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By Dan Rudy 

Bear Basics to close down


Within a little more than a week, Bear Basics will no longer be open for business in Wrangell. The move comes after Alaska Conference of Seventh-day Adventists elected to close the business, which anticipates its last day to be Dec. 19.

“Our conference doesn’t do businesses,” explained the store’s manager, Charlene Williams. She and her husband, SDA Pastor Howard Williams, relocated to the Dillingham-Togiak area in June to take over the ministry there. Since then Williams has been managing the store’s affairs from afar, which has been difficult.

“It’s with sadness, because this is something my husband and I are very passionate about,” Williams said of the closure.

The store began three years ago, as an idea to extend the availability of low-cost foodstuffs to the wider community. Wrangell’s SDA church manages the federal Food and Commodity Distribution and senior food box (Commodity Supplemental Food) programs.

“When we arrived five years ago the church was able to take over the supplemental food program,” which Williams explained had until then been managed by the local Salvation Army.

Perceiving a need for low-cost food items beyond what was covered by these programs, Williams felt something more was needed. Having a knack for the entrepreneurial spirit, she decided to open a discount food and clothing shop.

“We thought it would be a great resource for the community here,” she explained.

By the time the store celebrated its third anniversary in September, Williams estimated Bear Basics had given back $35,000 to the community in the form of food and clothing donations. It has also been a source of employment, having up to five staffers at any given time.

“We’ve had a great team of people,” Williams said. “I hate to have to close it down.”

As the deadline approaches, the Bear Basics crew has been putting all of their stock out onto the shelves, selling them off at half price. Clothing has been reduced to a dollar per bag, and additional discounts may be affected if enough stock remains. Whatever clothing is left over Williams said will be given to Hannah’s Place, the local pregnancy resource center.

“It’s been a great honor to serve everybody,” she said.

The Food Commodity and Senior Food Box programs will still continue under new Pastor Charlie Meigs, being managed by April Eilertsen of Adventist Community Services.

“With Bear Basics closing, it doesn’t change anything,” said Eilertsen.

The food box program will still be distributing the third Wednesday of the month, providing elderly residents with a 30-pound container of food articles.

Wrangell’s SDA church is the only agency in Southeast currently facilitating the senior boxes program. A sort of disincentive is having to pay shipping costs for distribution, which the local church raises funds to cover.

And ACS volunteers will still be handling the United States Department of Agriculture’s commodities program. A wide range of ages and family sizes currently participate in the program, which can be applied for locally. Those interested or needing more information can contact the church at 874-3039.

“These folks really appreciate it,” said Meigs. “April has a gift with working with folks that way.”


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