Fairbanks area mines look after seniors
Donations will help deliver meals to area's most vulnerable
Last updated 3/20/2020 at 6:56am
Amidst the scramble to prepare for an imminent pandemic that is roiling mining and metals markets, the three large mines in Interior Alaska have taken the time to look after the members of their community most vulnerable to COVID-19.
On March 12, Kinross Fort Knox Mine, Northern Star Resources Ltd. Pogo Mine and Usibelli Coal Mine collectively donated $21,000 to support an emergency funding request received from the North Star Council on Aging for the Fairbanks Senior Center.
The Fairbanks Senior Center has been providing home-delivered meals to seniors at-risk for hunger and isolation since 1973 through programs such as Meals on Wheels. In preparation for the arrival of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Alaska, the senior center began preparing 400 senior-friendly emergency boxes.
Darlene Supplee, executive director of the Fairbanks Senior Center and North Star Council on Aging, said, "These boxes will have easy-open flip-tops and will feature balanced meals to many of our community's seniors for 14-days."
The senior center expects that more than $25,000 in funding will be needed to assist the area's at-risk aging population. However, the funds from Kinross, Northern Star Resources, and Usibelli will significantly help them get started.
"The Fairbanks Senior Center is ecstatic to receive such a generous offer from the Interior mining community. Their consistent support of our senior population truly touches us," Supplee stated.
In addition to the support from the Interior mining companies, the Fairbanks Senior Center also received a $2,000 private donation.
"We hope that a collective financial gift on behalf of the area's operating mines will prompt others to consider a donation themselves, no matter the size," said Anna Atchison, external affairs manager for Kinross Fort Knox Mine.
According to the senior center, the cost of a two-week box averages $65, or just $5 a meal.
"The generosity of these mines are the reason we can provide senior-friendly, shelf-stable food boxes at this critical juncture as we prepare for the weeks ahead," said Supplee.
The mining industry has a long history of supporting the many non-profit agencies in Alaska that provide services to those most vulnerable and in need in our community.
"It was an easy decision to support the request," said Lisa Herbert, vice president of public relations for Usibelli Coal Mine. "We applaud the senior center for being proactive as the state and borough try to determine how much, and in what specific ways, the COVID-19 pandemic will impact us."
Wendie MacNaughton, external affairs manage for Pogo mine added, "Given our geographic location, it's important to put a plan in place that will assist our community's seniors."
The Fairbanks Senior Center closed the building to all foot traffic on March 16, to reduce the possibility of the virus getting inside the building.
Should COVID-19 reach the building itself, the center will be completely closed, and basic services and Meals-on-Wheels will be delivered remotely.
To prepare for this, the senior center is partnering with the Fairbanks Food Bank to prepare shelf-stable meal boxes for Meals-on-Wheels. These meals would be delivered directly from the Food Bank. This new process is expected to add a $10,000 expense to the center's already slim budget.
In response to the donations from Fort Knox, Pogo and Usibelli, the Fairbanks Senior center wrote, "We thank these businesses from the bottom of our hearts."
COVID-19 has reached Fairbanks and as of March 19 there are three confirmed cases in the Golden Heart City. This number is expected to grow in the coming days and weeks.
Those that wish to donate to the Fairbanks Senior Center should do so by calling 907-452-1735 or online at https://fairbanksseniorcenter.org/.
EDITOR'S NOTE: COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for seniors and public outings often cause anxiety for our elders. Please make sure the seniors in your community have adequate supplies so they are not required to take the risk of going to public places and if you see an older person at the store provide them a safe distance and allow them to move ahead of you in line at check-out.