Sealaska is growing, and that growth is rooted in core businesses that are working to manage healthy lands, create exponential value and demonstrate sustainable stewardship. Our recent financial stability has enabled us to increase investments in what we care most about: our people and communities. This October, Sealaska invested in a local community program that directly betters elders in rural Southeast Alaska.
Erin Walker-Tolles relishes any chance she gets to visit senior centers in Southeast Alaska. Recently in Wrangell, she walked into the Southeast Senior Services branch as volunteers were baking fresh bread for the upcoming meal. A few minutes later, volunteers delivered scratch-made meals to elders around town.
“We are part of the community,” Erin said. “Our drivers will sometimes reach out to the elders’ family members reminding them, ‘I visited your grandma this week, and you should too!’”
For the last four years, Erin has served as the Executive Director of Catholic Community Services (CCS) in Southeast Alaska.
Through CCS, Southeast Senior Services provides healthy meals, socialization, transportation and personalized aid for anyone in the community at least 60 years old. The vast majority of members, volunteers and staff are Alaska Native. For some of the communities, this is the only social service available.
Financial Downturn Signaled Tough Decisions
Late last year, two of our smallest communities were on the verge of losing these services.
Out of 11 senior centers, they realized they could only keep nine open to make ends meet. Erin approached Sealaska to ask for help. Seeing how Catholic Community Services meets a specific need of caring for elders in small villages, Sealaska gifted $50,000 last October that they can allocate by need.
“We are so grateful for our donors and compassionate businesses who give,” Erin said. “Serving our elders is a community effort.”
Everyone Deserves Love and Compassion
Now, all of the centers are successfully running again, working toward the goal that every senior citizen can maintain independent lifestyles. With transportation needs met and some healthy meals provided, elders can continue to live in the places their families have lived for generations.
Last month in Hoonah, an island town of 780 people, an elder with deteriorating sight reached out to Catholic Community Services for help, according to Erin. This elder could not keep up with reapplying for benefits like Medicare and had lost them all. A Catholic Community Service case manager personally assisted him with filing his paperwork, reapplying for assistance, as well as rides to the doctor, daily socialization and meals.
“Our name can sometimes confuse people, but these services are for everyone! We do this because we believe everyone deserves love and compassion,” Erin said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Give Back and Get Involved
Beyond financial donations, Southeast Senior Services has volunteer opportunities across Southeast Alaska that give back to Alaska Native elders:
- Donate locally harvested or Alaska Native traditional foods to your local senior center. These meals feed the bodies and souls of members.
- Host an activity. You could teach an exercise class, lead a craft like painting or ceramics, or give educational talks.
- Visit with elders and listen to stories.
Sealaska & Catholic Community Services Elder Services
Are you a Sealaska shareholder who is 65 years old or older? Check out Sealaska’s elder benefits here.