Presented by Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

Every holiday season, staff at Alaska Native Medical Center work to bring cheer to everyone who visits.

But with COVID-19 limiting visitor access, things are looking very different this year.

The hospital won’t have Christmas trees on every floor and festive lights lining its hallways. The annual Native Peoples’ Bazaar, a chance to provide much-needed income to Alaska Native artists from across the state, has been canceled. Monthly Elder luncheons have been postponed indefinitely. There are no longer the regular Alaska Native dance groups and musicians rotating performances through the lobby during December.

It also means that the 200 volunteers who usually come to the campus every day haven’t been able to donate their time at the hospital since March, according to ANMC Volunteer Services Coordinator Roberta Miljure.

“It’s the weirdest year,” Miljure said.

Despite the circumstances, staff at the hospital are working hard to bring a festive spirit to the facility. They’re doing what they can and still encouraging community members to help in different ways.

Miljure said she will still visit patients on Christmas Eve dressed up as an elf to deliver presents. A few decorations have managed to be placed around the hospital, including a carved ivory nativity scene and the Alaska Native art Christmas tree outside of the Auxiliary Craft Shop. The tree is decorated with miniature works of art by Alaska Native artists, collected when it was first erected as a submission to Symphony of Trees, a now-discontinued annual holiday event in Anchorage, according to Craft Shop manager Jeanne Dougherty.

While the hospital is closed to most outside visitors, the tree still serves as a festive highlight for patients and staff -- a much-needed one this year, Dougherty added.

“To see something so lovely there -- it’s just exciting,” she said.

Despite this year’s differences, there are still ways individuals, families and organizations can support the hospital and community during the holiday season.

Donate meals to hospital staff

Meals and drink donations can be a huge morale boost for health care workers who are pulling long, demanding shifts; however, there are restrictions on what can be donated. All food must be commercially prepared and packaged -- unfortunately, that means no homemade baked donations, Miljure said. The hospital will also take donations of bottled water and sports drinks. Contact Miljure at (907) 729-1120 for more information on how to donate.

Donate cloth masks and surgical caps

Hospital staff and patients are still in need of cloth masks and surgical caps. Contact Miljure at (907) 729-1120 for more information on how to donate.

Donate adult hats and gloves

Winter gloves, in particular, are much needed. New gloves are preferred, but any gloves are in good condition -- clean and no holes -- will be accepted. Contact Miljure at (907) 729-1120 for more information on donating.

Make a contribution to ANMC Auxiliary or the Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation

The Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation was established to bridge health care gaps and ensure that families across Alaska have access to modern health care, healthy environments and educational programs that promote living healthy lifestyles. Donations can be made on the foundation website.

The ANMC Auxiliary was founded in 1967 and is a volunteer effort to bring comfort and care to patients and staff. Donations will go toward supplies like the book cart and other auxiliary programs. Contact Miljure at (907) 729-1120 about making a donation.

Purchase art from Alaska Native artists

With this year’s bazaar called off, many Alaska Native artists are missing out on much-needed sales this holiday season. The bazaar is normally held in the first weeks of December and checks went out right after, providing vital income for artists, according to Lawrence Costello, president of the board of directors for the ANMC Auxiliary Craft Shop.

“It was a big thing for us and for them,” Costello said. Contact Miljure at (907) 729-1120 for more information on how to donate.

But there are still other ways to support Alaska Native artists. CIRI has an Alaska Native artist directory, Sealaska Heritage has an online store; or you can purchase art from the Anchorage Museum store. Seek out Anchorage gift shops selling Alaska Native art and learn how to confirm that the art is authentic.

This story was sponsored by Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, a statewide nonprofit Tribal health organization designed to meet the unique health needs of more than 175,000 Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Alaska.

This story was produced by the sponsored content department of the Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.