Building Our Communities
The annual Building Our Communities Conference brings together more than 300 leaders, decision-makers, and agency representatives from all across Alaska to learn about successful methods of “building” rural communities. In 2004, sessions were organized into four tracks: Economic Growth; Effective Governance; Land Use; and Planning. Through hands-on activities, PowerPoint presentations, panels, and spirited discussions, participants explored topics of great importance to Alaskans, including: attracting and coordinating funding; coordinating infrastructure development, understanding roles and responsibilities at the local, regional and state levels; defining a community’s vision for its future; navigating land use and title issues; promoting small business development; and learning about careers available in different regions.
Head Start Facilities
As RurAL CAP’s Head Start program neared 35 years old, it became apparent that many of the facilities that housed Head Start programs were showing their age. Then Child Development Division Director, Shirley Pittz, embarked on a great journey – a journey to build state of the art Head Start facilities across Alaska. Undertaking the largest construction project in RurAL CAP’s history, children and families in Ketchikan, Marshall, Chevak, Hooper Bay, Kwethluk, Haines, and Pilot Station received new facilities. Additions were also made to the Napaskiak and Akiak centers. Currently underway, Nunapitchuk and Kake are scheduled to have new Head Start centers by 2006.
Child Development Staff Training
The Child Development Division has an ambitious program for educating and training Head Start staff. Head Start Teachers are working toward Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and Baccalaureate (BA) Degrees in Early Childhood Education. Teacher Aides and Home Visitors work to attain a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential. Home Visitors and Family Advocates attend a nine month Family Empowerment Training. This level of education and training is made possible primarily through two State of Alaska Grants, the State Training and Employment Program (STEP) Grant and the System for Early Education and Development (SEED) Grant.
The structure of the agency changed again in 2004. Now home to four divisions and over $25 million in expenditures and 700 employees annually, RurAL CAP is one of the most diverse and largest non-profits in the state.
Alaska Native Subsistence Halibut Working Group
RurAL CAP supports the important work of the Alaska Native Subsistence Halibut Working Group (ANHSWG) as it follows and guides the development of subsistence halibut policies for Alaska. Alaskan tribal peoples have used and occupied all of Alaska for up to thirty thousand years. Since before written history, they have been hunters, fishers and gatherers. Alaska Native cultural traditions, norms and laws most often reflect the tribes’ historic reliance upon community, respect for the environment and its natural resources. RurAL CAP has always supported and enhanced rural people’s efforts to have a voice in all actions that affect their lives. A critical role of the Environmental Program is to provide administrative support to the ANHSWG.
The Affordable Housing program provides decent, safe and affordable housing to graduates of the Homeward Bound program and other low-income Alaskans through rental units in Anchorage. Close attention to property management and building maintenance combined with below-market rental costs help keep these two-bedroom apartments occupied with tenants who pay their rent and take care of their units. Located in the Mountain View area of Anchorage, RurAL CAP owns five complexes with a total of 28 two-bedroom apartments.
Electrical Savings Initiative
The Electrical Savings Initiative (ESI) project employs RAVEN AmeriCorps Members and local residents as technicians to conduct home visits to rural energy assistance recipients. They replace inefficient lighting, heating and refrigeration equipment while also providing homeowners with “low cost or no cost” energy conservation education. Homeowners allow their electric bills to be tracked for a period of one year before and after installation of energy saving products to measure how much money they save.
Over 2,000 homes were assessed and served by RurAL CAP’s ESI program over a three-year period. The benefits of the program are two fold. First, the low-income households energy costs are decreased. Second, the expenses incurred by the governmental programs that subsidize these households are decreased. The ESI program projects that within seven years, the program will have saved $3.85 million in energy costs for the government and low-income homeowners.
Another benefit of the ESI program is the positive outcomes rural energy assistance recipients’ experience. ESI helps increase the health and safety of recipients, reduces energy financial burdens on low-income families and provides enhanced interior lighting for better quality of life.