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Ariel Serrano, Kinship Family Resource Specialist and REACH Pantry Coordinator

The REACH Pantry is Serving Alaska’s Kinship Families

VOA Alaska’s January 2021 Newsletter. To receive this newsletter and other updates directly to your inbox, sign up here.

As the pandemic increased prices on necessities and reduced supply, VOA Alaska’s Kinship Family Program began hearing from caregivers that they were struggling to pay for basic needs. Even in regular times, household supplies can be luxury items for families when money is tight.

“Many times, living on a limited budget means choosing what can be bought each month and what has to wait until later,” shared one Kinship Family caregiver.

To respond to this need, the REACH Pantry was born with a mission to provide food, cleaning supplies, and other necessities to those who need it most. All families in the Kinship Family Program, which serves caregivers raising grandchildren and other relative children, and families in the REACH* program at VOA’s Trailside Heights housing now have access to a range of much-needed goods.  

Through CARES Act grant funding and a partnership with the Food Bank of Alaska, the pantry is stocked with a variety of items, such as diapers, laundry soap, toothpaste, cheese, canned food, frozen food, and juice. First aid kits and medication disposal kits are also often in supply. With the Kinship Lending Library, families also have access to books and games.

Our Kinship families have found relief in the pantry as an added resource to the many other supports the program provides at no cost. “This is a wonderful program for grandparents [and] the pantry is a plus,” says another caregiver. “I am very grateful for this program, especially for someone who is on a tight budget.”

A wide view of the pantry, showing the range of goods stocked.
The pantry opened just in time for Thanksgiving last year, and is continuing to grow its stock of supplies to better serve families in need.

If you or someone you know are raising a grandchild, niece, nephew, or other related child and are looking for help, visit voaak.org/kinship to learn how our team can assist you. If you would like to support the pantry by donating new and unopened items, please email Ariel Serrano, Kinship Family Resource Specialist and REACH Pantry Coordinator, at aserrano@voaak.org.

*REACH is an acronym for the five pillars of self-sufficiency: Resiliency, Education, Achievement, Career, and Health


Empowering LGBTQ+ Youth and Youth of Color

VOA Alaska’s Youth Permanent Supportive Housing Program has joined the Anchorage “Grand Challenge to End Youth Homelessness.” Youth houselessness exists today largely due to America’s long history of structural racism and systemic inequities. The Grand Challenge project seeks to end that pattern by ensuring our systems work for all youth, particularly Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) youth and youth of color.

Anchorage is one of ten communities in the country taking part in the initiative led by A Way Home America. It is a coalition of homeless youth providers, advocates, researchers, government agencies, philanthropists, and young people uniting behind a common goal. VOA Alaska’s role as a supportive housing provider for the Grand Challenge aligns with our vision of community that supports the hope, health, and healing of every Alaskan.


Wellness During COVID

In our Wellness During COVID podcast series, Lonnie Ridgeway, VOA Alaska Coalition Director, speaks with Alaskans about how their coping with COVID and learns from their expertise on how we can stay mentally, emotionally, and physically well during the ongoing pandemic.

In Episode 1, Lonnie sits down with Alaska Native artist and advocate Britt’Nee Kivliqtaruq Brower to check in how she’s coping with COVID, the role of culture, and some of the projects she’s been working on this pastyear.

New episodes will be released Wednesdays in the Wellness During COVID playlists on YouTube, Facebook, and Soundcloud. Or check of the recent posts from our Public Health & Prevention team to watch and listen right here in our blog.


Sponsor Spotlight

Thank you to the many Alaskans and organizations that were a shining light for youth in Alaska this holiday season! Your generous gift to VOA Alaska helps us deliver essential services to youth and families in Alaska at low or no cost. Together we are expanding access to mental, emotional, and behavioral well-being services for youth, supporting Alaskans raising relative children, and helping vulnerable young adults achieve self-sufficiency through supportive housing.

Check out the video below for a special thank you message from our team!

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Jordan Kamer, Health Educator at the Anchorage Health Department

Wellness During COVID – Episode 3

Focus on the Facts – Jordan Kamer, Health Educator at the Anchorage Health Department, shares how to stay safe during the ongoing pandemic, suggestions for managing screen time for you and your family, advice for dealing with COVID fatigue, and tips on staying mentally and emotionally well during this era of limited in-person social interaction.

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Wellness During COVID – Episode 2

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