Going Forward with Purpose and Partners
by Jacqueline Dailey
As with many organizations throughout the state, RurAL CAP too, has experienced a renewed sense of our commitment to the mission of the organization, and to take to heart what the founders of RurAL CAP envisioned. The first years’ Board Presidents in the ‘60’s, Ralph Perdue (Fairbanks), Dan Lisbourne (Pt. Hope), and Marlene Johnson (Juneau) set the tone for future years to empower low-income Alaskans through advocacy, education, affordable housing and direct services that respect unique values and cultures. Staying rooted in our purpose is especially critical during a time of the State’s fiscal realities and the uncertainties at the federal level with a new Administration. We recognize now, more than ever, the need to refocus on what has sustained us for over 50 years and to team up with common purpose partners that helps us all succeed.
Our founders took hold of the opportunity for rural Alaska to be included in building our state with those who had been here for centuries. RurAL CAP’s formation came six short years after Statehood, and as with any new government empowerment, the interests of the newer road system communities needed to be inclusive of the long-time outlying ones.
In the formation days of RurAL CAP, Alaska’s major urban centers, Anchorage and Fairbanks, formed their own Community Action Programs. Due to the sparse distribution of the remainder of the state’s population over an immense geographic area, ASCAP (Alaska State Community Action Program) was created to coordinate and oversee funding for Community Action activities in the rest of the state. In 1968, ASCAP changed its name to the Rural Alaska Community Action Program (RurAL CAP), the name that rural people still correlate with Head Start, weatherization, Rural Providers’ Conference, and dozens of other programs that continue to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
We pay tribute to those early founders whose interests continue with today’s Board and the renewed commitment to the mission of RurAL CAP. It has remained true to the mission over the years in addressing housing shortages in growing communities, economic development opportunities, meeting veterans’ needs, healthy families and communities, respect for and sustaining local interests, building capacity at the local levels.
In addition, we pay tribute to Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC) who is commemorating its 50th anniversary this year. Established by RurAL CAP in 1967, they were unable to recruit attorneys from within the state and brought in 6 VISTA volunteer lawyers the first year who worked out of regional and village offices. We too, thank those early legal pioneers who were deployed to these rural communities: thank you, Bill Timme-Ft. Yukon, Chris Cooke-Kotzebue, Bill Christian-Bethel, Frank Pommersheim- Dillingham, Gordon ‘Spike’ Stein-Nome, and Dennis Sabbath-Kodiak. Their contributions and impacts are well known today after several made Alaska their home and worked for the Native community. ALSC continues to serve the legal needs of Alaskans who are not able to afford to hire their own attorneys.
The focus on reviewing RurAL CAP’s formation is timely with the Board’s hiring of our new CEO, Dr. Gary Ferguson who comes to RurAL CAP with statewide knowledge and experience. During the past 15 years, Dr. Ferguson has served the Alaska Tribal Health System, most recently as the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s (ANTHC) Senior Director of Community Health Services. He is the co-producer of ANTHC’s Store Outside Your Door initiative, addressing food and nutrition security in rural Alaska. With roots in Cold Bay, he has commercial fished and brings a wealth of knowledge and a holistic approach to overall community, family, and personal well-being.
We invite you to visit our website for more information on our history and to review our many programs and the impacts to the thousands of people across the state receiving early childhood education services, housing improvements, affordable and supportive housing services, youth resiliency through Elder Mentors and related health and well-being programs.
Thank you for your continued support. RurAL CAP will remain focused on our mission towards our vision of Healthy People, Sustainable Communities, Vibrant Cultures. It is an honor to serve. Again, we extend a warm welcome to Dr. Ferguson and look forward to supporting his work in creating new partnerships and strengthening existing ones with the goal of sustaining the outcomes for those we serve.