Anchorage nonprofits, shelters asking for public’s help this holiday season

Local groups are seeking donations, volunteer hours
Published: Dec. 11, 2020 at 7:55 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Between the pandemic, cold winter weather and other harsh conditions, many Alaskans are struggling this holiday season. Area nonprofits, however, say that even small contributions from the public could drastically change an individual’s or family’s experience this winter.

“It’s so helpful. I don’t think people realize how far that will go,” said Catholic Social Services’ Lisa Aquino. “There’s so many people that need help right now. Even a $15 gift card, that really matters.”

Aquino said a woman at CSS broke down in tears on Friday when she found out she’d be able to go pick out and purchase her children’s Christmas presents herself.

“Every little bit helps,” Aquino said. “Those things really matter. People are on the edge. A few bucks could be gas for their car so they can get to work.”

CSS, which includes agencies such as Brother Francis Shelter, Clare House and St. Francis House, is specifically seeking winter items and shelf-stable food for its food boxes, which you can drop off to CSS during the week. The group has also been moving many families into housing, so there’s been high demand for household items such as new twin sheets, blankets, and pillows.

Bean’s Cafe is also in dire need of winter gear. Executive Director Lisa Sauder said donations such as seasonal items, including boots, hats and jackets; food for the group’s annual holiday meal, including frozen or thawed hams, dinner rolls, and fresh vegetables like carrots and potatoes; and socks, underwear, blankets, and general hygiene items are in particularly high demand right now. Clothing and other non-food items can be dropped off at the Sullivan Arena on any weekday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Food should be brought to Bean’s Cafe or the Jewel Lake Tastee Freeze.

The Children’s Lunchbox, which Sauder also oversees, focuses on children and families and is in need of shelf-stable goods for its pantry packs. The group is specifically seeking items such as oatmeal packs, canned chicken, fruit and pastas. Volunteers are also needed for the daily packing of the distribution boxes.

“There are so many parents who have never had to worry about feeding their children that now are facing that,” Sauder said. “We know these are really difficult times in Anchorage, and we’re so grateful our community coming together to support us.”

If you want to create your own pantry packs for the Children’s Lunchbox to hand out, you can do so by checking out the Children’s Lunchbox website and getting the lists of items for the different types of boxes that are given to families in need. The boxes, and individual items, too, can be dropped off at the old Sam’s Club in Muldoon.

Many other nonprofit agencies are asking for the public’s support with both food and other general items not specific to the season. Even small donations, monetary or otherwise, can go a long way in making sure providers are able to help their clients. Like CSS and Bean’s Cafe, most groups have wish lists on their websites of current and particular needs. For example, Standing Together Against Rape is specifically looking for new clothing, underwear, bedding, journals and personal hygiene items. Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis has an online wish list ranking various items in order of need.

If you have food to donate and would rather have an agency distribute it to smaller nonprofits, items can be brought to the Food Bank of Alaska, which gets food to those in need across the state.

“As we head into the holidays and into the new year, with all the uncertainty that comes with that, we continue to need donations,” said Food Bank of Alaska’s Cara Durr. “We’ve had a lot of great community support, but there are a lot of funding things that are set to expire at the end of December.”

Durr encouraged people to make donations especially monetary ones, which require less organizing and to sign up for volunteer shifts. The food bank has openings most days of the week for people to help build pre-made boxes of non-perishables for families around the community.

If you’re in need of a food box, the food bank is holding its weekly emergency food distribution on Monday, Dec. 14, and Thursday, Dec. 17. The drive-thru distribution, which requires that you sign up for it, will happen at the old Sam’s Club from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on each of those evenings.

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