ANCHORAGE, AK – The final six repairs to homes in Circle damaged as a result of last year’s spring breakup flooding along the Yukon River have been completed thanks to a united effort that included faith-based skilled volunteers, the State of Alaska and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
For more than six weeks, 27 Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers worked nearly 3,000 hours to complete the final repairs. Last summer, 27 Mennonite volunteers, three of whom returned to Circle this year, completed work on eight homes in the Interior Alaska community.
“I think the fact that MDS had been there in 2013 helped pave the way for us,” said Mennonite Disaster Service team leader Harold Miller. “We were not new to the community and the quality of our work had been established, so we just really only finished what had already been started.”
Circle’s First Chief Jessica Boyle and Second Chief Tanya Carrol welcomed the rebuilding help.
“I think the Mennonites are the best thing that’s happened to this community since the flood,” Boyle said. “I don't think a lot of people’s homes would have gotten repaired if they were not involved. They are master carpenters. These guys are craftsmen and they did more than I ever expected.”
According to Miller, the MDS mission is to restore hope. Miller said it took volunteers along with FEMA and the State of Alaska to make it happen in Circle.
Unlike other communities affected by the 2013 floods which are only accessible by air or barge, a 160-mile-long road connects Circle with Fairbanks. This allowed FEMA to transport construction supplies, equipment and other materials directly to the area. The state and FEMA also arranged for local lodging and in-state air travel for the volunteers.
“It was a real pleasure working with FEMA and the State of Alaska to get the needed materials and having them arrive in a timely manner,” Miller said. “I sincerely hope that any future disasters bring together the same partnerships to provide healing to those families whose homes have been damaged.”
In addition to leaving behind habitable homes for survivors, the Mennonites also left behind a reminder of the friendships made and the mission that brought them to the small, self-reliant community of about 90 people, primarily Athabascan Natives. The Mennonites presented homeowners and the community with a collection of handmade quilts symbolizing the unity of effort that came together in Circle.