It’s been a few months since I last wrote about my journey in Alaska at Love INC (soon to be Helping Alaska). With the change in weather – much colder than July – I thought I would share my perspectives, as I promised I would do.
From our Communications Director
I could hardly believe I woke up this morning to a -29 degrees temperature. Jason Kempthorne, our soon to depart Executive Director, gave me fair warning that it was coming. It’s such a stark contrast from July, when the days are pleasantly warm and long. Today they are cold and dark.
This is much the way things were in my own life before moving to this Arctic paradise. Life in the lower-48 was much different. I came from the corporate world. I dealt with crisis daily. I wore suits to work and felt like I had to be the image of perfection all the time. It’s not that way here. Jeans and a sweater suffice and imperfections are not only welcomed but expected.
I continue to hear compelling stories of faith, hope, and love. It seems to abound here. There is a sense of togetherness that you don’t feel in the lower-48, at least not the city I was from. Everyone here, from our donors to member churches and staff and our Board of Directors, are one big family.
With the cold snap, I thought of a man referred to us from the tiny town of Moose Creek. When I started visiting him in July, he was disheartened and disenfranchised. He was living in a converted bus (I’ll ask him if I can take a photo later today), without running water or septic service. He contacted Krystal at the mayor’s office to discover any resources to help him dig a septic tank and run water lines from his well. I started seeing him about once a month on my way home from work and was encouraged by his progress. With help, he was able to install a permanent septic system and tap his well for much-needed water. This morning, even at -29 degrees, his water and septic were flowing and not frozen. He’s creative; a person who prefers to live off the land, if possible, yet wants a few modern conveniences.
On the topic of warmth, David Weissman & Ellen Weiser graciously donated $10,000 to our Heating Fuel Assistance Fund and earmarked more in matching donor contributions through the end of this month. With temperatures well into the sub-zero arena, I’m sure many people will continue to benefit from their generosity. Mr. Weissman and Ms. Weiser have committed to donating dollar-for-dollar funds for all we can raise through the end of November.
You can participate in the matching funds program by donating to the Heating Fuel Assistance Fund through our website or by directly mailing your contribution to our office. If you prefer to mail your contribution, be sure to earmark it for this matching Funds drive.
For Mr. Weissman and Ms. Weiser, selecting an organization to contribute to wasn’t an overnight decision. They interviewed several agencies around town to determine if the agency matched their philosophy and if the agency had a history of fiduciary responsibility. In the end, like you, they choose us. It’s an honor that we were selected, out of all the excellent choices in the Tanana Valley.
I’ve encountered more signs of hope and love in the community. Another example that comes to mind is a woman who began working with one of our Program Directors several months ago. As a victim of domestic violence, she was trying to raise her two young children on her own, with no family support. She found herself in a shelter; it was necessary to escape the hostile environment she was living in. The shelter wasn’t the right fit for her so she needed to locate another option that worked long-term.
She found stable, long-term, employment and through the tenacity of our program director, she also found a permanent place to live. Along the way, guess what? She encountered the peace of our Lord through the testimony of our program director and other volunteers she encountered and subsequently has committed her life to Christ.
It’s an inspiring but not unfamiliar story. This agency leads the people we serve to explore the good deeds our living God performs. It’s reflected in the hope we show and the prayers we share and the good we do. All of this wouldn’t be possible without you. You put us in a position to affect and change those lives for the better. My mantra: with you, we can. In this case, “With you, again, we did.” If you’re interested in reading more of these stories, consider subscribing to our quarterly newsletter. Send me an email or give me a call and I’d be more than happy to include you.
I wrote about my journey here. As an update, this agency gave me another gift on November 9th. My son, after returning from his two-year-long Christian mission, wanted to experience what I’ve been raving about first hand. He came to work for us. He’s a full-time mortgage and rent relief specialist. He finds the opportunity to use his bilingual skills rewarding, but more importantly, he enjoys an environment where he can take the opportunity to pray with the people we serve. He tries to end every call with a prayer of hope, just like the other 17 specialists in his department do.
Concerning the Lord’s gifts, on November 9th I was given my dream for a second chance with my family. Wanting to be married to the same woman for a second time was a dream ever since our divorce. It became reality when this son married us at Love INC on Tuesday of last week. So many people have been a part of our family’s spiritual growth and change that Stefanie and I wanted the staff of Love INC / Helping Alaska to be involved on such an important day.
I couldn’t think of a better place or better people to involve in this chapter of my life. Yes, we will have a reception next year (when it’s warm outside) but we wanted the blessings attached to this place in our lives, now. Truly, I can’t paint a picture for you that you can touch and feel, which showcases the good this agency does for our community at large, and yes even the people who work here.
When Jason hired me earlier this year, he told me we would likely be going through some changes at the end of the year. The potential for a name change was in play and last month that became a reality. I’ve been diligently working on that endeavor. What I didn’t know, was that Jason, too, would be departing. Jason brought me here. Jason showed me the good our agency does. Jason introduced me to the people we serve and enabled me to encounter the stories of faith, hope, and love presented to everyone around us. Jason also knew a part of my story and encouraged me to discover what more God has to offer here. I’m glad he did. He will be missed but I’m sure I now have a lifelong friendship with him and his wife.
Jason also introduced me to Dean McDaniel. Since my first day, Dean has been a champion for the agency. Many of the cases I have discussed have been directly influenced or impacted by Dean’s touch. He’s empathetic, competent, and wise. As the director of Loving Families, he has encountered many challenges and networked with many agencies in the Tanana Valley, to overcome those challenges. As the Board of Directors’ selection for Interim Executive Director, his no nonsense approach to fiduciary matters, transparency, and oversight will continue to be a cornerstone of what we do.
Please consider joining us Tuesday, November 23, 2021, between 4-6 PM for Jason’s community going away party. Shake the guy’s hand. For the past eight years, he’s led this agency through growth and development. He’s brought on competent staff that is enabled and funded by you. He’s championed change in our community and given hope to the people we serve. Dean will take over his role before a new director is hired and he will be amazing at it.
I look forward to the next time we can join each other through this update. I’m always just a phone call away. Please always reach out (through email or by phone) if you have questions or if there’s something I can help clarify. If you just need a heartfelt story, I’ve got time for that too.
Love INC. of the Tanana Valley / Helping Alaska
609 3rd Street. Fairbanks, AK 99701