Residents answer WCA call for winter clothing donations to aid Western Alaska

Several thousand people needed help after communities in Western Alaska were ravaged by the tail end of a typhoon in mid-September. Though the affected region is more than 1,200 miles away from Wrangell, residents here wanted to help however they could.

With icier months fast approaching places like Hooper Bay and Nome, cold-weather gear will be necessary.

"People called me and asked if we were going to do anything," said Jana Wright, Wrangell Cooperative Association staff member. Wright said she then called Tammi Meissner with the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. "It was just a big collaboration."

From those inquiries, a clothing drive was held Oct. 5 at the WCA carving shed, bringing in far more donations than were expected.

"We didn't even expect this much," Wright said, standing among tables piled chest-high with clothing and other items she and staff member Alex Angerman had already sorted. Bags at her feet were filled with brand new items. "This is all new stuff that was donated by Angerman's, still packaged up. It's gloves and hats and undergarments, socks and underwear."

Other donated items included new Xtratuf and Sorel boots and hand-sewn, fur-lined gloves and jackets.

Anny Newport brought in a few full bags of clothing. Though she wasn't aware of the typhoon and the flooding and damage it created, she wanted to help after hearing about the clothing drive. She believes being able to help out neighbors near and far is important. However, "If you find any money in any of the pockets, let me know," she joked.

Angerman said more than 30 people, businesses and organizations donated items. "Hannah's Place donated pajamas, blankets, baby clothes, hats and gloves," she said. "We're making a 'thank you' post for donors with a picture of everything that was donated."

River's Mouth Thrift Store also donated many items, including blankets. "I went over there, and they were like, 'Grab what you want,'" Wright said. "They're donating blankets and clothing and boots."

For those who couldn't bring donations to the carving shed, WCA staff scheduled pickups to collect items.

The WCA has received and sorted all the donated items they can take. Wright said they will send them to the Tlingit & Haida offices in Juneau, which is collecting donations from all over Southeast. All the items will then be shipped to Western Alaska for distribution to those in need.

Wright said the WCA is now looking for heavy-duty boxes to ship the items to Juneau.

Northwest Alaska was hit by more rough weather and high winds at the end of last week.

"They said winter is hitting really hard, really fast up there," Wright said.


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