk
o Dry Powdered Milk
o Powdered Eggs
o Peanut Butter
o Honey
o Jam
o Juice
o Flour
o Sugar
o Coffee
o Cereal
o Crackers (Sailor Boy Pilot Bread unsalted tops are the most used here)
o Coffee Creamer
o Pancake Mix
o Tea
o Canned Vegetables
o canned fruits
o Dried Fruit
o Instant Soups
o Ramen Noodles
o Cup noodles
o Rice (minute rice)
o beans
o spaghetti and pasta noodles
o shortening.

NOTE: If items are individually wrapped, open them up and don’t send the packing materials…you’ll fit A LOT more in the box. (i.e.: packets of hot cocoa, individually wrapped tea bags, protein bars/granola bars/cereal bars, individual oatmeal packets, etc.)
High-protein foods are fantastic: nuts, oatmeal, peanut butter, canned meats, beef jerky, V-8 juice
Individual packets of nuts, sunflower seeds, trail mixes work well (and again if you toss the cardboard package, you can fit a lot of these in the boxes)
Evaporated milk & canned chicken or beef broth is a great thing to send, especially if you’re sending it w/ boxes of mac-n-cheese, instant potatoes, stuffing mixes, rice, oatmeal, hot cocoa, etc.

Look for canned items that can be heated & served w/o needing water (especially for villages that don’t have running water like Nunam Iqua) - stews, Progresso Soup, Spaghettio’s & canned spaghetti or ravioli, corned beef hash, spam, vienna sausages, sardines, canned gravies.
Those individual foil packets of tuna, salmon, & chicken breasts are great - high protein, heat-n-eat, and you can fit dozens of them in a box…..also, they’re easy to find at your dollar stores or discount stores like Big Lots.
Canned hams are great - and easy to find at the dollar stores…also canned tuna and sandwich spreads (like the Underwood chicken and roast beef)
Canned fruits, dried fruits, & individual packets of applesauce are greatYou can find canned brown bread in the baking section of your grocery store.
Whenever I’m in a fast-food restaurant or a gas station, I pick up a few seasoning packets to include in boxes - salt, pepper, ketchup, soy sauce, taco sauces, etc. Pack them in snack-size ziploc baggies & use them to fill in empty spaces in the boxes.
Think of toiletries, too: VITAMINS, hand sanitizers, eye drops, toothpaste, chapstick, heavy-duty hand creams (Neutrogena Hand Cream).

Diaper Wipes are terrific to send (and easy to find at the dollar stores) - they can be used in lieu of toilet paper, as well as for quick bathing when it’s hard to heat water (and fuel seems scarce there right now)….buy the individual foil-wrapped refill packets instead of the big bulky plastic boxes.
If you take them out of their cardbaord packages, you can fit a dozen or so packages in the square flat-rate boxes.
You can fit more cans in the shirt-box size flat rate boxes than in the square size.
You can fill up the empty spaces in the box with individually wrapped hard candies (think jolly ranchers) or bubble gum (like dubble bubble).
Canned goods and heavy boxes (pancake mix or rice) should always go flat-rate, but some things are MUCH cheaper to send in non-flat-rate boxes (although they should be priority mail) - cocoa, tea, oatmeal, beef jerky, instant potatoes, dried fruit — all cheaper in a non-flat-rate box…..from someone who has packed & mailed A LOT of emergency care-packages; I hope this is helpful!
Jane Thompson, Miami FL

Thanks Jane for the terrific tips on what to send & the best way to send things!

Update: The food, and other assistance, has been coming in to the villages but there is still great need. The fuel situation will stay about the same until April or May so I've heard. Some of the villages are getting more assistance than others because they are more organized or have a spokesperson that helps to get them aid, so do some checking into the situation to decide where (which community) you would like to help.

Please read this great newspaper article by Kyle Hopkins from The Anchorage Daily News:

Worldwide donations find way to lower YukonBy KYLE 19:31:56)
A wave of donated food and cash has swept into lower Yukon River villages over the past month, with more than 19,000 pounds of supplies and $13,000 landing in Emmonak alone.
Money appeared from donors in England and Bangkok. Villagers hundreds of miles away on the frozen edge of the state pitched in dried fish and muktuk. And, organizers say, much more help is on the way.
Cindy Beans has been tracking the gifts of peanut butter and rice and coffee for the Emmonak tribal council, where she watched the scene from her office window on Wednesday. Five, six, seven people passed by within 20 minutes on their way to the warehouse, each hauling away a small box of food on plastic sleds and snowmachines.
"Every day when it opens up, there's a flood of people heading over there," Beans said. When someone donates money, the council gives out vouchers for free fuel, 10 gallons at a time.
About 35 miles away across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is the village of Kotlik, where roughly 4,500 pounds of food arrived by plane last week from Fairbanks. In nearby Nunam Iqua -- where there's 200 people but no grocery story -- a Seattle restaurant is buying locals $1,600 of free fuel using money it raised selling plates of Yukon River salmon. Elders get first dibs on the vouchers, said the owner.
With few jobs and a high cost of living, many remote Alaska villages have struggled for decades, and that's when the economy doesn't stink. This year, stories of lower Yukon River families choosing between food and high-priced heating fuel, following a lousy fishing season, caught the world's attention.
The story began when an Emmonak man described his neighbors' plight in a January letter to rural newspapers. The call for help soon spread to neighboring western Alaska villages, amplified by bloggers who raised money to send a photographer to the village, and then coverage in larger and larger news media, including a CNN report over the weekend that hinged on that same photographer's footage.
Viewers and readers responded. In Anchorage, the Food Bank of Alaska collected more than $8,000 over just 10 days for Western Alaska villages, said managing director Merri Mike Adams.
The money is part of an aid effort organized by state Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, who hopes to send 3,000 to 4,000 pounds to nine Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta villages starting next week. All this amid a simmering beef between Ramras and Gov. Sarah Palin about how the state should help.
The state has said it can't legally declare a financial disaster in the region, something regional leaders have asked for for months, instead emphasizing existing aid programs and extending the local moose-hunting season. In a news conference in Juneau on Wednesday, Palin and her team talked about getting more regional workers jobs in seafood processing -- an industry filled with out-of-state employees, they say -- but details were scarce.
Even as the governor's new rural adviser plans a trip to Emmonak, similar tales of hardship are emerging from other cash-poor corners of the state.
For now, the focus is on Western Alaska, and the cause makes for an unlikely team of champions:
There are the left-leaning political bloggers and the right-leaning Anchorage Baptist Temple. Fairbanks churches rallied right away. Wal-Mart pitched in $1,000, according to a Ramras aide.
"Spank the Dog," a classic rock band composed of Juneau political-types -- lobbyists, a legislative staffer -- raised $4,500 for villages at a weekend "benefit concert," Ramras said.
In Florida, a travel writer and Web site designer named Jane Townsend read about Emmonak and started a blog of her own, collecting stories about the region and listing ways to donate money and food. She called her site "Anonymous Bloggers," a poke at the complaints Palin made about her unnamed, online critics.
A Yup'ik village 25 miles from Emmonak, Nunam Iqua had received about 2,200 pounds of food and supplies as of Tuesday, said local Ann Strongheart, who emerged as the online voice of the village by telling her story on blogs and news Web sites.
She now fields dozens of e-mails a day from people who want to help, and lately has been playing matchmaker -- pairing local families with donors like Sabine Stanley, of Virginia.
"These folks don't have time to wait on the government to help ... they need help right now," Stanley wrote in an e-mail this week. "So that's what my family and others across the nation and worldwide have done."
Among the other far-flung relief efforts:
• Alaska Newspapers Inc., a subsidiary of the regional Calista Corp., sent 4,300 pounds of food to Emmonak last month and has since gathered 3,200 pounds more. That drive continues.
• Talk radio hosts are talking up the effort of teachers and students at Hanshew Middle School to collect food in and outside their classrooms. Teacher Sharon Herrell said she recently paid $188 in postage to send the first 450-pound shipment to Emmonak.
Students tend to donate the food they'd like to eat themselves, Herrell said, meaning a few village families should expect cookies, cans of SphagettiOs and boxes of macaroni and cheese.
• A statewide nonprofit that serves young Emmonak families spent roughly $20,000 sending 12,000 pounds of food to the village late last month. The group, Rural Alaska Community Action Program, also plans to spend state money on weatherizing homes in the village, said executive director David Hardenbergh.
Last month, Commerce Commissioner Emil Notti mentioned the weatherization program -- which lawmakers injected with $200 million last year -- as a way to lower energy costs and create short-term jobs in the village.
Back in Emmonak, people are doing better since the food drive started, said Nicholas Tucker, who first wrote about the villagers choosing between food and fuel.
But the spotlight shows signs of spreading beyond the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Tucker said he recently saw a letter in the Tundra Drums newspaper from a woman in Ugashik, in the Bristol Bay region, describing hardships of her own: Few moose to hunt, few salmon to catch and -- just like Emmonak -- a missed fuel shipment at a nearby village.
Find Kyle Hopkins online at or call him at 257-4334.
Copyright ©
Tue Feb 24 17:52:01 PST 20091900 The Anchorage Daily News (