Alaska Airlines landed at VOA Alaska this past week for their annual “Week of Care,” with two dozen employees visiting three programs to support the youth and young adults in VOA’s services.
“VOA just came to the top of the list as not only a wonderful organization doing wonderful work, but there was a need we could help fill,” said Marilyn Romano, Regional Vice President at Alaska Airlines.
Alaska Airlines’ “Week of Care” is a company-wide initiative in which local non-profits from various Alaska Airlines destinations are chosen for unique projects supporting their missions. VOA Alaska was chosen as the Anchorage non-profit partner at the recommendation of KC Hostetler, a Strategic Account Manager at Alaska Airlines and a member of VOA Alaska’s Board of Directors.
KC shared with her team her “profoundly moving experience” with VOA. “It’s just a blessing for me to be a part of this organization,” KC said, “and then, luckily, I work for a phenomenal company that has its roots in care, and ‘Week of Care’ is really about giving back to the community.”
Here at VOA Alaska, the Alaska Airlines’ volunteers began at the Adolescent Residential Center for Help (ARCH) revamping their activity and meditation rooms. The activity room revamp included a new TV and gaming system, bean bag chairs, new shelving for books, a rug, and a cozy electric fireplace. Next door, in the meditation room, colorful soothing lighting was installed, along with more bean bag chairs, soft pillows, and a sound machine.
In the afternoon, one group visited the Outpatient program, meeting with youth and sharing their career journeys. The team also learned about using naloxone (also known as Narcan), a medicine that reverses the effects of opiates and other narcotics. Afterward, they built 298 overdose first aid kits that will now be distributed to communities across the state via Project HOPE, a State of Alaska’s Office of Substance Misuse Prevention initiative.
A third group visited the Supportive Housing program, where they put together 20 move-in kits for young adults exiting houselessness. The kits contained many essential items to help the young adults get settled into their new homes, including sheets, a dish set, toilet paper, laundry soap, cleaning supplies, and toiletries.
Learning about VOA Alaska’s programs and sharing the day with her colleagues to give back to her community was something special for Marilyn. “I just feel really fortunate I work for a company who embraces days like this…the fact that I can log off my computer and join my co-workers from all over our operation—we’ve got customer service agents, we’ve got sales managers, we’ve got people that work on our ramp—that the company says ‘no, go and spend that time.’ It means a lot; it means a lot to do it with them.”
“It was incredibly fulfilling to spend time with VOA Alaska’s youth,” KC said, “answering their questions, doing projects together, and learning more about VOA Alaska’s impact on their lives. For our team, sharing our diverse backgrounds and helping youth see a path to a potential career with Alaska in their own futures was also deeply rewarding.”
One youth resident of ARCH, who spent the morning helping to build the electric fireplace, said it meant a lot to him as well. “Because it shows people are willing to support the program enough to reach out and help out,” he said, “and it’s just really cool.”
Another youth resident shared that he had asked for a Nintendo Switch the day before, “and it just appeared. It’s kind of like a miracle.” He said Mario Kart is the first game he’s going to play. A third resident added NBA 2K21 added to the list.
“They’re all really excited about having more opportunities within those rooms,” said Bre Cason, Program Director of ARCH. “I would like to say a big thank you to Alaska Airlines for considering us. This has been amazing and it’s really an honor to celebrate these youth with you all.”
The Alaska Airlines crew plans to return later this year, just in time for the holidays, to give the rooms a fresh coat of paint.