Alaskans reach out to help

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2001

Helping is something at which Alaskans excel. And distance is no deterrent.

In the wake of Tuesday's horrific events in Washington, D.C., and New York City, Kenai Peninsula residents are literally rolling up their sleeves to help thousands of victims and their families on the other side of the continent.

Donations at the Blood Bank of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula Center in Soldotna kept six staff members busy all day Tuesday.

"We saw 75 people," said Rita Wydra, blood bank manager. "On a usual day we would be lucky to get 10."

On Wednesday, the blood bank was temporarily closed, waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to lift the closure of airports across the United States, but was planning to reopen today at 9 a.m.

Wydra said donors on Tuesday came from as far away as Homer and included "a lot of people visiting family up here."

The unusually large crowd caused Tom Blazy, who owns the mall where the blood bank is located, to help set up a temporary waiting area, pulling in couches to make donors comfortable. Wydra said food for the staff and donors was donated by Charlotte's Express, McDonald's, Jersey Subs, Safeway, Carrs, the Popkorn Factory, Amy Chadwich of the Kenai Care Center and Barbara Waters with the Kenai Lions.

"I want to thank everyone that has helped us," Wydra said. "It's really been overwhelming. It's unbelievable how everyone in this community pulled together."

She said anyone interested in giving blood should, "eat really well and drink a lot of juices and water the day before donating."

United Way and The New York Community Trust have created the September 11 Fund for people wanting to help the victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks, according to Evy Gebhardt, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula United Way. Dollars collected will provide immediate support to established emergency assistance agencies, such as the American Red Cross.

"All proceeds go toward the impacted areas in New York and Washington, D.C.," she said. "This is completely autonomous and independent of the United Way campaign. All proceeds go strictly to agencies needing assistance."

Donations can be taken directly to Seekins Ford and Kenai Chrysler Center. They can also be mailed to United Way September 11 Fund, 2 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016, or made via the World Wide Web at

On Wednesday, Debra Holle, branch manager for the Kenai Peninsula Red Cross, was busy responding to requests for shelter assistance. She said she also had received inquiries from people wanting to make monetary donations.

"Checks should be made to the American Red Cross and on the memo line write 'Disaster Relief Fund,'" Holle said. "And anyone interested in preparing for the future by getting volunteer disaster response training should call the Red Cross office at 262-4541."

Salvation Army Commanding Officer Craig Fanning, of Kenai, said a national disaster assistance number has been activated by the Salvation Army in relation to Tuesday's events.

Callers to 1-800-SAL-ARMY will be able to receive information regarding counseling services and missing persons information. Callers also can make prayer requests or make contributions to assist with ongoing relief and recovery efforts in New York and Washington.

The Salvation Army in Anchorage also is helping identify and meet the needs of travelers stranded at the Ted Stevens International Airport. Cash and credit card donations can be mailed or delivered to the Salvation Army Alaska Divisional Headquarters at 143 East Ninth Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99501. Donations should be marked "Alaska Disaster Relief Fund."

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