As most organizations pull back their search and rescue specialists, the work of helping Haines has only begun as many Juneau nonprofits are lending a hand to the capital city’s neighbor to the north.
“We just flew up 300 meals yesterday and 200 meals today and we’re sticking 300 meals on the ferry tomorrow. It was going to search and rescue personnel and displaced people,” said Kirk Stagg, United Way of Southeast Alaska’s Juneau CARES meal program manager, in a phone interview. “I’m working with local restaurants here and coordinating pickup to wherever. The Salvation Army has been picking them up and distributing. They’ve also been taking them to the Haines school for holding and distributing.”
The meals, boxed up and flown north by Alaska Seaplanes, are for whoever needs them, Stagg said. Once it arrives, Salvation Army personnel and volunteers, including officer Shane Halverson, help organize the distribution. The Salvation Army, Red Cross and United Way are working to support the ongoing needs of the beleaguered community, Stagg said.
“We’re overseeing all the meals. Any meals that come on the ferry, come on the plane, we pick em up and get em distributed around town. The schools have been preparing meals since the beginning,” Halverson said in a phone interview. “We meet seaplanes, get all the food, get it distributed. They take those totes back to Juneau. They’re doing it for free, for which we’re grateful. It’s been a lot of people helping out. It’s great.”
The Salvation Army sent their mobile food truck to Haines at the beginning of the crisis to help feed SAR workers and displaced residents.
“It came together well. We deployed quickly. Course, everyone was taken off guard. But the response was fantastic,” Halverson said. “What’s been great has been watching the community of Haines and the communities of southeast Alaska and all of Alaska come together to help and bring Haines back to functionality has been an inspiration to see.”
Heritage Coffee and Smokehouse catering have both made hundreds of meals, Stagg said, with T.K. Maguire’s Restaurant donating about 100 more, and personnel from the Glory Hall helping to collect and deliver the meals to whatever form of transport is getting the food north. Stagg said he’s looking to streamline the process to make it more efficient for the people of Haines.
“This is a huge community effort. Everybody has been extremely helpful,” Stagg said. “When I talked to the people in Haines they’re like, we haven’t had a break since last Tuesday.”
Halverson said he and volunteer Mark Stopha were on track to redeploy to Juneau on Saturday.
“We’re hoping now that the road is open we’ll be down to 100 meals a day through next week,” Stagg said. “I’m in the process of contacting restaurants up there, the few that are still open, to do what we’ve been doing down here”.
Alaska Seaplanes was able to carry the food for free alongside other supplies coming and going from Haines, said Carl Ramseth, the company’s general manager, in a phone interview.
“We really appreciate how the Southeast pulled together,” Ramseth said. “They always seem to come to the aid of others and want to be helpful. Southeast — all the communities — I look at it as one big family.”
One of the two missing people in Haines, Jenae Larson, was a former employee of the airline, Ramseth said.
The airline had to hustle to make ready to receive cargo on the Haines end, Ramseth said, praising local employees for their hard work in clearing water out of their terminal building even as their own homes and town were on their minds. With the airport initially flooded, workers had to remove the floor to make it ready for activity once again.
“Things are opening up. Roads are being worked on,” Halverson said. “Crews are out working night and day to bring it back.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or email@example.com.