Employee volunteerism: Lorena's story
Lorena Hegdal is the Director of Right of Way and Emergency Preparedness & Compliance. At Alyeska and in the Native community, Lorena has build up a reputation as someone who will support and counsel students, interns, potential job candidates and new hires. She recently discussed the importance of mentoring the younger generation.
I had the good fortune of being born and raised in Nome, Alaska, where my family spent the entire summer at our fish camp. I went to the University of Alaska and, after considering a career in teaching, I realized my patience level with kids was probably not conducive to being a good educator. So, I ventured into engineering because math came somewhat easy to me. I’ve been at Alyeska for over 12 years and every day is interesting, challenging and educational.
AISES is the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, which is a national group that was formed in 1977 to substantially increase American Indian and Alaska Native representation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields – as students, professionals, mentors, and leaders. ANSEP is an Alaskan home-grown program, engineered and developed by Dr. Herb (Ilisaurri) Schroeder, which began with a single student in 1995. The program has grown each year and expanded; annual student enrollments increase each year along with a commensurate increase in graduates.
Most importantly, numerous Alaska Natives, American Indians, and Native Hawaiians are graduating with well over 200 bachelor degrees earned since 2002 (several masters and a few PhD’s have also been awarded). The program has expanded beyond Alaska and also into the middle and high schools for college preparation.
Both programs are successful and work toward the same goal of ensuring and motivating students to succeed in the STEM fields, where some students have been told that they could not succeed.
In the early 1980s, I began hosting an annual fall picnic for AISES students at my home in Fairbanks. Students gather off campus and eat muktuk, grilled and smoked salmon, herring eggs, and other goodies donated by friends from across Alaska. Both AISES and ANSEP students attend the annual picnic and have the opportunity to visit in a home environment. I continue to provide financial support for the programs and also mentor students.
Both ANSEP and AISES students that have successfully completed college continue to support the programs through financial donations, mentorship, leadership, and camaraderie. The students that come from rural areas and reservations truly understand the issues and challenges and are more creative in finding engineering solutions in their communities.
It’s important to help these students because it’s just the right thing to do. Moving from a small town or village to the city can be overwhelming. Programs that reach into the middle and high schools provide exposure to the larger cities, campus life, and to STEM field graduates who are also Alaska Native.
Throughout my career and work with students, I’m the lucky one. I’ve had the opportunity to see students succeed, to encourage and mentor fellow Alaska Natives at work and watch them excel in their career growth.
Employee volunteerism: Cheryl’s story
Cheryl Graan is Alyeska’s Inventory Control/Logistics Supervisor, based in Fairbanks. Graan has a proven reputation for being a go-to volunteer both at work and in the Fairbanks community.
Describe some of the volunteer activities you’re involved with. I’ve been the Pipeline United Way Co-Chair the past few years so I’ve been pretty involved in coordinating those activities. We have an agreement that whoever organizes and leads a fundraising event gets to select the recipient organization. Hospice, Food Bank and the Literacy Council have been my chosen recipients over the years. They are all very worthwhile organizations for different reasons.
I typically volunteer my time for the United Way Day of Caring, support the Food Bank drives, and recruit some of my friends for the annual Spring Clean-Up Day activity. I keep telling myself I need to get more involved with Special Olympics, but so far have only managed to give them money instead of time.
Have you always volunteered a lot? Since I moved to Fairbanks, I have volunteered more of my time. I’m an empty nester, so I have more free time and it makes me feel a better connection to the community. I’ve always enjoyed helping people, which could explain part of the reason why I’ve always worked in support roles at Alyeska.
Why do you think it’s important to volunteer? I enjoy the good fortune that working on TAPS has provided me. Understanding some of the challenges others face makes me appreciate my good fortune that much more. I believe in giving back to the community I live in as a means to strengthen the community. The needs in all our communities are very real and it wouldn’t take too much to be in a situation where one needed services provided by one of the organizations nor does it take much to help provide a better life for someone. If I can help someone succeed just a little bit, that is huge.
Do you have a favorite memory? Before I moved to Fairbanks, my daughter and I volunteered for the Special Olympics Summer Games held in Anchorage. When we arrived we were each partnered up with an Olympian from Team Fairbanks. My Special Olympian was Liz French. She was a sweetheart and what made it so special for me was the fact that she and my sister Karen could have been twins. They looked the same, had the same hairstyle and body type, enjoyed many of the same things in life and they both had a very loving personality and smile that warmed your heart.
What’s a favorite volunteer activity? The annual United Way close-out dessert auction is probably one of the funniest events we have in Fairbanks. The frenzy of the bidding and the comments from the auctioneers to increase that frenzy have been great over the years. Another recent activity took place last year during the Thanksgiving holiday. The lunch room crowd from DIF (the Fairbanks office building) volunteered their time at the Food Bank over one of our lunch hours. We had an assembly line going to sort, bag and box potatoes and onions. We were a team on a mission and managed to make a big dent in the 2,000 bags that were packed that day.
Alyeska hits the road
Keep an eye out for hearty Alyeska volunteers today as they hit the road – Dayville Road. They’re spending the morning cleaning up the 5-mile road that winds its way from the Richardson Highway to the Valdez Marine Terminal. The road is a popular thoroughfare for tourists and locals alike who bike and walk along it to catch a glimpse of wildlife, or snag a salmon from shore. To keep the Dayville Road in top form, Alyeska volunteers spend three mornings a summer cleaning up trash on the side of the road.
Regardless of the rain, it’s great to take a little time to clean up the grass and sidewalks, said Rosie Tapp, an administrative assistant on Terminal. “We’re proud of this community and want it to look its best,” Tapp said. “It’s great to take a little time to clean up the grass and sidewalks, especially when it’s sunny out.”
Alyeska kicks off the age of asparagus
This summer marks the 12th year Alyeska has joined forces with the Tanana Valley State Fair to help stock the shelves at the Fairbanks Community Food Bank. Billed as Canned Food Day at the Fair, this annual event has brought in a grand total of 626,689 pounds of non-perishable food for the food bank. The 168th Air Refueling Wing along with their friends and family have traditionally collected the cans at the gate and delivered them to the Food Bank.
“Alyeska’s canned food day at the fair gives Interior residents a great opportunity to fill the shelves at the Food Bank and have fun at the same time,” said the fair’s executive director Randi Carnahan. “The long-standing partnership between these entities is really what this community is all about.”
“Alyeska's support of the Fairbanks Community Food Bank is legendary among our volunteers, board and staff,” said Food Bank Executive Director Samantha Kirstein. “Anytime we get into a challenging situation, we ask an Alyeska employee, and so often they are able to move heaven and earth to find a solution, whether it is a trailer for the fair booth, sponsorship of our largest food drive of the year at the fair, or a ton of potatoes at Christmastime. Our gratitude is heartfelt for the Alyeska friends who have stood beside us through decades of community work.”
What does this have to do with the Age of Asparagus? That’s the theme for this year’s fair, August 5-12. Four cans plus $2/adults or $1/child will get you into the fair, and will help make good things happen, as the Food Bank, the Tanana Valley Fair, and Alyeska like to remind the community.
Alyeska lends a hand to Bean's Café
The employees of Alyeska Pipeline are long-time supporters of Bean’s Café in Anchorage, both with their time and money. Bean’s Café is a local agency that provides meals and shelter to all who need it. They serve a hot breakfast and lunch every day, 365 days a year, and provide shelter for people without a place to sleep.
“On at least two occasions the call has gone out during the Thanksgiving season for much needed support and Alyeska was at the forefront of companies that went out of their way to help us financially and with food items,” said Ken Miller, Director of Development for Bean’s.
Bean’s also sponsors The Children’s Lunchbox, which is a program that provides hot meals to hungry children. This is especially critical during the summer months when schools are closed and the children who had hot meals at school now have none.
“Bean’s Café is tremendously honored to call Alyeska a true friend of our organization and thank you, as a corporation and as individuals, for all you have done to support the mission of Bean’s Café and The Children’s Lunchbox,” said Miller.
Alyeska supports the arts
Supporting the arts in pipeline corridor communities is a significant component of Alyeska’s philanthropy funding strategy.
Out of Anchorage, funds support the work of the Juneau-based Perseverance Theater, founded in 1979 to create professional theatre by and for Alaskans. Financial support also backs public broadcasting and museum exhibits, and each year, Alyeska sponsors a symphony visit for Russian Jack Elementary School students.
Valdez Arts Council brings nationally recognized artists into the community and Alyeska is a proud sponsor of each season. Several employees have served on the Arts Council Board. Alyeska also supports Tatitlek Cultural Heritage Week, a summer camp program that teaches Alaska Native crafts and subsistence skills to kids from all over Prince William Sound.
This fall, the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce declared Alyeska a “Friend of the Arts” for their support for arts organizations in the Interior. The citation cited Alyeska’s work beginning the Fairbanks Concert Association’s outreach to pipeline corridor communities. From a modest effort in 2009 to take one performing group to Delta Junction, the collaboration has grown to include several performances a year at various locations along the Richardson and Parks Highways.
This summer, in addition to sponsoring the Gospel Choir once again, Alyeska is making it possible for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival to take one of their educational performing groups to Delta, Glennallen and Copper Center for the first time.
Employee volunteerism: Sean's story
Sean Wisner works as Alyeska’s Fire Chief and Health and Safety Supervisor. In his off time, Sean is also the Executive Director of the Alaska Avalanche Information Center.
Sean, tell us about The Alaska Avalanche Information Center. What does the organization do? The Alaska Avalanche Information Center, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to public safety and avalanche information in Alaska. The AAIC strives to increase public awareness and safety through avalanche education, research, and the networking of avalanche professionals across the state.
Specifically, we provide public avalanche forecasts and snow observation information for Valdez, Cordova, Haines, Hatcher Pass, and the Northern Alaska Range near Fairbanks, and provide links to public forecasts in Juneau and Turnagain Pass.
Using primarily volunteers and philanthropic funding, the AAIC has provided free professional avalanche bulletins for the major mountainous regions of the state for the past five years. These avalanche bulletins are published every day from September through June, and are created in accordance with the American Avalanche Association and Canadian Avalanche Association standard guidelines, using the North American Danger Scale.
We also provide avalanche education and outreach programs across the state and instruct courses at the awareness, level 1 and level 2 curriculum following American Avalanche Association (AAA) and American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) standards for education.
It is our goal, through research, information exchange, and education, to increase public safety amongst the recreational and professional users of avalanche terrain in Alaska; and reduce the overwhelming number of annual avalanche fatalities in Alaska. Our education programs have reached approximately 500 students each year, ranging from elementary school children to professional mountain and ski guides.
Why is it important to have an organization like AAIC in our community? I believe it is important to have organizations, such as the AAIC, that are dedicated to public safety in Alaska. Statistics show that an average of 36 people will die in avalanches every year in North America, and 185 people worldwide. Unfortunately Alaska leads the statistics for avalanche fatalities by state per capita. The only way to reduce these numbers, in my opinion, is through information and education.
Our goal is to teach people how to make informed decisions in the mountains, choose terrain that is appropriate for the avalanche conditions each day, and be aware of the hazards associated with traveling in avalanche terrain. We don’t want to discourage people from recreating in the beautiful mountains this state offers us, but to make good decisions and “live to ride another day.”
Why is this organization important to you? Serving as the director of the Alaska Avalanche Information Center is important to me for many reasons. I have worked in the fields of emergency response and mountain rescue for 23 years at this point, and have responded to or been involved in many avalanche incidents and fatalities over the years.
I decided to take a more proactive approach by educating and informing people of the hazards associated with mountain recreation ahead of time, versus the reactive approach provided by rescue services. I also believe that avalanche education and information exchange in the US is limited due to the fact that 90 percent of all avalanche centers are funded by the government, thus limiting the amount of outreach programs, terrain served, and funding sources available.
By creating a non-profit avalanche center, our opportunities to educate and inform people are limitless.
Alyeska gives back to northern pipeline corridor communities
The pipeline corridor north of Fairbanks includes the villages of Rampart, population 31, Stevens Village, population 63, and Wiseman, population 14. Alyeska aims to be a good neighbor to these remote pipeline corridor communities.
Rampart and Stevens Village are located on the Yukon River near Alyeska’s Yukon Response Base, and Wiseman is a small mining community in the Brooks Range, 3 miles from the Dalton Highway.
One example of the successful partnership between the villages and Alyeska is the Rampart and Stevens Village spill response teams. Alyeska has long-standing agreements with both villages to provide spill response support personnel. Teams from both villages train quarterly with Alyeska and provide response personnel for oil spill exercises and events not only on the Yukon River but in areas all along the pipeline.
“The village response teams provide an extremely high level of expertise, local knowledge, and teamwork,” said Wes Willson, Emergency Preparedness and Compliance Manager. “They are one of the first groups called out during an emergency response.”
A traditional event at Stevens Village (and at Rampart when there are children in residence) is the annual holiday visit by Santa Claus and his elf, played by various TAPS employees over the years. Gifts and fresh fruit for the youth are donated by Alyeska employees and delivered by Santa who arrives not by reindeer sled, but via an Alyeska surveillance helicopter.
"Stevens Village and Alyeska have been involved in a successful team effort since 1995 that not only provides training and personnel in the event of an oil spill emergency but has also served as a vital link in the ongoing relationship between both entities,” said Maureen Mayo, of Stevens Village. “The community of Stevens Village appreciates Alyeska’s ongoing outreach efforts to its residents and tribal members.”
Alyeska invests in higher education
A strong component of Alyeska’s commitment to workforce renewal is the ongoing investment the company makes in higher education in Alaska.
Through direct contributions to schools and programs to intense and involved internships along the pipeline to support for scholarship funds, Alyeska contributes to educating and training today’s students who could become future employees. Alyeska has funded engineering scholarships for the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage (ANSEP) since 1995 and provided funding for the construction of the 14,000-square-foot ANSEP building on the university campus. In 2008, Alyeska pledged funding for an ANSEP Endowment Chair, for a total commitment of $500,000. This is a significant step in ensuring that there is a faculty advocate for ANSEP students.
The company also made a multiyear commitment to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Pacific University to help support university education for rural Alaska students and to develop experienced technical and craft professionals into vocational instructors. Alyeska has a longstanding commitment to Prince William Sound Community College, contributing to their wellness center and scholarship funds. Many TAPS employees in Valdez are alumni of the college.
Each year Alyeska provides $750,000 in scholarships to help Alaska Native students attending high schools, universities, vocational training institutions and colleges. Since 1996, Alyeska has awarded more than $9 million in scholarships to students from across the state of Alaska.
Alyeska’s 12-week internships for college students usually take place in the summer, although there may be work during the winter and holiday break. Another component of Alyeska’s commitment to workforce renewal is the company’s Building Foundations for Excellence Program. The program develops valued employees and focuses on transferring knowledge within the workforce in anticipation of future business needs. Depending upon the assignment, participants are challenged with diverse, multidisciplinary projects including construction management, preventive maintenance and environmental assessments.
Roxanne Peter, originally from Arctic Village, completed her internship with Alyeska in October 2010 and is now in the BFEP prgoram.
"The best part of the internship program was that I was provided real life experience, working on actual projects, not just given administrative duties,” said Peter, now a Contracting Officer.
Employee volunteerism: Tom’s story
Tom Brady works for Alyeska as Program Manager for the Occupational Health Unit. He has volunteered for Hospice for many years and currently serves on the organization’s board.
Hospice provides a family-centered approach to care, emphasizing quality of life offered by a team consisting of doctors and nurses with expertise in pain and symptom control. Other support comes from social service support, bereavement support and trained volunteers. Each team member works together with the family to focus on the dying person’s needs. The organization plays a unique role in meeting the needs of individuals and families in our community with a life-limiting progressive illness. These services are delivered regardless of people’s ability to pay. There is no charge to families for any of Hospice’s services.
What does the organization do? Most people think of Hospice as medical care provided to someone who is terminally ill, but there is a broader mission filled by Hospice, including addressing the non-medical aspects of death, while helping the survivors cope not only with the terminal illness of a loved one, but death and the aftermath. The Hospice care philosophy sees death as a normal part of living, instead of something to always struggle against, and seeks to reduce the suffering involved in the dying process for both the dying person and their family.
Why is it important to have an organization like Hospice in our community? Hospice as a non-profit organization and the service is important, as the care helps provide comfort and dignity through the natural process of dying. Hospice care is a healthy concept and focuses on supporting the family before, during, and after the loved one’s death, allowing them to grieve. Without Hospice, families would face these times alone and struggle with how to plan and learn about the challenges and available resources for the last phases of life. Families are never charged for any of the services provided by Hospice.
Why is this organization important to you? Hospice is important to me as it fills a large gap between life and dying, providing a gentle hand guiding families through one of the most difficult life events we all will face.