Photos by Lione Clare.
The Sitka Conservation Society works to protect the Tongass and build sustainable communities. The ability to live sustainably within the natural environment is contingent on the health and wellbeing of the people who call these lands and waters home. At our core, we are a community organization who stands up with our partners and members, to help care for the entire intricate web of life here in the Tongass, our neighbors included.
Food security is foundational to the sustainability of our communities, not just in Southeast Alaska but across the world. In the Tongass, we have a unique accessibility to wild foods, yet at the same time our geography creates its own obstacles; food is expensive and is shipped in from far away to reach our rural communities. In 2020, due to the pressures of the COVID19 pandemic, we saw increased food insecurity among Southeast Alaskans. With partnerships and community support, Sitka Conservation Society fielded programs to to help address this challenge.
In March, SCS established the Sitka Mutual Aid Network, an initiative to build Sitka’s resilience and community health in the face of this pandemic. Sitka Mutual Aid matched requests for assistance with offers of support, connecting Sitkans who could be of service to one another and delivering direct food assistance in the form of gift cards, grocery distributions and free meals featuring local seafood.
In late March, Alaska Governor Dunleavy issued State Health Mandates requiring Alaskans to remain home and ban non-essential travel within the state. The mandates are in effect until April 21. View the state’s FAQ’s for the exceptions to these mandates.
We at Sitka Conservation Society have been compiling a list of resources for communities across Alaska.
Alaska State-Wide Information and Resources
Alaska COVID-19 Community Response
The State of Alaska and the US Government have declared a national emergency due to COVID-19. The Alaska Public Interest Research Group has created a publicly available document with resources for us to keep our communities safe and healthy. This page includes links to government responses, local resources, and Mutual Aid Networks across Alaska. You can visit the page here. If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Distancing Outdoors
Anchorage Daily News: Heading outdoors? Here’s what Alaskans should consider during the coronavirus pandemic.
News and Updates
KCAW Raven Radio has created a coronavirus information hub on their website providing more information on the local response to COVID-19 in Sitka, including information on closures and event cancellations. Alaska Public Media has also created their own information page that you can find here.
Southeast Alaska Resources
Spruce Root COVID-19 Business Resources: Southeast Alaskan businesses and entrepreneurs: If you are looking for resources to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, we are starting a list. Spruce Root, one of our partners in the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, has compiled a starter set of resources here: https://www.spruceroot.org/covid19. Please also scroll down to the bottom and complete their survey so that we can better support our entrepreneurs.
Sitka Mutual Aid Network
Created by SCS, Sitka Mutual Aid - COVID-19 matches requests for help with offers of support. Currently, we are coordinating supply drop offs to people's doorsteps and provide up to $50 per request for those with financial need, as long as funds last. Folks can also post to this page if they are in search of resources or have goods to share that can be sanitized. Visit the Facebook page here!
To donate to the Sitka Mutual Aid Network - COVID-19, click here. Funds will be used to provide grocery relief for Sitkans with financial need.
If someone doesn't have internet access, they can call 907-738-0357.
Sitka School District Free School Meals
The Sitka School District will continue to offer meals during the emergency school closure. Grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches are distributed on Tuesday and Friday once a day at community locations. Meal pick up is on Tuesday and Friday 8:30am till noon at SHS main entrance, picking up is encouraged, but deliveries can be arranged. Meals are free to all children age 19 and under, regardless of enrollment, if at least one child in the household attends SSD. Families can sign up for meals by completing a short survey at tinyurl.com/SSDCovidNeeds or by calling 747-8672. For more information regarding the meal program email: email@example.com.
Photo by Andrew Thoms
In difficult and uncertain times, it is important for us to hold together as a community, and take precautions ahead of time, instead of doing too little too late.
Right now, distancing ourselves from others may feel especially hard when compounded by the anxieties we are feeling for ourselves, our community, and our loved ones. We want now more than ever to spend time together as a community. Remember though, that while practicing social distancing, you aren't actually alone—we are doing this together. We at SCS find comfort knowing that so many of us are making a compassionate and courageous act for the strength and resiliency of our community. Through temporary isolation, we take care of each other.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we at SCS are joining other local organizations and businesses and temporarily shutting down our doors. Our team is focused right now on helping our community and our partners respond to this crisis. Situations like these are exactly why we strive to build sustainable and resilient communities. We are especially working across our network in the Sustainable Southeast Partnership to figure out how Southeast Alaska can respond to this crisis. While there are still no known cases of COVID-19 in Sitka, we know that it is always better to be proactive.
During this time, the best way for you to reach us is by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org and through our social media platforms. It is with a heavy heart that we must cancel or postpone all upcoming SCS, 4-H, and Sitka Kitch events. For more information or if you have any questions, please contact the Sitka Kitch at email@example.com or Jill, our 4-H leader, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At SCS, Chandler O'Connell is shifting her position to focus on supporting community health and wellness at this time. Sitka Mutual Aid - COVID-19 is our first project to support the community we love, and a resource to support each other during the COVID-19 public health crisis. This program matches requests for help with offers of support. To start off, we will coordinate supply drop offs to people's doorsteps and provide up to $50 per request for those with financial need, as long as funds last (thanks to a $1,000 starting contribution from SCS).
Huge thanks to all the Sitka individuals, businesses, governments and organizations who are providing diverse forms of community care. Staying at home, avoiding large crowds, practicing social distancing, cancelling unnecessary travel plans, and washing our hands are just some of the important actions we must take to slow this virus down. By doing this, we can limit pressure on our healthcare systems and decrease the spread of this virus to our elders and those with pre-existing health conditions who are the most at risk.
It is also crucial for us to rely on the advice of trusted experts as a sea of misinformation also spreads. During the upcoming weeks we will sharing on our platforms accurate and helpful resources, community updates, resources, inspiration, and ideas for engaging with your loved ones while isolated.
In this hard time, it's as important as ever for us to continue organizing and advocating for a sustainable future and the places that we love. We love you Sitka! Stay safe out there.