JUNEAU - SAGA was awarded $24,500 grant in early March from the Rasmuson Foundation to help replace aging tools, equipment and van racks needed for its Serve Alaska Youth Corps and Alaska Service Corps programs.
In it's 25th year, Joe Parrish, executive director and founder of the group, said the money will be put to good use upgrading tools that are used often by youth to do everything from trail improvements to roadside shrub clearing.
"This grant couldn't come at a better time" Parrish said. "We've expanded our corps programs this year to accommodate about $500,000 in recovery funds from the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service to do projects throughout the state. Recovery funds help pay for many of the expenses related to operating youth and service corps programs, but not for the type of major infrastructure needed to expand capacity, such as vans for our crews."
No new vans are in the budget this year, but Parrish said they will be purchasing chainsaws, commercial-grade power brushes and roof racks.
And despite the extensive training SAGA organizes for its crews, safety is still a big concern.
"People's safety is SAGA's highest priority," Parrish wrote in an e-mail. "We provide a tremendous amount of education and training to support that priority. Having good equipment for people to operate however, is the other important part of the safety equation and we are grateful that the Rasmuson Foundation understands and supports that part as well."
Generally, SAGA enrolls about 100 participants each year in our youth corps programs. Now, with Rasmuson funding with recovery funds, SAGA will be able to provide opportunities for an additional 25-30 young adults between the ages of 16-25 to spend up to nine months in the Serve Alaska Youth Corps and Alaska Service Corps programs. Each will earn a monthly living stipend, an AmeriCorps Education Award, health insurance, valuable education and training and leadership skills to last a lifetime.
Crews of eight travel throughout the state performing priority projects for the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Alaska Department of Transportation, Bureau of Land Management, State Parks, other non-profits and local and Native government agencies.
"On behalf of everyone at SAGA I want to thank the Rasmuson Foundation for their continued support, and acknowledge that we are also grateful for our many other partners and sponsors that have been supportive over the years. You make it possible to make a difference," Parrish wrote.
For more informationabout SAGA visit www.servealaska.org.