Salvation Army assists Alaska wildfire victims

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The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) Alaska unit quickly took action Aug. 18 to help people affected by the Mat-Su Valley wildfires in Southcentral Alaska, which began Aug. 17. Several fires are burning in some of the area’s most popular tourist locations. 

By Aug. 19, the McKinley wildfire had spread to 3,000 acres and consumed more than 50 structures.

Salvation Army staff, officers and volunteers provided food service along with spiritual and emotional care at the Willow Community Center emergency shelter. 

Salvation Army EDS members display supplies given to victims of Mat-Su Valley wildfires

“We’re staging at King’s Lake Camp and transporting food to the shelter from there, about a 45-minute drive,” Alaska EDS Director Jenni Ragland said on Aug. 18. “We have a Mat-Su team covering lunch and a team from Anchorage assisting with dinner.”

After the evacuation zone was expanded, the emergency shelter relocated to the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla. As of Aug. 27, The Salvation Army has provided over 1,500 meals, water, thousands of snacks and over 392 volunteer hours to the emergency feeding operation.

Heather Parson, owner of Big J’s BBQ Catering, prepares food for Mat-Su Valley wildfire victims

Smashburger donated 100 pounds of ground beef to help feed people affected by the Alaska wildfires. Heather Parson, owner of Big J’s BBQ Catering, volunteered over 50 hours of kitchen time to help feed people.

Along with feeding evacuees at the emergency shelter, The Salvation Army offers emotional and spiritual care to those being served.

“When I entered the Menard Center on Monday morning, a young girl was sitting at the table by the TV drawing a picture of a home with multiple rooms,” said Major Tina Bottjen, Mat-Su Valley Corps Officer with her husband, Kevin. “I sat and talked with her for a bit and found out that her family’s home was destroyed in the fire. Even with her loss she was trying to stay positive. She said that she found her favorite mug that said ‘I love mom’ among the ruins. The paint was coming off and it was charred but it survived, which made her happy.”

Volunteers prepare to distribute food following the Mat-Su valley wildfire

Individuals and businesses offered support, including a Palmer-area family farm that harvested and delivered fresh produce to use in the emergency feeding operation. Smashburger donated 100 pounds of ground beef to help feed people affected by the fires, and Heather Parson, owner of Big J’s BBQ Catering, volunteered over 50 hours of kitchen time to help feed people.

“The Salvation Army has been able to provide for the needs of evacuees due to the generosity of time and resources of community members and organizations,” Alaska Divisional Commander Major John Brackenbury said. “In the days and months ahead, we will continue to rely on the community’s assistance as we support the ongoing needs of the many individuals and families who are beginning the process of rebuilding their lives and homes following this devastating event.”

To donate to help those affected by the MatSu Valley wildfires, text HELPAK to 243-725 or visit the website.

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