Serve Alaska, in partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service, brings AmeriCorps programs to Alaska. The Serve Alaska sub-grantees operate in almost every region of the state, bringing much needed support and training to rural and urban Alaska.
Serve Alaska also works with the National Service Inclusion Project to foster and encourage persons with disabilities to participate in community service.
This website provides information on our different programs, activities and funding opportunities.
At this year's National VOAD Conference, Jenni was honored with the VOAD Spirit Award for her relief work in Galena last summer!
In May 2013, a flood along the Yukon River caused severe damage to 75% of the town of Galena, Alaska. The Salvation Army of Alaska (TSA), represented by Jenni Ragland as the Service Extension & Emergency Disaster Services Director, responded with thoughtful and dedicated action that directly benefitted hundreds of survivors and dozens of mass care co-workers.
Challenged by logistical and cultural details unknown in the lower 48, Jenni’s efforts were a stellar success, worthy of recognition by the National VOAD community.
Galena was not the only Alaska Native village that was impacted in this event, but it certainly suffered the most damage. With over 90 percent of the homes impacted, a Federal disaster was declared and local, State, tribal, non-governmental and Federal mass care partners collaborated to provide life saving and life sustaining services to disaster survivors. To fully appreciate the challenges faced and the non-traditional mass care response, it is helpful to understand where Galena is located and the urgent circumstances facing the community. Galena (pop. 470) is located in central-interior Alaska just south of the Arctic Circle. There are no connecting road systems outside the village, and travel in and out is only by air, water, or in winter, by snow machine or dog sled. Galena is a hub community for several smaller bush villages that depend on Galena’s capacity to deliver transportation, health, education and cultural services. The majority of residents are Native Alaskans, who rely on subsistence hunting and fishing as their primary food source. All supplies and food not acquired through hunting and fishing must be flown or barged in via the Yukon River. As a result of the flooding, many residents lost all, or most, of their stored subsistence resources with very few options for obtaining sufficient food storage.
As the newly appointed (two weeks prior) TSA Emergency Disaster Services Director, Jenni attended a State Preparedness Conference and associated mass care meeting in April, just prior to the event. In the week before the federal declaration, the State held a State Mass Care Task Force call to focus on feeding needs and Jenni Ragland was, again, at the table. During that call, the Food Bank of Alaska offered to provide frozen and canned salmon from their inventory and TSA offered to be the receiver /distributor of the salmon.
It is important to note that while TSA has a strong presence in Alaska it has not historically been involved in disaster response, a fact that did not faze Jenni in the slightest. However, the Salvation Army’s relationship to Alaska response may be forever changed as a result of the extraordinary work Jenni accomplished fostering partnerships, building community, and finding creative ways to get the job done regardless of the circumstances. She jumped in with both feet and did not take a break until November, sitting side by side with state and FEMA staff at the JFO, and traveling to Galena every two weeks to provide direct service to survivors and respite for her TSA compatriots on the ground.
Mass Care efforts in response to the flood had three distinct phases. The State, The Salvation Army (TSA), the American Red Cross (ARC) and the Tanana Chiefs Conference, who evacuated, sheltered and fed all disaster-impacted residents, carried out initial disaster response. The second phase began in early August, after the activation and arrival of the FEMA Mass Care team. Working under a Unified Command structure, multi-agency task forces developed plans for congregate sheltering, feeding, pets, and access and functional needs support. Teams included representatives from the State, TSA, Alaska SPCA, American Red Cross, AmeriCorps, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), FEMA Corps and FEMA. Survivors were sheltered in the BLM Barracks and other available temporary housing. The Mass Care team, including the partners listed above, were housed in a make shift tent city on the BLM property where they developed a food preparation plan for themselves, separate from the plan for survivors. The third phase entailed the provision of TSA prepared frozen meals for long-term shelter residents and tailored feeding plans for families with food needs who were sheltering in-place, all of which was Jenni’s brainchild. She also coordinated and managed the effort.
Jenni’s leadership and positive influence was instrumental in the success of all three of these phases. As referenced earlier, her participation even before the event transpired set the tone for the involvement of her agency and her commitment to seeing the response to the end.
As a member of the mass care disaster assessment team in June and July, she deployed to Fairbanks, Galena and other villages where she was able to obtain much needed ground truth by leveraging strong relationships previously developed with local, State, tribal and Federal partners to determine the true extent of need and the best options available.
Jenni coordinated with State and tribal officials to deliver feeding support to Galena residents evacuated to the Tanana Chiefs Conference facility in Fairbanks, AK. Over 35 elderly residents and children were provided nutritious meals. In addition, she arranged for the deployment of a TSA Canteen to Fairbanks to support a barbeque for survivors that was key to re-establishing a sense of community for these folks who were far away from home and their normal way of life. Keenly aware of the cultural dietary needs of Galena’s Native Alaskan residents, she coordinated with tribal leaders, the Food Bank of Alaska, State and Federal authorities to arrange transportation of pallets of frozen and canned salmon to Galena, Fairbanks and other impacted communities. An important part of this was her collaboration with tribal and Food Bank officials to ensure the salmon satisfied cultural norms that the fish originate from regional waters.
Jenni was the lead for the Multi-Agency Feeding Task Force and central to the development and execution of a three-phased disaster-feeding plan for Galena. She collaborated with local, city and tribal leaders, State Health and Social Services departments, State Department of Education, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials on all aspects of plan development and implementation. Some of the key elements of Jenni’s contribution to the Task Force were:
Developing a service delivery plan to feed over 250 people, 2 meals per day plus a sack lunch, for over 60 days. This included residents staying in shelters, those who were sheltering in-place and numerous volunteer and government affiliated responders.
Coordinating with the State Department of Education on the donation of over seven pallets of surplus USDA commodities from the State School Lunch Program.
Arranging for the transport/delivery of six pallets of bread, milk and snack items from the Food Bank of Alaska, which was an ongoing process throughout the response.
Creating The Salvation Army’s response plan for resourcing and staffing the production and distribution of food at three congregate feeding locations in Galena. It is worth mentioning, that she personally deployed to Galena with each new team to provide guidance and training on food production and distribution procedures.
Recognizing that it was time to assist the community in normalizing their lives as much as possible, and validating their ability to do so, she created and implemented a plan to provide frozen meal entrées for residents to take to their homes. This plan also included ongoing access to Salvation Army referral resources for those who needed additional support, including individualized planning sessions with Salvation Army staff. In order to make that happen, she coordinated within State and Salvation Army channels to determine funding solutions for related food, supply, and transportation needs. Working with the Salvation Army kitchen in Anchorage, they established a range of nutritionally balanced meals, and a process and timeline to produce and package the meals, which were transported to Galena with the assistance of State and Federal officials. The validation was done in cooperation with State and tribal human services officials, who assisted in interviewing and assessing the long-term feeding needs of individuals and families impacted by the disaster. When the US Department of Health and Human Services – Administration for Children and Families representative came back from community meetings with laundry lists of things that were needed for children and families, Jenni always offered to see what she could do. She wasn’t able to meet every single need, but she was able to secure two toddler toilets for the childcare center so it could open its doors, backpacks loaded with school supplies, and coats for school age children returning to Galena.
She uplifted the spirits of Galena residents by organizing two community barbeques, delivering ice cream and watermelons, which were rare treats.
She orchestrated the return of “Wednesday Night Bingo” at the Community Center and supplied most of the prizes.
She continuously found ways to improve the morale of the team with her positive and persevering spirit, abundant warmth, and tasty baked treats. It is this well-honed attention to details and profound ability to know exactly when to say or do just the right thing that makes Jenni the most rare of gems, and the person you most want by your side as a working partner or as a friend.
Though AmeriCorps programs will have a menu of options from which to choose how to engage in the anniversary-related events throughout the year, the vision for the culminating event on September 12, 2014 is a simultaneous swearing-in of AmeriCorps members in every state and territory, on the same day, at the same time. This replicates the first swearing-in ceremony done on September 12, 1994. This event will feature a “sworn-in again” component for AmeriCorps alums who can recommit their pledge.
This nationwide ceremony also will include service champions, a bipartisan group of elected leaders, and partners from the private and public sectors.
Visit the Americorps Website at: www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps20
The awards committee is accepting nominations for the 2014 First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Awards. Nomination forms are available in the Governor’s Offices or online at: www.VolunteerAwards.Alaska.Gov. Nominations must be hand delivered or post marked no later than March 3, 2014 at 5:00PM. For more information, contact Lindy Irwin at 907-269-7450 or email@example.com
Serve Alaska staff celebrated 2013 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service by helping United Way of Anchorage (UWA) spread the word out on 2-1-1 service. Alaska 2-1-1 is a free and confidential service in which trained specialists can connect callers to basic needs and community services such as; child care, food, clothing, shelter, energy assistance, health care, job services and more.
MLK Day of Service will be on January 20, 2014. Please visit http://mlkday.gov/ for more information.
For more information on the Mayor's Day of Recognition for National Service, visit: nationalservice.gov/mayorsforservice.