The coronavirus pandemic brought twin disasters to organizations like HOPE (Helping Ourselves Prevent Emergencies), a nonprofit provider of support and advocacy to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Craig.
First, as has been well documented around the world, the pandemic brought a sharp uptick in rates of domestic violence. Sheltering in place with family members who are violent created an urgent crisis for people of all genders and ages.
At the same time, HOPE’s most important sources of unrestricted funding were immediately cut off. According to Tiffany Mills, HOPE’s executive director, her organization lost pull-tab gaming revenue when pull-tab parlors were forced to close, and had to cancel its annual Distinguished Men and Women dinner and fundraising event, normally held in October.
“Those are our main two sources of unrestricted funding — money that doesn’t have any strings attached,” Mills said. “We use that money to provide matching funds for grants, provide services for victims of domestic violence, go to people’s houses to do parenting education, to go check on children and make sure they’re okay, to buy groceries for people on occasion — any service we provide, which is a lot, we use it.”
That’s where Sealaska stepped in. HOPE was among the dozens of Southeast Alaska organizations to receive part of the $1.28 million Sealaska awarded to assist with the impacts of COVID-19. The $15,000 HOPE received allowed them to continue offering those services to at-risk adults and children on Prince of Wales Island.
“If we hadn’t gotten that money it would have felt to victims like we were pulling support away from them, but we didn’t have to and we’re so grateful for that,” Mills said.
Bill Bennett, the president of HOPE’s board of directors, is also the general manager for Alaska Coastal Aggregates, a Sealaska subsidiary based in Klawock. He also manages the Sealaska Carving and Bark Program, that donates paddles and cedar bark available for carving and weaving.
“We’re extremely grateful for the support,” Bennett said. “There’s certainly a lot of pride in working for (Sealaska) when they come to the aid of organizations like HOPE. Domestic violence is a subject that’s easier to just not talk about, and yet they’ve been there for us every time we need them.”
It was that taboo around domestic violence that prompted Bennett to get involved with HOPE. Several years ago, a woman was found dead in one of the quarries operated by Alaska Coastal Aggregates. Bennett gets audibly emotional when he talks about it.
“HOPE holds together the underlying fabric of our community, all the things people don’t want to talk about, and without it, it would be hugely detrimental to the community as a whole,” Bennett said. “Sealaska has strongly supported HOPE and has a deep concern for the welfare and health of our communities and villages here on Prince of Wales. They stood up and stood behind that when they were needed most.”
To learn more about Sealaska’s COVID-19 relief efforts, visit https://www.sealaska.com/news/coronavirus-updates/.