Juneau's generosity is what I'm thankful for

Posted: Sunday, November 22, 2009

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea pulled into Juneau on Wednesday, and the following morning about 20 crew members, led by Chief Warrant Officer Joel Moore and Chief Petty Officer Daniel Bitzer, came to the Glory Hole with food, paint brushes, spackling, rollers, coffee and the cheeriest, most pleasant attitudes.

That morning and the next, these wonderful men and women cooked breakfast for the Glory Hole patrons. The breakfasts were excellent: hash browns, corned beef hash, bacon and French toast. The crew asked all the patrons how they wanted their eggs and served up each plate as exactly as ordered.

The Polar Sea crew painted, organized the freezer, completed other much needed tasks, and then smiled and left. Following in their footsteps, a group with Southeast Alaska Guidance Association (SAGA) arrived to cook lunch and volunteered time painting, sorting through donations and other projects. They too were full of energy, kindness and character.

A few days earlier, the Juneau Empire reported that the Glory Hole was short on items for our humble holiday baskets. Currently 107 families (totaling 523 individuals) are signed up for the baskets, with only the smallest fraction of them being regular Glory Hole patrons. It wasn't long before donations began pouring in.

One person offered to donate $100 worth of cranberry sauce, and another person's mother - who lives in Florida - heard about the Glory Hole's need and mailed us a very generous cash donation. Then another large donation was made by someone locally.

Jeffrey Miller, who organized a food drive for the Glory Hole at the U.S. Forest Service office, arrived with turkeys, pies, canned goods and stuffing. St. Nicholas Orthodox Church brought in another truckload of food. More turkeys, money and other items came from Super Bear, Wal-Mart, Juneau A&P, and Safeway. More canned goods came from the Coast Guard Chiefs and more individuals arrived bearing needed items: socks, hats, gloves, turkeys, pies. The turkeys donated were placed next to those gathered by Karen Lawfer through the Turkey Trot. The Glory Hole patrons jumped into action, organizing baskets, cleaning, counting and helping in every possible way.

All of this happened a week after the campground referred to as "The Hill" closed, followed by the mudslides above Gastineau that displaced many homeless campers. The community's generosity in response to these events has been awesome. Alaska Electric Light & Power Co., the City & Borough of Juneau, community members and supporters in the Lower 48 have rallied to help. Space, tents, tarps, lumber, money and other needed items continue to roll in and are now being distributed to those most in need. All of these occurrences are but a few examples of the generosity Juneau has shown to those who are less fortunate. I cannot thank all the Juneau businesses, individuals and faith-based organizations enough. They cook dinners, donate food, money, clothing, furniture and professional expertise.

As Thanksgiving looms closer, amidst counting turkeys, hoping to have enough meat in the freezer and firewood for my stove, I'll also be thinking about what I am thankful for. This year more than ever, I am thankful for how amazing our community is. I am grateful for our community's kindness, compassion and generosity, for the grace and beauty of human spirit which abounds right here and shines so brightly and concretely in both times of trouble and in times of celebration.

I think we will have enough money and items for a holiday basket for everyone who needs one. The socks, hats, gloves and coats that came in so far have been nicely organized by a delightful young man who volunteer to help out.

The first big winter storm passed last week but as always many more storms, rains, winds and other challenges are on their way. The pies, vegetables, cans and other items everyone has provided seem like a shelter. This is a great community, a great state and a great country to be in while facing these challenges in - and for that I am truly thankful.

• Mariya Lovishchuk is a Juneau resident and executive director of the Glory Hole.

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