The Coast Guard Cutter Liberty returned to port several thousand pounds lighter last Friday after spending a week and two trips delivering donated blankets, coats and toys to Pelican, Elfin Cove, Hoonah, Kake and Angoon.
The items were donated by Juneau residents during the Coast Guard's 12th annual Blanket, Coat and Toy Drive.
"There were so many items donated, on both trips we were full," said ship captain Lt. Brian Tesson. "We just didn't have any more places to put anything."
Tesson estimated his crew delivered at least 2,000 pounds of blankets, 2,000 pounds of coats, and 1,000 pounds of toys.
Someone with experience making even larger deliveries also helped out - Santa Claus was on board for a little while, and kids in Angoon got a chance to talk to him.
Based on the estimates provided by each town's mayor, more than 1,000 people benefited from the drive, Tesson said.
"Seeing the folks in these different communities, how much they depend on us to bring them something to keep them warm - some of them are having a really tough time economically," Tesson said. "It was eye-opening and at the same time really humbling to see what these folks are coping with, and to visit them in a different capacity than we do normally. It's really heartwarming to go to these communities and give back to them for what they've done for us over the years."
The Liberty just celebrated its 20th anniversary serving Southeast Alaska last week.
Several area businesses and organizations participated in the drive. Taku Fisheries donated bins that the Coast Guard placed at Costco, Wal-mart, Safeway, Alaska & Proud, Super Bear Supermarket, Nugget Mall and the Juneau Federal Building. Alaska Laundry and Dry Cleaners cleaned all the items for free. Les Schwab Tire Center donated large yellow tire bags, the Girl Scouts helped load the boat on one of the trips, and there were lots of donations from the Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, Tesson said.
The crew also put in a lot of time collecting, cleaning and sorting donations.
"It was definitely worth all of the time and effort. It was very rewarding for the crew," Tesson said. "We're optimistic that the communities will definitely be benefited."
Tesson added a thank you to Juneau residents, saying the amount of donations was "incredible."
"It's particularly heartwarming given that the economy has been down and people are still giving back," he said.