Chugach CARES Act Funding Improves Region’s Food Security

After a supreme court decision reaffirmed that Alaska Native Corporations are federally recognized tribal entities, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding was finally released and made available to the Alaska Native community in August 2021. Now, a mere six months later, the seeds of that funding are starting to bear fruit, or rather it’s starting to bear spinach and basil and the potential for other nutritious greens.​​​​​​​

“With the CARES Act funding that the CRRC received from Chugach, we focused heavily on food security in the Chugach region,” said Willow Hetrick, CRRC Executive Director. “One of our goals with the funds was to make each of the communities we support less reliant on outside support and turn instead to the store outside their door.”

In this case, ‘the store outside their door’ translates into hydroponics cabinets that can be shipped to villages and produce 20–30 pieces of fresh produce every week, all while operating with a minimal amount of labor. “With these cabinets, tribes will be able to grow anything they wish – lettuce, arugula, dill, peppers, green beans, kale, oregano, thyme and parsley to name a few – but it is best to start out with the easier produce like lettuce and arugula,” Hetrick said. “We’re growing spinach and basil in Anchorage to test the equipment and establish best practices.”

“In total, we purchased seven cabinets and growing equipment for each community. One of these units will reside at the Alutiiq Pride Marine Institute in Seward, so we can train our staff and maintenance contractors to install, operate and maintain the units on behalf of the communities that will call them home. The goal is to end the reliance on outside help.” Once in place, the cabinets will provide a means of circumventing supply chain disruptions and give each community a self-sustaining bounty of greens grown directly on site. In addition, a turnkey, 40-foot connex with six hydroponics systems inside was purchased for the Qutekcak Native Tribe to provide for elder food boxes while at the same time providing for potential economic opportunity for the Tribe or a Tribal member.

Eventually, cabinets will be positioned in Nanwalek, Port Graham, Chenega, Tatitlek, Valdez, Cordova and Seward. This project was made possible by a COVID-19 relief grant that Chugach made available to CRRC. “A team of Chugach employees worked tirelessly to allocate the funds to the regional non-profits and quickly mobilized a grant application portal to facilitate this process,” Hetrick said. “When applying for the funds, we consulted Chugach’s COVID-19 Community Needs Assessment Data Analysis conducted in the Chugach region.”

This analysis allowed for a comprehensive assessment of the major community services and programs that have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Looking at the data, we were able to determine there were extensive interruptions in services; reductions in social gatherings and monthly potlucks which typically provided important sources of nutrition; cancellations of all community learning and cultural classes, luncheons, elder-ride sharing and shopping; access to community shower and laundry facilities; school closures; and a reduction of council services down to essential services.”

From this data, Hetrick and the team at CRRC identified one of the largest threats to the well-being and health of the isolated communities in the Chugach region, an issue that was already prevalent in the remote communities of the Chugach region before COVID-19 but that was only made worse by the pandemic. “Food shortage is always a concern in remote communities, because there are already limited food sourcing capabilities.”

Hetrick and the CRRC team were presented with a number of challenges in bringing their project together to address food shortage. Ultimately, it came down to willing suppliers who went above and beyond to make the purchase of the cabinets and connex and the growing equipment and supplies possible. “There were instances when I thought it wouldn’t happen given the incredibly difficult timeline imposed by Treasury to obligate the funds coupled with global supply chain issues and the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays,” Hetrick said. “But our suppliers worked with us to make sure we could complete our mission to enable the tribes to be more food secure and have uninterrupted access to healthy foods even during the longest and darkest winter months.”

Hetrick and the entire CRRC team were thankful to Chugach for making the CARES Act funding available. “It’s not often that a non-profit like CRRC is given access to millions of dollars to spend in a matter of weeks,” Hetrick remarked. “In a normal setting, we are competing for years for grant money. With the support from Chugach, we were able to get more than five years of work completed in six months. With Chugach’s support, we have grown as an organization, and most importantly, the tribes are going to benefit immensely when the hydroponics systems arrive in their communities.”

Josie Hickel, Chugach’s Executive Vice President of ANCSA and Community Affairs, was excited to see the CARES Act funding start to make a positive difference in the Chugach region. “When you live in an urban area, fruits and vegetables can be purchased right down the street at your local grocery store. But a lot of our communities don’t have this luxury, so it is incredibility rewarding to see the CARES Act funding that Chugach made available to CRRC spent in such an innovative manner and in a way that has the potential to provide permanent and steady access to healthy food for our shareholders in our remote villages and communities.”

The Chugach Regional Resource Commission (CRRC) is an inter-tribal fish and wildlife commission certified by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. Member Tribes of the Chugach Region include the Tatitlek Village IRA Council, Native Village of Eyak (Cordova), Port Graham Village Council, Nanwalek IRA Council, Chenega Bay IRA Council, Qutekcak Native Tribe (Seward), and the Valdez Native Tribe. There are approximately 1,000 tribal members living in these communities. These people, known as Alutiiq, Sugpiaq, and Eyak, are southcentral coastal people of Alaska. The seven Tribes of CRRC are located in Prince William Sound and Lower Cook Inlet, a remote region limited in travel to small aircraft, charter aircraft and boat travel, with seasonal Alaska marine highway service.

CRRC sees itself as a leader in Tribal Natural Resource issues in Alaska and especially in Southcentral Alaska. Our organization was integrally involved in the research, monitoring, and restoration projects resulting from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, working with all Tribes in the oil spilled area. We have since expanded our programs to include playing a leading role in the management of the subsistence harvest of migratory birds, shellfish aquaculture and ocean acidification research, tribal natural resource education, climate change, and food sovereignty.

Chugach Challenge Raises $10,000 For Food Bank

Every year, nearly 100,000 of our fellow Alaskans – including children, seniors, veterans and the working poor – can’t always be sure of their next meal. Whether it’s an unexpected loss of a job, unexpected medical bills or other unforeseen setbacks, many of our neighbors find they don’t have enough for groceries and other basic necessities.

This winter, thanks to your generosity, the Food Bank of Alaska will have a greater impact and be able to lower the number of people who have to contend with food insecurity. The Food Bank of Alaska accepts food donations year round in Anchorage at 2192 Viking Drive, and monetary donation can always be made at: https://foodbankofalaska.org/donate-2/.

Thanks again for your contributions and for helping to make a difference in the lives of the people who go the Food Bank for assistance.

Chugach Champion Raises Nearly $25,000 For Covenant House

“November 18th was a moving night at Covenant House’s Great Alaska Sleep Out, and I spent the next day full of emotions after the long night in the cold,” Osborne recalled. “I’m appreciative of the Covenant House staff for all they do to protect our youth, and to support the sleepers on the -16 degree night. I was honored to help support their efforts, and I was even more humbled to speak with the brave Covenant House youth about their journeys.”

Osborne went on to touch on the important aspect of awareness that Sleep Out champions. “I’m concerned to hear about the human trafficking of Alaska’s youth and, that of 10 cities studied across the country, Anchorage ranked among the worst. I’m saddened that this is a hidden part of our city and that our young people are preyed upon, but I’m hopeful that, with the support of so many in our community, we can shine a light on this dark part of our community and in doing so provide more opportunities to the youth who seek shelter at Covenant House.”

Osborne set her Sleep Out fundraising goal at $10,000. Through her family and friends and through her co-worker’s contributions, Osborne blew past her goal and raised nearly $25,000 for Covenant House Alaska. “I’m very grateful to all of you and to Chugach Alaska Corporation for supporting my night out in the cold and for the contributions you made that will make it easier for Covenant House to provide a safe place and essential services to youth in our community.”

The mission of Covenant House Alaska is to protect and safeguard all children with absolute respect and unconditional love. Since 1988, Covenant House Alaska has met this mission and served more than 30,000 at-risk youth experiencing homelessness. Melanie Osborne’s Sleep Out donation page remains active and can be viewed by clicking here.

Chugach Shareholder Vaccination Incentive

Entries are open until December 1, 2021. Scan the QR code provided below to enter or click here to go to entry form. You do not need to submit proof of vaccination to enter, but please note that verifying proof of vaccination will be required for the prize to be claimed. The drawing will take place the month of December 2021. To find a COVID-19 vaccine distribution location near you, text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233.

Barney Uhart Scholars Join Corporate Team For The Summer

As Young spoke, he touched on Uhart’s accomplishments, and how, during his career with Chugach, the corporation’s annual review rose from $19 million to more than $1 billion. Young also touched on what this rise meant for the corporation and its shareholders. “Chugach has become a shining example of an Alaskan Native Corporation that has succeeded and thrived, and one that has provided tremendous benefits to its Native Shareholders and employees. Barney deserves his full share of credit for this success.”

Young concluded his tribute with Barney’s own words: “How has Chugach gotten to where it is today? The reason is simple—the people. All the people associated with Chugach are responsible for its success.” Barney’s words and how he believed everyone contributed to Chugach’s success, especially its shareholders, are at the heart of why the Barney Uhart Memorial Scholarship was established – to better position Chugach shareholders and descendants on career paths.

This competitive scholarship is available to Chugach shareholders and descendants who are a college senior at the undergraduate level or enrolled in a graduate program. Students who are approved for this award participate in a paid summer internship and receive $10,000 in scholarship funding. The scholarship supports one individual per year, but due to COVID-19 concerns, a scholarship recipient was unable to be selected in 2020. To make up for that shortfall, two members of Chugach’s shareholder community were recipients of this prestigious opportunity in 2021.

Barney Uhart Scholarship Recipient and Chugach Descendant Randy White is studying toward an MBA at College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and his summer internship will be spent in Anchorage. “I have the distinct honor of working with Melanie Osborne and her fantastic team on a couple of different projects,” Randy says. “We are looking at revamping the onboarding process. More specifically, we’ll be analyzing the process from recruitment to onboarding and the retention process in the post-COVID world. Additionally, we are working on a project that will compile data to ensure that Chugach has the best privacy practices in place.”

Melanie Osborne serves as Chugach’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel, and she oversees Chugach’s Legal, Risk Management, Human Resources and Facilities departments, with Randy’s summer work specially supporting Chugach’s Human Resources.

“I am thrilled to be working with Randy this summer to enhance some of Chugach’s policies and procedures,” Osborne says. “He’s gotten to know about Chugach and his heritage, and I’m honored to be part of it.”

Randy is thrilled to hit the ground running with some meaningful work, and he’s very grateful to have the opportunity that Barney Uhart Scholarship affords. “Receiving the scholarship has been a tremendous honor,” Randy says. “I still can’t believe that I am a recipient. Having talked with Sheri Buretta and Dan Fenza about the kind of guy that Barney was truly brought a new perspective and appreciation of receiving this award.”

For Randy, the honor of receiving the scholarship is just one side of being a Uhart scholarship recipient. “It has also provided a huge sense of relief with the financial burden lifted, allowing me to focus on my studies,” Randy says. “I could not be more grateful both personally and professionally.”

Randy wants to make sure that all those who are eligible within the Chugach community take advantage of the opportunities that the corporation provides. “I strongly encourage all shareholder and descendant students to take a moment and apply for Chugach’s apprenticeships, scholarships, and internships. At first, I hesitated, but I am so glad that I applied. You never know what can happen until you try. It can literally change your life, as it has mine.”

Chugach Descendant Jordan Betschart was also selected as a 2021 Barney Uhart Scholarship recipient. Like Randy White, Jordan is hitting the ground running and lending support to some major projects for Chugach. “I am a Project Analyst for Angie Astle’s team,” Jordan says. Angie Astle serves as one of Chugach’s Executive Vice Presidents and as Chief Financial Officer. “I will be analyzing multiple aspects of different projects in this role. Currently we are updating the Summary Investment Analysis for the Prince William Sound Granite Quarry project.”

Jordan went on to describe the other projects he will support during his internship. “We will be looking at the economies of where Chugach does business like Chicago and Hawaii to track trends on what is occurring in those regions. In addition, we will be reviewing forward-looking indications of what is happening in those markets which will be provided to the business leaders as Chugach plans for 2022 and beyond. I am also exploring other avenues with Chris Hamilton regarding the back-end of databases using SQL and eventually coding with Python.” Chris Hamilton serves as Chugach’s Digital Strategies Executive.

Working with Chugach’s finance and I.T. teams align perfectly with Jordan’s academic pursues as his two fields of study are Economics and Computer Information Technology, and being able to apply his college studies in a real world environment has surpassed his expectations for his internship. “My Uhart Scholarship experience so far has been nothing short of extraordinary. I’ve gotten exposure to board meetings, to databases and coding, and to how Chugach’s executives and professionals interact.”

While a large portion of Jordan’s summer will be spent in the Anchorage headquarters, he will be paying visits throughout the Chugach region. “Eventually I will be traveling to Palmer, Valdez and Seward to get more experience and exposure to how Alaska Native Corporations conduct themselves and what they are involved in.”

Along with Randy White, Jordan would encourage other eligible shareholders and descendants to apply for the Uhart Scholarship. “I would say that this scholarship is a magnificent opportunity to gain experience in how a business operates,” Jordan says. “It exposes you to so many different aspects of the business world. It has been refreshing to see people working as a team and meeting deadlines regarding their respective projects. I would encourage any shareholder or descendant who has the opportunity to apply for this scholarship as it will give you loads of experience for your future career endeavors.”

Jordan concluded his comments on the most satisfying aspect of his internship. “The Uhart scholarship has helped me gain direction in what I want to do career-wise, boosted my growth as a person inside and outside the workplace, and has allowed me to achieve worthwhile involvement in Chugach and how they strategically increase shareholder value.”

Angie Astle shared her excitement at having a Uhart recipient support her team. “It is a real honor to work with Jordan and to be part of his experience at Chugach. He is eager, intelligent, engaged and his project this summer will provide him the opportunity to learn more about Chugach’s business while providing valuable information during his research.”

“I want thank the finance team, and all of our corporate staff, for taking the time to share their knowledge with Jordan to make him feel welcome,” Angie says. “Each minute spent with our Uhart recipients is connecting Chugach’s next generation of shareholders and descendants with their company and culture and helping to shape the future leaders of the Chugach community.”

To learn more about the Barney Uhart Memorial Scholarship and all of the educational funding available to Chugach shareholders and descendants, go to www.chugachheritagefoundation.org.

Heide & Cook Recognized for Excellence in Safety

Heide & Cook (H&C) is proud to be a recipient of the highest honor, “Best in Category” in their category Associates/Specialty 70,000-324,999 as well as recognition for a zero-incident rate for the 2020 year.

Todd Williams, H&C President, remarked, “We are honored and humbled to receive this award. It serves as a reflection of the culture we have developed at H&C where every employee is engaged and takes individual responsibility not only for their own safety but also for the safety of their fellow team members. Moreover, our culture and commitment to safety extends beyond the fine work our employees do every day and they share it in our community, with our customers, vendors and with friends and families”.

Williams continued, “H&C is a unique company in that it has multiple divisions serving a variety of disciplines in multiple Island locations. Each of our divisions, HVAC, refrigeration, plumbing, elevator, sheet metal, construction and portable air conditioning rentals are presented a unique set of challenges when it comes to ensuring safe work is performed. Adding to this complexity is the variety of customers that we serve- government, educational, retail, hospitality, healthcare with each having unique and distinct demands and safety requirements. Because of our culture, we have been successful in addressing these ever- changing challenges.”

To learn more about H&C, go to www.heidecook.com.

Team Chugach Secures 1st Place Wins In AKRFW

This year, 201 individuals joined Team Chugach and rallied together to raise $17,215 for the AKRFW to support the non-profit’s goal to defeat breast cancer while having fun and showcasing the talents of Alaska’s women athletes. With 201 team members, Team Chugach took home the AKRFW’s coveted first-place prize for Largest Team, and Team Chugach’s $17,215 secured the first-place win for Most Money Raised by a team. For more than half a decade, Chugach employees, families and friends who make up our team have taken home the first-place awards in these two categories. Over the life of the AKRFW, our generous team-member donations to the annual event have surpassed more than $105,000.

This year, Team Chugach faced some stiff competition. Two weeks before the conclusion of the race, we were in danger of losing our first-place status to the Jazzy Jaywalkers. But thanks to all of our incredible team members, Team Chugach rose to the occasion in the final leg of the race and secured first-place finishes for the sixth year in a row.

Competition is a great thing, especially when it inspires individuals and teams to do their best and raise money for cancer awareness and prevention. So congratulations to the Jazzy Jaywalkers and all of the other AKRFW fundraising teams for a race well run, and congratulations to our dedicated and loyal team members for edging to the front and breaking the ribbon at the finish line!

Thanks, again, to all the members of Team Chugach for doing your part and helping us build and improve the health of our community. To learn more about the AKRFW and how to make a donation to this life-saving cause, go to www.akrfw.org.

CAS recognized as TAPS Contractor of the Year

Chugach Alaska Services (CAS), a longtime contractor on TAPS, is proud to be the recipient of the 2021 Atigun Award for TAPS Contractor of the Year. As part of the award recognition, Alyeska officials stated, “Thanks to your organization and staff for your critical work in supporting Alyeska and the many people working on TAPS every day. Your organization’s dedication and your workforce’s skill is crucial in the collective effort to safely operate and maintain TAPS.”

Ryan Kegley serves as Vice President of Projects and Support for Chugach Commercial Holdings, the managing subsidiary of CAS. Upon receiving the Atigun Award, Kegley said, “The award was presented to CAS for going beyond being a safe contractor to being a cost-effective, solution-based partner who offered Alyeska the best continued alternative for the services we provide,” Kegley continued, “The value we bring to the table was further demonstrated in our successful proposal that will expand CAS’ scope of work in 2022 with Alyeska’s Training Administration Services contract.”

TAPS has safely and reliably moved oil from the North Slope, across 800 miles of Alaska to Valdez for nearly four-and-a-half decades. The amount of oil that has flowed through the pipeline currently stands at more than 18-billion barrels of oil, making TAPS critical to the security and energy independence of the United States. Many of Chugach Alaska Corporation’s Alaska-based subsidiaries have worked on TAPS through various contracts since oil started to flow in 1977. “Receiving the Atigun Award and meeting our commitments to TAPS during the last year through the challenges posed by the pandemic are definitely a high point in our TAPS’ history,” Kegley said. “And we look forward to building on this proud legacy and to a continued partnership with Alyeska for decades and decades to come.”

Go to www.chugachalaskaservices.com to learn more about CAS.

Chugach Employees Sleepout To End Homelessness

Covenant House Alaska is the largest provider of services to homeless and runaway youth in the state of Alaska. The goal of Covenant House is to move a youth from homelessness to stability. First and foremost, they work with youth on reconciliation with family whenever possible. If reconciliation is not possible, the Covenant House programs assist youth in making the choices and building the skills necessary for independent living.

Since 1988, Covenant House Alaska has served more than 30,000 at-risk youth experiencing homelessness. But they didn’t do it alone; they did it with the help of people like Josie Hickel, Angie Astle, Melanie Osborne and Sheri Buretta.

“As I laid outside on a cold winter night, wrapped in my warmest blankets, I thought about what it would be like to be homeless,” said Josie Hickel, Chugach’s Executive Vice President of ANCSA and Community Affairs. “To be young, alone and scared in the dark of night. Not knowing where to turn for a warm bed and a hot meal. Thanks to Covenant House, there is a place these kids can go for a bed and a meal, and a place where they can find help and hope for the future. This is why I joined the sleep out. I am so grateful for everyone who donated to help such an important cause.”

For Angie Astle, Chugach’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, it was the plight of homeless and their lack of options that motivated her to donate and sleep out. “More than the cold, it is the reality that people need a warm, safe place. I could go inside to warm up, and get a reprieve,” Angie said. “But trying to imagine that option did not exist for others that live everyday – vulnerable, cold and exposed – was overwhelming.”

For Melanie Osborne, Chugach’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel, sleeping out is about awareness and every facet of the Covenant House mission. “I give up my bed for one night a year to raise awareness about the youth homelessness crisis and to raise funds that keep Covenant House open,” Melanie said. “I give up my bed for young people seeking safe shelter, warm meals, educational opportunities, job training, medical care, mental health and substance use counseling, and legal aid, so that these youth can dream big.”

At nearly $32,000, Angie, Josie, Melanie and Sheri and those they inspired to donate definitely made a huge contribution to the Covenant House dream. The Chugach Team donation page remains active, and every dollar makes a difference in the lives of Alaska’s at-risk and homeless youth.​​​​​​​

For Sheri Buretta, Chairman of the Chugach Board and Interim CEO, taking part in the Sleepout is about responsibility. “Corporate responsibility starts at a business level, but a large part of it starts at the individual level, with employees,” Sheri said. “I’m so proud that Chugach is always ready to help our community, and that our employees are always so willing to step forward to support organizations like the Covenant House Alaska.”

Shareholder Spotlight: George Flemming

Flemming was born and raised in Prince William Sound (PWS), spending the entirety of his life in the Sound’s remote islands. He never left Alaska, and he never ventured further than towns like Cordova. Asked about Anchorage, Flemming said he’d never been there. “Nor do I have a desired to go,” he stated.

John F.C. Johnson, Chugach’s Vice President of Cultural Resources, has fond memories of George. “I first met him in the early ’80s when I was collecting oral histories and surveying historical sites in PWS,” John remembered. “He had a long white beard and worn fisherman hands, and his eyesight was failing, but he could still tell great stories from the good old days.”

John went on to recall some of Flemming’s history and his family connections to the Chugach region. “In his older years, George was a watchman at an old herring saltry in Thumb Cove on the southern end of Knight Island. He was born in 1903 and died in 1983 and was laid to rest in old Chenega. His mother was Pauline Chemivisky who was from Nuchek.”

The 1900 U.S. Census for Chenega Village and the 1910 U.S. Census for Flemming Island note that George’s father was Geo W. B. Flemming who was born in 1852 in New York and came to Alaska in 1888. Geo’s father was from Italy and his mother was from Scotland. His profession was ship carpenter/boat builder and fox farmer. In 1910, Geo was 57 years old and had a homestead and fox farm on Flemming Island, a two-mile long island located eight miles southeast of old Chenega. He had the three children: Ella D., Henry and George.

The following excerpt can be found in Fox Farming: 1917-1941 “History of Prince William Sound, Alaska” by author Jim Lethcoe, and this short passage demonstrates the resiliency that George Flemming had and how his knowledge and experiences allowed him to overcome the adversities that were commonplace in Southcentral Alaska in the early 1900s:

George Flemming and his Native companion almost lost their lives in Prince William Sound. They would travel in small row boats most of the time. They set out in early February of 1916 from Flemming Island to deliver a pair of breeding foxes to the fox farm on Green Island. As they rowed up Montague Strait, an unexpected winter storm hit. There small boat was swept towards Montague island where they were shipwrecked without food or fire. For a month they survived until they found an old boat on the beach which they repaired. They rowed and sailed to Powder Point where most thought they were dead.

The majority of the photos of George Flemming and his family that accompany this story were provided by his niece Kathryn Harrison who lives at The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, in Oregon, and are being shared with her permission. Any reproduction or use of these photos must be secured by permission from Chugach Alaska Corporation.

Kathryn Harrison is 96 years old, and she is very eager to learn more about the places and people where her uncle lived. If have information or photos you’d like to share please, contact John Johnson by email at jjohnson@chugach.com or by phone at (907) 229-2179.