North Pacific Fishing Industry Raising Money for Alaska Coast Guard Families

The Seattle Times by Hal Bernton – January 24, 2019

Kodiak, Alaska, home to one of the largest Coast Guard bases in the United States, on Jan. 17. The federal shutdown has brought a particular chill to the small town that is dependent on its base. (Ash Adams / The New York Times)

The fundraising effort was kicked off by Chris Woodley, a retired Coast Guard captain who is executive director of the Groundfish Forum, a Seattle-based trade group that represents five companies that operate 19 catcher-processors off Alaska.

Crew members on the Alex Haley, a Coast Guard ship, in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska in the Arctic Circle in 2015. (Ruth Fremson / The New York Times)

Fishing companies that work off Alaska are donating money to Coast Guard workers who — despite missing paychecks — continue to conduct safety exams and patrols, and stand ready to respond to disasters at sea.

The fundraising effort was kicked off earlier this week by Chris Woodley, a retired Coast Guard captain who now serves as executive director of the Groundfish Forum, a Seattle-based trade group that represents five companies that operate 19 catcher-processors off Alaska.

Members of the Coast Guard with aircraft in Kodiak, Alaska, on Jan. 16. The federal shutdown has brought a particular chill to the small town that is dependent on its Coast Guard base. (Ash Adams / The New York Times)

The fundraiser is part of a much broader effort to help federal workers facing financial difficulties in the partial government shutdown that has resulted from the political impasse between Congress and President Donald Trump over funding of a border wall.

“As a former Coast Guardsman stationed in Alaska, I cannot overstate how much our assistance can mean to a Coast Guard family in need,” Woodley wrote in an online fundraising letter.

The Coast Guard, though part of the armed forces, is funded through the Department of Homeland Security. And Homeland Security — which includes the Transportation Security Administration, which handles airport security — has been hard hit by the shutdown.

Woodley’s goal is to raise $65,000 for the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, which offers zero-interest loans to Coast Guard families facing hard times. The money will be used to provide 50 loans of $1,500 to Coast Guard families based in Alaska, where major hubs include Kodiak, Anchorage and Juneau.

As of Thursday morning, just over $35,000 had been contributed, according to Woodley.

The Coast Guard is a key part of federal support for the Alaska fisheries, which are the most productive in the nation, yielding harvests of fish and crab with a wholesale value of more than $4 billion, according to a study prepared for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Many of the harvests unfold in winter, when big storms often create treacherous conditions. Despite the government shutdown, the Coast Guard has maintained enough inspection and other services to enable the fleet to launch the January harvests.

The Coast Guard also has a major presence in the Pacific Northwest, including in Seattle and other Washington state communities; its annual operating budget in this state was more than $270 million in 2016. And the financial stress is mounting for Coast Guard families here, as it is in Alaska and across the nation.

In a video message posted Tuesday on Twitter, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said he was heartened by what he called an “outpouring of support” from local communities across the nation, but said “ultimately I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life as service members.”

The fundraising effort also was noted in a letter seeking Homeland Security funding that five former department secretaries sent this week to President Trump and members of Congress. Their letter noted that Coast Guard members, as part of the armed forces, cannot quit their jobs due to a lack of pay, and called it “unconscionable”” that DHS employees should have to turn to charity to help feed their families.

North Pacific Seafood Industry Launches Assistance Program for US Coast Guard

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews] by Peggy Parker – January 24, 2019

Yesterday several North Pacific trade associations posted announcements that they were joining an initiative started by Chris Woodley, retired USCG Captain and currently the exective director of the Groundfish Forum.

Woodley’s idea is to respond to the financial crises many Coast Guard families find themselves in, much as the USCG has provided aid to vessels and seaman year in and year out. The groups are banding together, each raising $7,500 – $10,000 in tax-deductible contributions to help Alaska’s USCG families in need. The ‘rescue’ mission provides funds that can be legally accessed immediately, until the government reopens and service members start receiving paychecks again.

Woodley wants to raise $65,000 in the next week. That amount would provide a $1500 loan to 50 Coast Guard families in Alaska.

In the first day of the call for help, $30,000 was raised using the fund’s webpage.

Woodley’s letter launching the initiative is reprinted below:

“This week many Coast Guard members and families in Alaska are facing hard times – thousands of active duty, reservists, and Coast Guard civilians have not been paid since December 31st.

“Yet the men and women of the Coast Guard are still working hard every day – protecting our fishermen and our fisheries in Alaska. They are still out in the Bering Sea standing the watch on the bridge of a cutter; they are carefully maintaining a H-60 helicopter in the hanger at Air Station Sitka so that it will be ready to respond to “the call” at a moment’s notice; they are conducting safety exams on our boats in Dutch Harbor, and they are listening intently to the radios at Comm Station Kodiak, ears straining through the static to detect the words “Mayday Mayday Mayday” from a fishing boat in peril.

“Coast Guard men and women have always been heroes for our industry, but we have to ask ourselves which unit, which bosun mate, which rescue swimmer will be our hero, our savior in the weeks to come?  We know it will happen, we know we will need their help in some way, shape or form.

“The Coast Guard is doing their best for us, but they are worried. Worried because they haven’t been paid since December 31st and now the rent is coming due, the truck needs to be repaired, the vet bill for the dog was really high, and now they are getting low on groceries. Because of all this, many Coast Guard members and families in Alaska need a hero of their own.

“I am asking you to be hero and help a Coast Guard member make ends meet during the government shutdown by contributing to Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA).

“The CGMA is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing zero interest loans to Coast Guard members and families in times of distress. A zero interest loan to a Coast Guard family can make a world of difference during these tough times and give them the help that they need. The CGMA program needs our donations to keep providing these loan services to the Coast Guard and because the CGMA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) your donation is tax deductible. (Please note any contribution made is a donation to CGMA and won’t be returned to the donor.)

“Making a donation is easy! Just cut and paste the link below into your browser and click Donate!  Contributions can be made via credit card from businesses and individuals. All donations to my fundraising page will be directed to Coast Guard personnel in the 17th District (Alaska) and the monies raised will be distributed to Coast Guard families in need across the State.

https://cgmahq.networkforgood.com/projects/67769-chris-woodley-s-fundraiser

“As a former Coast Guardsman stationed in Alaska, I cannot overstate how much our assistance can mean to a Coast Guard family in need.  They have always been there for us and I know we can be there for them.”