The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world that we live in upside down. It’s unbelievable to think that it was barely a year ago that our state was dominated by discussions on the budget and how entities were going to keep afloat. Now, COVID-19 has fundamentally altered our economy and society. The “normal” that we existed in before the pandemic may never return. Already, this summer is a vastly different one. We are already realizing that the pandemic is fundamentally changing how we interact, how we do business, and how we care for our families and loved ones.
Here in the Tanana Valley, we are used to tough challenges. We’re often asked how is it that we can stand to live in such a remote and cold place and we have all given a similar answer: that it’s the sense of community and care from our neighbors in Interior Alaska that is unmatched anywhere else. COVID-19 may be crippling our economy and severely impacting community members, yet we continue to take care of each other. When the public health disaster emergency was declared, our community stepped up. The United Way of the Tanana Valley swiftly went to work in creating a COVID-19 Response Fund and raised over $105,000 to immediately help nonprofit agencies and programs provide food, shelter, and other basic human necessities to the our most needy.
Interior Alaskans are people of action. We are people who care about our neighbors. The generosity of our community, not only in response to the pandemic but to our past campaign, has been overwhelming. Our sincere appreciation goes out to the individuals and entities who have given, especially during a time when every dollar matters. It is this generosity that has made the difference during these challenging times, and now, it must be the fuel that brings fire to the real work that now lies ahead.
As our state begins to reopen and grapple with what the future looks like, we are at a turning point where our efforts must start to broaden from COVID-19 response to community recovery and rebuilding. We need to find new ways to be supportive and to build on our community’s strengths.
Every year, the United Way holds its annual campaign to support nonprofits in our community. The past campaign raised over $800,000 in donations. Our plan was to continue going out into the community to share our vision for the upcoming year and to highlight the good and important work that our partner agencies do. However, as many organizations are adapting to our changed circumstances, the United Way of the Tanana Valley is also envisioning what the 2020 United Way Community Campaign will look like. While COVID-19 may change the way that we are able to directly reach donors and workplaces, the spirit of volunteers and advocates will remain the same and we will work even harder to support our partners.
There are basic humanitarian elements that define a society: education, health care, family, subsistence, and housing. The 2020 Community Campaign will focus on these essential services and the organizations working in our community to provide them. A full recovery cannot be achieved without addressing these services, as a safe and healthy workforce drives a secure and vibrant economy. We will be innovative in this campaign’s presence in the community, relying on traditional and not-so-traditional methods to bring the campaign to workplaces and donors. While nothing looks quite the same as in the past, we know that our Alaska spirit remains strong.
As we join with our partner agencies and generous supporters, we invite you to join your neighbors who are Living United as we all work to care for one another. Please stay safe and healthy this summer.
The board of directors of the United Way of the Tanana Valley is Jonathan Bradish, Hedgecock Group Real Estate, LLC; Jennifer Luke, community advocate; Curtis Walmsley, UMV; Yatibaey Evans, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District; Daniel Heckman, Golden Valley Electric Association; Max Roberts, AER Inc.; Jonathan Tibbs, Northrim Bank; Kathryn Strle, CPA, Golden Valley Electric Association; Constance Reimer-Ely, Tanana Chiefs Conference; and Alison Long, Fort Wainwright MWR.