A Silver Miracle

Contributed by Charice Chambers

A small silver miracle has happened once again in the Mat-Su borough. For valley seniors, a meal of fresh silver salmon, a dinner many seniors could not afford to purchase, is on the menu at Palmer senior center. Thanks to Northern District Setnetters Association, Mat Valley seniors have the opportunity to dive into one of Alaska’s best renewable resources.

Chef Phyllis Moore prepared the long-awaited silver filets with a tart wild blueberry sauce. According to Frank Bird, it was perfect. The dinner also provided an opportunity to reminisce about his setnetting experiences on the Kasilof, and of the 21 fish he brought home a few years back. Long-time fisherman Pete Christenson expounded on the culinary superiority of silvers over reds and kings, though not everybody at his table was in agreement. Mary Campbell, who is new to Alaska, declared that no matter the type of salmon, she loved it all. “It’s worth moving to Alaska for!”

The brainchild of fisherwoman Page Herring and husband Bob Cellers, Silvers for Seniors has become a well-established tradition at Mat-Su Senior Services. Each year members of Northern District Setnetters enthusiastically donate a portion of their catch during a single day of the fishing season to the Center.

Northern District Setnetters like Gary Swan are happy not only to donate, but also show up at the dinner to swap fishing stories with seniors. This year, Swan regaled seniors with tales that included the swamping of his boat in a thirty-foot tide and the eight-foot surf that accompanied it. Fortunately, there were no injuries. With the help of fellow setnetters, the boat was righted, pulled off the sand, and towed back to town where it is being repaired. Swan is quick to point out that setnetting is generally a family business. Both son Daryl and daughter-in-law Denise Swan fish their site near Fire Island. Daryl, who started setnetting at sixteen with several of his high school buddies, eventually acquired his own permit as an adult. He proudly points to his three kids and says they’ll one day be delivering fish to the senior center as part of the Silvers for Seniors program.

Since the inception of Silvers for Seniors, Copper River Seafoods has also done much to make the event a success. Each year the company has provided a tote with ice to haul fish from the Port of Anchorage to the Center in Palmer. They have donated fish as well. Created by a trio for Cordovan fishermen, the company believes that salmon represent a limited natural resource that must be cared for and respected. Copper River Seafoods has always tried to support the community. Giving to seniors is a form of repayment.

This year’s donation will put to good use. The Center will be able provide nearly 180 meals for local seniors, and an additional 117 meals for local home bound seniors, through the Home Delivered Meals program. Additional salmon will be used in salads and salmon soup throughout the fall season.

During the last fiscal year, Mat-Su Senior Services provided 42,455 nutritious congregate noontime meals in their community dining facility. Additionally, 91,859 meals were delivered to homebound senior and eligible individuals during the same period. According to MSSS Executive Director Fred Traber, donations such as Silvers for Seniors are a much-needed supplement to achieve both financial and nutritional food goals of the Center.