Contributed by Michele Harmeling
Uniting the Mat-Su in the Wake of Disaster
United Way of Mat-Su has long been known for its quick and compassionate response to natural disasters locally, including in the aftermath of the Sockeye Fire of 2014. So, although your United Way of Mat-Su staff and board were certainly rattled by the recent earthquake, we took immediate action in assisting Mat-Su Valley residents with disaster recovery.
Homeowners whose homes may have sustained structural damage in the quake are encouraged to fill out an application for State Individual Assistance online. Visit Ready.Alaska.Gov to complete this form. Questions? Call the State Disaster Assistance Hotline at 1-855-445-7131.
Earthquake Hotline and Water Treatment
UWMS has established a hotline for those in need of further assistance after the earthquake. If you or someone you know has a need directly related to disaster recovery, please call (907) 745-5826 and leave a detailed message, including your name, location or address, and a description of your needs. A UWMS staff member will return your call promptly to guide you through available resources. For those still experiencing potential water contamination, water treatment drops are available at the UWMS office, free of charge. You may pick up drops at 550 S Alaska St, Suite 205, Palmer, AK (located above the Palmer Downtown Deli).
Bringing Potties to the People: Meeting Basic Needs After A Disaster
In times of strife, United Way of Mat-Su works to identify and assess where basic needs are not being met and implements fast, collaborative solutions.
We received word from the Red Cross of Alaska’s Wasilla office that residents of Creekwood Park Apartments were without water and sewer on December 3, 2018. Working quickly, the Red Cross of Alaska-delivered pallets of bottled water, and UWMS oversaw the rental and delivery of Port-A-Potties to the Creekwood Park parking lot. Property management and inspection crews worked hard to confirm the safety of all units, and residents were able to fully return to their apartments just two days later.
Additionally, we continue to identify residents whose heating oil tanks may have been destroyed or damaged, and will be purchasing, delivering and helping to restore heat to homes in need. If your heating oil tank or Toyo stove was damaged, please call the UWMS Earthquake Hotline at (907) 745-5826).
The Gift of Warmth
As the dust settled, it became clear that many Valley schools were severely affected. In particular, Houston Middle School has been deemed a total loss. HMS students will be moved to Houston High School for the remainder of the school year, but many were evacuated from the middle school building without their personal belongings, including winter jackets. The Mat-Su Borough School District contacted UWMS with this news, saying that many HMS students do not have backup winter gear at home.
Through the generous partnership of Mat-Su Health Foundation, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Fred Meyer, Wal Mart, and with the help of MSBSD faculty and staff, United Way of Mat-Su purchased over 300 new winter coats for HMS students. During a joyous event at Houston High School, on Monday, December 10, students and their families were able to visit the Houston High School library for a “shopping” event, choosing from tables loaded with brightly-colored, warm coats. Other community partners, including MTA, Target, Three Bears Alaska, and the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, came together to provide replacement school supplies, snacks and gym shoes.
What a joy it was to watch students excitedly trying on coats of all kinds, modeling for their families and friends before deciding on a favorite! UWMS will also be delivering coats for students in need at Big Lake Elementary and Houston High School. We were honored to contribute to ensuring a happy, successful school year for our local students.
Updates to school re-openings, schedules and closures continue to be posted to the MSBSD Earthquake Update page. Visit: https://sites.google.com/apps.matsuk12.us/msbsd2018earthquake/home
Additional Resources and Information
The Red Cross of Alaska continues to collect contact information and answer questions regarding disaster recovery across the Mat-Su. For more information on their ongoing efforts, please call (907) 357-6060.
ENSTAR’s Facebook page has featured a series of informational videos on checking your home gas lines for leaks, turning off your gas meter, and what to expect after a disaster. To view, please visit https://www.facebook.com/ENSTARNatGas/ If you have further questions regarding your natural gas service please call 1-877-907-9767.
The Salvation Army Mat-Su Valley Corps assists Valley residents with basic needs at all times. Visit the Salvation Army at 12271 E Palmer-Wasilla Highway, or call (907) 745-7079 for details.
For tips on water cleanliness, please visit ADEC page at http://dec.alaska.gov/commish/public-service-announcements/earthquake-recovery-homeowners/