We don’t need to tell you – 2020 has been a hard year for everyone. The end of the year and the holiday season is going to be especially hard for many Alaskans this year. It’s an important time to dig deep and give back to others who are less fortunate if you are able. Here are some organizations we think are doing exceptionally good work and are addressing some of the biggest issues – homelessness, loneliness, lack of exercise, hunger, and mental illness – that have skyrocketed with the pandemic. Thanks for any support you can lend to those who are in need.
1. Angel Tree and Adopt A Family
For many of the children who are registered for the Angel Tree Program, the gifts they receive through this program will be the only ones they get on Christmas morning. Angel Tree is a holiday assistance program in which individuals or groups purchase new clothing and toys for deserving children (or “Angels”). Due to COVID-19, the Salvation Army has implemented a new digital Angel Tree for each Corps location in Alaska. Donate to the Corps of your choosing by searching by zip code and finding the Angel Tree wish list. Learn more at www.westernusa.salvationarmy.org/alaska/help-during-the-holidays/. The Salvation Army also offers individuals or groups the opportunity to provide for another family’s tangible needs during the holidays through the Adopt-A-Family program. Families that are adopted are referred by local organizations that identify families in need of relief from a personal crisis or emergency. For more information on how to sponsor a family, contact Major Rachel at (907) 373-3583 or send an email to Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Anchorage F.I.S.H.
In Anchorage, F.I.S.H. stands for “Friends in Serving Humanity.” It’s a volunteer group of Anchorage residents who provide and deliver emergency food to people and families in need. They’re neighbors helping neighbors. With no paid staff and 70+ community volunteers, this organization buys, collects, repackages, and delivers food. They are the only food pantry in the city that delivers food directly to homes on a regular basis. F.I.S.H. is a partner agency with the Food Bank of Alaska, which helps to supply the pantry. You can help F.I.S.H by donating cash so that they can round out supplies for healthy meals. You also can choose them for your Pick.Click.Give. donations, organize a food drive or volunteer. Learn more at www.fishcharity.org.
3. Girl Scouts of Alaska
The mission of Girl Scouts is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. Alaska girls are facing many challenges right now and need the connections that Girl Scouts offer more than ever. Many families can’t afford the dues, so with the community’s support, Girl Scouts of Alaska is offering free memberships to all girls who want to be a Girl Scout in 2021. Donors have options to help pay for camp scholarships, financial aid for a troop, sponsoring a virtual program, or getting a girl started with a uniform and patches. Another way to support local Girl Scouts is to buy cookies, which will go on sale in January. Due to COVID, sales will mostly be online this year but you can still designate your purchase to benefit a specific local girl or troop. Another way you can help is to spread the word about what Girl Scouts mean to you by using the hashtag #PowerOurPromise. Learn more at www.girlscoutslaska.org.
4. Healthy Futures
With all of this hunkering down, everyone is having to work a little harder to stay active. Kids, too! Healthy Futures has been working to empower Alaska’s youth to build the habit of daily physical activity for years, but their work is especially important today. While many of the running and skiing events that Healthy Futures offers have had to be cancelled or held virtually during the pandemic, they continue to work on educating kids about the importance of exercise, and the organization memorializes Alaska sports legends through the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. A donation to Healthy Futures can pay for a school to participate in the Healthy Futures Challenge, cover the cost of a bus for an underserved community to get to a Healthy Futures event, fund Healthy Hero school visits to rural communities, and support the Alaska Sports Blog. One of this organization’s newest projects is an app-based middle school Healthy Futures Challenge and an improved Alaska Sports of Fame gallery at the Anchorage airport. Learn more at www.healthyfuturesak.org
5. Facing Foster Care in Alaska
Dedicated to improving the foster care system, Facing Foster Care in Alaska develops leadership skills among current and former foster youth and offers a network of peer support that is a lifeline for many foster youth and alumni. Your support of this organization can help to fund youth retreats, allow for foster care youth to speak to groups about their experiences, or purchase a laptop for a foster youth. This organization also recently started a COVID-19 relief fund to support the basic needs of current and former foster youth across the state. Donations to the relief fund are being used to help foster youth buy groceries, pay bills, and stay housed during this critical time. FFCA also refers youth to be matched with mentors through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Sync Program. Mentors help youth who are transitioning from the foster care system into society to find a positive path, whether that be through education, job skills or just navigating the everyday challenges of adulthood. Learn more or donate at www.ffcalaska.org/donate.html.
6. NAMI Anchorage
NAMI’s vision is resiliency, recovery, and wellness for all. That’s a tall order these days, but this organization continues to provide support, education, and advocacy for individuals affected by mental illness – as well as to their families, friends, and the community. NAMI has been in Anchorage since 1984 and provides classes and support groups at no charge. They connect people with shared experiences and provide information and guidance on how to navigate the complex mental health system. Purchase a household membership to NAMI for $60 a year or $40 for an individual membership. They also accept donations via debit card, credit card, or PayPal on their website and are one of the organizations you can support through Pick.Click.Give. when you apply for your Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). Learn more at www.namianchorage.org.
7. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska
Offering the gift of connection, Big Brothers Big Sisters connects caring adult mentors to youth. These connections have proven to improve children’s self-esteem, counteract loneliness, and help youth to develop more resiliency skills. Children who are matched with an adult role model often do better in school and don’t turn to drugs or crime. One match at a time, this program proves that sometimes just having one person in your life who really cares is all it takes to succeed. Even though Matches have not been seeing each other in person, they have continued to stay in touch via telephone, Facetime, Zoom, and virtual events. Cash donations to BBBS go to support matches and pay caseworkers to oversee the relationship. Another way you can help this organization is to volunteer to be a Big Brother, Big Sister, or Big Couple. There currently are 182 kids in Alaska on a waitlist who are in need of a Big. The commitment is small, an hour or two per week, yet the benefit for volunteers and their matches is big. You also can support Big Brothers Big Sisters by donating to their Pick-Up Service. Donations of lightly used clothing and small household goods are collected, then sold to Value Village. This provides an important unrestricted funding source for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. To schedule a pickup, call (907) 563-1997. Donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters online at www.bbbsak.org.
8. Clare House
A recent study of children in the Anchorage School District showed that more than 1,700 kids did not know where they were going to be sleeping that night. Clare House is working hard to address that problem by offering a 24-hour temporary shelter at Clare House, while helping women and children to work toward getting the resources they need to find permanent housing. Operated by Catholic Social Services, Clare House meets women where they are at in life and helps them to safely get back on their feet. They also recently added a Progressive Housing Program that helps families move toward self-sufficiency and permanent housing. Your donations will help to provide food and essential items to families staying at the shelter. Volunteer groups are always needed to prepare a meal and deliver it to the shelter. The organization also keeps a list of “material donations from the wish list” on the web site at www.cssalaska.org/our-programs/clare-house/support-clare-house/
9. Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage
More people are using the ski trails this winter than ever before, and that’s put an even bigger strain on the organization in charge of grooming and year-round trail maintenance in Anchorage. Consider a membership to this organization so that they can continue to groom over 150K of trails in the area. Membership runs from October to September each year and costs as little as $35 for individuals and $70 for families that don’t ski, or $85 for individuals or $170 for families that are trail users. Being a member allows you to stay connected to the Nordic skiing community and to be a part of promoting skiing as a healthy activity. Members also have access to cabin rentals, a ski event calendar, lessons, backcountry tours, and more. The Ski Train has already been cancelled this year, so NSAA needs your help more than ever. Learn more at www.anchoragenordicski.com.
10. Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska
Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska is the leading source of information, support, and services in the state for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Some of the services Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska offers include memory screenings, free consultations to figure out a care plan, free educational programs, and care coordination. A gift provides education, socialization, and support for many of the 8,500 Alaskans living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia (and their care partners). The need is only growing as the number of Alaskans living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia is expected to grow nearly 30 percent over the next five years. Learn more and donate at www.Alzalaska.org/give/