By Stephanie Blake
As I interviewed the sample of local service organizations written of here, one resounding theme echoed through every single conversation.
Without such an outstanding community of people here in Chugiak and Eagle River, not a single one of these charities would float. Not one. And don’t they know it. There would be no snacks for the Boys and Girls Club, no food on the food pantry’s shelves, no way to maintain the Eagle River Nature Center and about a million other local good and necessary causes. It is the selfless service of so many regular folks that lights up our community with good will. You are the folks that pull over to help when someone has a flat on the Glenn. You shovel your elderly neighbor’s driveway. You give a pregnant woman a hand loading her heavy groceries into her car. You are the people who look out for each other and fuel family, church and charity with kindness. And that sets our community apart from just about 99.9% of the other places one could go on the map. It’s a privilege to live among you.
The Eagle River Area Rotary Club
Perhaps you’re familiar with the local Rotary Club’s “Duck Race” fundraiser at the annual Bear Paw Festival, but maybe you haven’t ever been told of the far-reaching impact this group of community servants has in other areas within Chugiak and Eagle River. Sometimes publicly, sometimes quietly, the local Rotary Club has been a cornerstone within our community for over 40 years. Thirty-eight members strong, this group of volunteers pours out their time and resources into a multiplicity of efforts to strengthen and aid the children growing up around us.
Every stage of local schooling has been in some way touched by the generosity of the Eagle River Area Rotary Club. Fundraising efforts are levied to sure up the store of supplies and necessities for children who have need in the elementary schools. Rather than buying one hundred backpacks or a slew of extra crayons, they actually put money in the schools’ hands so that they can evaluate real needs and make timely purchases for kids. In our middle schools, the Club runs the “Choices Program,” interacting with students to teach them how significant life choices are during high school. The program highlights the value of education and the ballpark earning potentials for high school drop-outs vs. graduates, vs. college grads. The Club gives a healthy dose of reality and encouragement, spurring the children to make good choices in high school that will lend to their future successes. Within our two local high schools, the Club works with teachers and staff to recognize and award students who are improving and applying themselves each quarter. Finally, the Club annually funds four scholarships for local high school graduates and sponsors an exchange student in Eagle River.
The Eagle River Lions Club
When interviewed, the standing president of this local club said, “We get to do good things for the community with other good people and have a good time doing it. It’s a win-win-win.” That seems to sum up the heart of this local service group. The Eagle River Lions Club is a group of volunteers who see themselves as standing in the gap to serve when crisis or needs arise as well as enjoying the humble pleasure of working together to help the residents of Eagle River and Chugiak enjoy our community.
The Lions Club maintains Lions Park in Eagle River and the building on it for community use. The facility became a necessary stopgap this winter for the local Boys and Girls Club. After the November 30th quake left considerable damages to the Boys and Girls Club’s building, they found refuge with the Lion’s Club. The Lions cheerfully opened their doors to the children for the weeks it took to repair all of the damages. Out of doors, Lions Park is the home of the Knick Little League, Pop Warner Football, the Bear Paw Rodeo, the annual New Year’s Firework display and celebration, and other community activities.
The July 3rd celebration at Lion’s Park is the Club’s most significant community effort. Welcoming thousands, they orchestrate the activities, vendors, raffle, and a massive firework display. In the autumn, the Lions work to provide holiday food baskets for the needy and host free community Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. They also sponsor a children’s ice fishing derby and promote a program called “Quest” which seeks to educate middle school-age children about bullying, drug abuse, and social/relational issues. Above all these efforts, many local initiatives and community improvement programs have found additional funding through the generosity of the local Lions.