Len Wikstrom, director of Missionary Aviation Repair Center, and Larry Jarrett, director of the local office of Samartian's Purse, load food bound for Hooper Bay into M.A.R.C.'s Beech King Air twin-engine turboprop Wednesday afternoon at Soldotna Munipal Airport.
M. Scott Moon
With no shiny red fire trucks, no water tankers and no professional firefighters, it came as no surprise that an Aug. 3 fire would destroy 35 structures, including a dozen homes, as it burned a 15-acre swath through the remote village of Hooper Bay.
About 250 of the village’s 1,100 residents were evacuated and 65 people were left homeless, eventually being forced to live with others in the village that already had a housing shortage.
The elementary school was destroyed as were the village store and fish stored to feed villagers through the coming winter.
Next week, however, many in the village will be giving thanks, grateful for the efforts of several people from the central Kenai Peninsula who have arranged to have food including Thanksgiving turkeys and handmade quilts flown to the coastal village about 500 miles west of Soldotna.
“Every family is going to have Thanksgiving dinner and food in their pantry,” said Sharon Isaak, a member of the Soldotna Bible Chapel, who was appointed purchasing manager for the relief effort by Hooper Bay Evangelical Covenant Church Pastor Grant Funk.
Isaak said as a result of generosity of churches and others in the community, the bedrooms of eight modular homes were packed with furnishings for 13 families displaced by the fire. The homes were then loaded onto a barge in Anchorage, which set sail on Monday.
At the same time, five homes being built by volunteers from Samaritans Purse were being readied for occupancy.
Besides purchasing couches, tables, chairs and dishes, Isaak also did the buying of staples to fill the families’ pantries, and turkeys and all the fixings for Thanksgiving Day dinner.
“I bought 13 of everything,” she said, including the turkeys, flour, sugar, coffee, tea and canned goods.
After doing the grocery shopping, Isaak said her cash register receipt “was about 10 feet long.”
In addition to donations from individuals, she said Fred Meyer, Liquidation World and the Hostess outlet store in Soldotna made all the food items available.
“I have no idea who they all are. There’s no way to thank all the people who helped,” Isaak said. “I just know God wanted it to happen.”
A plane load of food was to go out Thursday, Isaak said, and another load, including the turkeys, was leaving on Saturday.
Cindie Rice and other members of the Funny River Quilters work Thursday afternoon at the Funny River community center. The nonprofit group has donated 53 quilts to fire victims in Hooper Bay.
M. Scott Moon
Missionary Aviation Repair Center out of the Soldotna Airport was flying all the food, building supplies and volunteer workers to Hooper Bay.
“They’ve made at least 40 flights already,” Isaak said, of the MARC Air pilots.
Another group from the central peninsula was also busy helping in the relief effort.
The Funny River Quilters made 53 handmade quilts for all the families who lost their homes and all their possessions in the fire.
Cindie Rice, of Funny River Quilters, said it took the group of about 15 quilters six weeks to make the four full-size, two baby, seven girl child, three boy child, 14 teen, 11 adult female and 12 adult male quilts.
Rice said the group, consisting of mostly Funny River women, one Palmer woman and one Soldotna woman, heard about the fire victims’ losses through several different churches and decided to do the quilts.
The group has been making quilts for fire burn out victims in the Funny River community since 1998. They also make quilts for Heritage Place residents, Central Peninsula General Hospital oncology patients and newborns at CPGH whose families have nothing in which to take the babies home.
“I called Annette Hakkinen (Kenai Peninsula district director for the American Red Cross) and she told us how many quilts were needed,” Rice said.
The Funny River Quilters always donate their quilts. There is never a charge, Rice said.
“We do take donations of material and batting,” she said.
The group also conducts an annual golf tournament to raise funds.
“They’re beautiful quilts; you can tell they’re made with love,” said Isaak.
The quilts are to be distributed to the Hooper Bay families Saturday, when their Thanksgiving turkeys arrive.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek @peninsulaclarion.com.
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