Getting Ready for Winter

As people in Western Alaska prepare for winter, one Alaskan has taken on a small goal – get help for one small community. So far, it’s working in Nunam Iqua … thanks to the internet.

Reports from Rural Alaska indicate that residents are already having problems buying food and fuel for the coming winter. They are still waiting for a federal declaration of an economic disaster based on this year’s poor commercial fishing season. The fall floods also destroyed boats and nets used for subsistence fishing for too many people across the region.

Ann Strongheart helped organize a program last year that provided a way for outsiders to help residents in the region. And this year she says phone calls to people in Nunam Iqua found they are having trouble again.

Of the twenty three families that I reached, twenty two of those families said that they were already facing problems with food and would like help again this year.

She has set up a one-on-one Adopt a Family program that connects people throughout the United States directly with families in Western Alaska – using the new mail flat-rate postal service to send food and supplies inexpensively. So far, in a little more than a week, she has gotten help for fourteen of the twenty two families that said they need it.

They contact me and they adopt a family. We’ve had several people who couldn’t afford to adopt a family on their own, so I got permission from them to hook them up with similar individuals and they’re all adopting a family together. I have a group of five ladies right now spread across the lower forty eight and Canada who are working together to adopt a family of eight. And they’ve already got seven boxes of food and diapers and wipes ready to go and to send to this family in Nunam.

The state is also working with rural residents to prepare for the winter. John Moller is the governor’s Rural Affairs Adviser. He has not yet gotten calls for urgent help this year, and he says supplies of fuel and food have been delivered to most places.

There’s an economics issue here as far as buying the commodities. But the other part of helping individuals to afford heating fuel and food as an example is that those that qualify and capitalize on the programs that are already out there, like LiHeap, the low income heating assistance program which in many cases non-profits administer those programs and stuff. Food stamps is another example – to get as many signed up for that that actually qualify so that offsets or puts a few more dollars in peoples’ pockets.

Specifically, in Nunam Iqua, Moller says of one hundred fifty six people in the community, one hundred sixteen have received state-based food assistance. That state-based system includes food stamps, WIC and other existing needs-based programs. Moller says that there has been a concentrated effort to make certain that people know where the assistance is available – and to put those systems on alert for the winter. He says if someone calls for help, the state will answer.

To learn more about the Adopt a Family program, go to This page also includes an e-mail link to Ann Strongheart.


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