As we’ve had more opportunities than ever to serve our community, hard-working people like restaurant owners, first responders, teachers, and parents have been some of the most inspiring people to watch this year. It's people like you who made our outreach efforts possible and who showed us the power of community.
While we honored heroes with extraordinary stories, many of the heroes we encountered looked just like everybody else. They were members who went the extra mile, students who decided to take initiative, or business owners who persevered through hardship and came out stronger.
We’ll all remember many things from this unexpected year. For us at Denali, we’ll remember the hundreds of people we had the privilege of serving—and the many ordinary heroes who inspired us to continue.
As the owners of Altura Bistro, a local restaurant that benefited from our DenaliCares program, said, “Partnerships like this are what truly bring us together and remind us; we are in this together, we're going to make it through it together, and we're going to be better after it together."
Spreading joy with a successful Toys for Tots drive
Our most recent outreach, the annual Toys for Tots drive, was a huge success. We made it easier for our members struggling with the pandemic to participate by opening up an online option in addition to the in-person drop off, which many members utilized.
In California, we collected 588 toys to donate to children in need.
In Wyoming, staff, members, and others in the community helped to gather 75 toys for local children.
In Alaska, our toy collection surpassed our expectations—largely thanks to the Mitini family, who donated 150 gifts. Their 12-year old daughter Adalya took the initiative on the project, using her own $300 in savings to purchase toys and encouraging family members to share the program on their Facebook pages and start up a Go Fund Me. In total, we collected 350 toys in Alaska.
Thank you to everybody who donated to this effort. We’re so excited for all the kids these toys are going to bring joy to this holiday season.
A year of giving: DenaliCares, Honoring Heroes, and The Children’s Lunchbox
Throughout the year, we’ve run several other outreach programs. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Feeding Frontline Workers & Supporting Small Businesses - During the early months of the lockdown, we launched our DenaliCares initiative, a wide-ranging program designed to support our community through this difficult time and beyond. We provided over 4,000 free meals to frontline hospital workers and paid 12 local restaurants to provide them, who were then able to pay employees who had been out of work.
- Blood Drives - In light of the health crisis we find ourselves in, we organized blood drives on November 10th throughout the Anchorage area in partnership with multiple donation centers. Members, staff, and community members all showed up to support us and donate.
- The Children’s Lunchbox – At a time when parents are out of work and struggling to provide, we were able to donate 3,300 pounds of food and raise $3,000 for TCL’s Summer Meal kit program for kids in need.
- Gas Giveaway & Free Meals for Veterans - On Veterans Day, we each of our local branches handed out free gas cards to veterans in the area. We also partnered with the Anchorage Senior Activities Center to host “ASAC Veteran’s Appreciation Month.” This program included lunch for hundreds of seniors on Veteran’s Day, as well as a follow-up meal any time during the month for those who requested it. We also be distributed pre-packaged meals through AmVets Post 2, a non-profit group dedicated to serving local veterans.
- Celebrating Local Heroes - Throughout this year, we’ve also honored our local heroes by sharing their stories and awarding cash prizes. We’ve had the privilege of featuring first responders like Michael Pradin, a firefighter who has sacrificed family time to answer emergency calls and worked 24-hour shifts fighting the wildfires; frontline healthcare workers like Kelly Jones, an emergency room nurse and leader of CAL-MET’s COVID-19 strike team; and veterans like Michael Barrett, a Marine Veteran who served over 20 years, earned countless decorations, and continued to serve his community after retirement. These stories have inspired us. Even more, they’ve inspired many throughout the community—especially younger service members who look up to these heroes as examples.
Thank you for making our outreach possible
We’re grateful for all the people we met, members we were able to support, and lives we were able to touch. We’re also grateful for the people who came alongside us to make it possible, members, businesses, and staff.
As we look forward to 2021, we want to continue serving in the ways we have throughout this year. While we love honoring those who have sacrificed and currently serve in our community, we also want to build up and celebrate the younger generations who will be inheriting these roles as we have with programs like The Children’s Lunchbox.
A look forward: Building the next generation of heroes
The initiative of young people like Adalya, who helped her family donate 150 toys, is a reminder that her generation is the future. Other young people like her consistently show up at our events and are instrumental in making them run smoothly.
These are the kind of driven, motivated young people we want to support and encourage. After all, they are the next generation of patriots fighting for the freedom of our nation, teachers educating kids in need, frontline healthcare workers saving lives, and first responders ensuring our safety.
We look forward to a new year full of new opportunities. To find out more about our community service in the coming months, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.