When staff or volunteers from the American Red Cross of Alaska need to get somewhere fast, Ravn Alaska comes to their rescue.
The Alaska owned-and-operated transportation company has, for nearly a decade, provided transportation services to the Red Cross of Alaska. That could mean flying staff and volunteers to a remote community to respond to an emergency, or it could mean delivering pallets of bottled water and ready-to-eat meals to a village hit by a disaster.
The partnership is about more than transportation, however. Ravn Alaska employees regularly volunteer time with the Alaska chapter of the American Red Cross. In January, several Ravn Alaska employees volunteered during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, going door to door in an Anchorage neighborhood, checking that smoke alarms were working and installing new ones where needed. Ravn Connect President Jim Hickerson also serves on the Red Cross board of directors.
Ravn Connect is a division of the Ravn Alaska family that serves the scheduled passenger, cargo and charter needs of many smaller communities throughout Alaska, connecting them with mainline routes that serve larger hubs within the state such as Fairbanks and Anchorage.
“With Ravn, you just know that they will show up with their sleeves rolled up, hearts open and ready to help those in need,” said Lisa Miller, Red Cross of Alaska regional communications director.
American Red Cross of Alaska chief executive officer Tanguy Libbrecht said the partnership with Ravn Alaska is key to his organization’s ability to respond to disasters statewide.
The Red Cross office in Kodiak, he said, is thriving today — despite being run solely by volunteers — thanks largely to Ravn Alaska’s help.
“The way for me to grow that base is by having staff here go down once a month to work with volunteers,” Libbrecht said.
An employee from the Anchorage office takes a Ravn Alaska flight monthly to check in with volunteers in Kodiak to help provide training and any other support. Thanks to the monthly check-ins, the volunteer base has grown to nearly a dozen volunteers, Libbrecht said.
Last year, when a fire consumed a home and killed a resident in Kwethluk, Libbrecht said that the Red Cross contacted leaders in the village and asked if it could come install fire alarms in homes there, as well as teach schoolchildren about fire safety. A team from Red Cross flew to the village and had an install day. Another install day was held in nearby Bethel, he said, and elsewhere throughout the state.
Volunteers even responded to remote Savoonga to help after hurricane-force winds damaged about 30 homes near the end of 2016. They helped the community with disaster-preparedness, installed smoke alarms and spoke to schoolchildren about having a disaster-preparedness kit in their homes.
“We are often the first ones on the scene because of our ability to go through Ravn,” Libbrecht said. “They are really valuable.
“Because of our association with Ravn Alaska, we are able to have a statewide impact.”
Through donated transportation and volunteer help, Ravn Alaska helped American Red Cross of Alaska install more than 1,400 smoke alarms across the state in 2016. This year, Libbrecht said, the organization hopes to install 2,400.
Michael Wien, Ravn Alaska’s vice president of marketing, sales and public relations, said that Ravn Alaska sees the partnership as beneficial to both the communities it serves and the airline.
“A healthy airline needs a healthy community,” Wien said. “We encourage safety as an airline, and we want to give back. We can’t always commit to (helping) everyone, but it is a part of our business model, and we take it very seriously.”
Wien said the breadth of services Red Cross provides makes it an ideal partner for Ravn Alaska.
“Whether it be counseling, emergency services or preventative planning and safety, we walk hand in hand in so many ways,” he said.
Ravn Alaska helps a number of other organizations as well — charitable giving is evaluated both on a corporate level at the Anchorage headquarters and at the local level by station managers in the more than 100 communities across the state that Ravn Alaska serves. The company assists where it makes sense and if it falls within its budget for giving.
Ravn Alaska has nearly 900 employees, from mechanics, flight crew, baggage handlers and administrators to customer service agents, flight attendants and pilots, Wien said. Everyone who works at the company is encouraged to volunteer in the communities in which they live.
“We’re very supportive of num-erous charitable organizations around the state,” he said.
“It’s important to the state, and we give back as much as we can,” Wien said.
Rindi White is a freelance writer who lives in Palmer.
Red Cross of Alaska preparedness specialist Steven Fisher talks with residents of Savoonga in January. The Red Cross of Alaska team was one of the first groups to respond after the far western Alaskan village was hit with hurricane-force winds at the close of 2016.