Nina Kemppel, CEO and president of the Alaska Community Foundation, said the goal will be to get relief out as quickly as possible for essential needs like food and shelter. The Anchorage-based nonprofit set up an online portal Saturday to start accepting donations.
Kemppel’s first call was to Diane Kaplan, CEO and president of the Rasmuson Foundation. Kaplan wrote a check for $25,000. Within minutes, Kaplan said, Alaska Airlines had matched that $25,000 donation. Saltchuk, a transportation and logistics company, also donated $25,000 and Grant Aviation had given $5,000 to go along with $5,000 donated by the Alaska Community Foundation itself.
Kemppel said the nonprofit has experience in raising money and quickly distributing relief. It played that role in 2020 in Haines after a landslide killed two people and damaged dozens of homes across the small Southeast Alaska town. Now, the nonprofit is looking to raise a lot more.
“I would even put a very ambitious goal of raising a half million dollars, which will not come close to taking care of all the damage,” Kemppel said.
Where exactly that money will go is unclear. Kaplan said that “information is still trickling in” about the greatest areas of need and what will be required for the recovery and rebuilding process.
“We’re guessing food is going to be a big issue, getting it to people,” she said. “And then there are a lot of people who have lost all their belongings, where their houses have been flooded. So they’re going to need clothing and everything you need in the house. We’re guessing there’s going to be a need for some temporary shelter.”
Bryan Fisher, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, stressed Saturday evening that Alaskans looking to help should make monetary donations instead of giving goods or services.
“Cash is king,” he said, urging Alaskans to give to “reputable” charities like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
The American Red Cross of Alaska is accepting donations for the western Alaska storm response. Alaskans can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 for disaster or head to the American Red Cross website to learn how to donate there. By selecting the tab “support your local Red Cross,” the donation will stay in Alaska.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage has announced a potluck fundraiser Wednesday evening with all proceeds going to “help relatives in impacted communities.” Donations are encouraged to the Alaska Community Foundation and there are descriptions on social media about how to give meals to the potluck.
Marilyn Romano, regional vice president of Alaska Airlines, said the $25,000 donation to the Alaska Community Fund was seen as the best way to help speed the region’s recovery. The airline has employees who live and work in Bethel, Nome and Kotzebue and she said the biggest concern was for the safety and wellbeing of these communities.
Romano, who sits on the Rasmuson Foundation’s board of directors, said the airline will also play a key role in distributing relief. A jet was able to fly to Nome on Sunday morning carrying essential supplies after the flood had receded from over the runway.
“There were diapers, there was formula, bottled water, non-perishable foods that are packaged easily and have a longer shelf life,” Romano said.
She said in the coming days and weeks, Alaska Airlines will work with regional air carriers to help get supplies out to villages like Golovin and Hooper Bay, which have been hit hard by the massive storm.