Messages of support and donations pour into Chilkat Valley


December 17, 2020

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and supplies have entered Haines in the wake of the Dec. 2 landslide, including roughly $450,000 raised by seven Gofundme accounts, some for specific residents and others for the general recovery effort. The largest campaign, “Haines, Alaska Disaster Relief,” raised $218,950 in the eight days immediately following the disaster.

“When I heard about the slide and homes missing and blocked, I thought, people are going to need help, I should send messages with a link to where people can donate,” said Beach Road resident Rebecca Kameika, who started the disaster relief Gofundme.

The afternoon of Dec. 2, the same day Kameika evacuated from her home on the town side of the slide, she went looking for a Haines disaster relief donation page. When she couldn’t find one, she started her own.

“I really was just trying to get some money from people in Georgia, where I’m from. I thought I’d get like $1,500,” Kameika said. By the end of Dec. 2, the Gofundme had reached $8,000. “I thought, this is kind of a lot, and then the next morning, it was $30,000.”

Kameika said she quickly realized the Gofundme had reached a point where she couldn’t manage it on her own. Others in the community stepped in to help.

“It can be pretty overwhelming to see so much money come in so quickly,” said Sara Chapell, who has previous experience with nonprofit fundraising and joined Kameika as an organizer for the Gofundme. “The fund swelled past $50,000 in forty-eight hours. At that point, we knew we had to look for an organization, an entity to be the recipient.”

Chapell said they settled on the Salvation Army, transferring $218,950 to the organization on Dec. 10 and closing the page to new donations.

“We felt really comfortable making the Salvation Army the recipient. They assured us that the money would stay local to address recovery,” Chapell said.

Captain Kevin Woods said the Salvation Army is still working on a spending plan for the Gofundme money, as well as other donations coming into the organization. A significant portion of the funds will likely go toward long-term recovery, he said.

“The emergency part of (the disaster response), that’s happening right now, and that’s just the beginning of it,” Woods said. “In the long-term, (funding needs are) anything it takes to help people get their lives back together.”

Woods said the local Salvation Army will work with statewide leadership this week to come up with a recovery spending plan. He said how the funds get used will depend, in part, on what kind of aid becomes available from the state and federal governments.

While the past couple of weeks have been a dark time for the community, it’s been really moving to see all the donations coming in to help, said volunteers assisting with recovery efforts.

“(On the Haines, Alaska Disaster Relief Gofundme page,) there are hundreds and hundreds of messages of love and support and tenderness for our little town and that—it’s a pretty extraordinary thing. People know how special Haines is,” Chapell said.

A theater company in Juneau donated $1,000 because of members’ fond memories of performing in Haines.

“We’ve performed at the Chilkat Center many, many times over many decades, beginning in 1992. The times we’ve been able to come to Haines, we’ve been so generously hosted,” Theater in the Rough founder Aaron Elmore said in a phone interview Monday.

In total, more than 2,000 individual donors contributed to the Haines, Alaska Disaster Relief Gofundme, with donations ranging from $5 to a $10,000 donation from Anchorage-based construction company Turnagain Marine, which had a crew in town finishing up work on the Lutak Dock for Alaska Marine Lines when the slide hit.

“We were housing a few people awfully close to where the landslide occurred. They saw firsthand how scary it was down there,” Turnagain Marine president Jason Davis said, adding that several locals offered to put up crew members displaced by the landslide, a touching gesture the company wanted to reciprocate.

In addition to cash, donations to the Haines relief effort have taken many other forms, from countless volunteer hours to an entire inventory of Breeze In donuts that an anonymous Juneau resident shipped on the ferry, to Thor’s Fitness, which opened its doors to evacuees, to U-Haul trucks full of goods, the result of a collaboration between Juneau-based Southeast Alaska Standing Together and the Juneau U-Haul franchise.

“Van after van after van every time the ferry came in,” local organizer Sheri Loomis said. “We worked with (Southeast Alaska Standing Together) to provide items requested by the Legion and Salvation Army to feed and clothe people, and the Alaska Marine Highway comped us shipping.”

Other creative forms of relief include the “Shop Local and Save” program, which Haines Chamber of Commerce director Tracey Harmon is restructuring in an effort to provide relief to both displaced residents and local businesses.

Harmon said she realized some of the donated goods being sent to Haines were supplies local retailers already had on hand.

“We’re really grateful for everything coming in… but with overlapping disasters, sales have stopped. Businesses are really hurting,” Harmon said. “I’m trying to get an effort going where instead of sending physical donations, you send a monetary donation, and displaced residents can come to the chamber and we issue them vouchers (for local businesses, including grocery stores).”

She said the program’s similarity to the original “Shop Local and Save” program, a CARES Act-funded collaboration between the chamber and Haines Economic Development Corporation to incentivize local spending, makes it easier to set up.

Harmon said based on information provided by the Red Cross, she believes 33 families are eligible. Based on current program funding, a pooling of donations received by the chamber and the Chilkoot Indian Association, which is partnering on the program, each displaced family will qualify for $250 in vouchers. Harmon said more vouchers may become available as additional donations are received.

As Haines switches from dealing with immediate, emergency response to long-term recovery efforts, the need for financial assistance will persist, according to local organizations. Like the Salvation Army, many are starting to plan for the coming year.

“Who knows what will come up during the next year related to this tragic disaster?” Chilkat Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) board president Liz Heywood said. With this in mind, last week, CVCF set up an emergency response fund, which raised $13,000 in less than two days, and which Heywood said will continue to accept donations through 2021. “We’ll be able to use the fund to respond to (future) needs as they arise,” she said.

A page with verified donation and volunteer links can be found at


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