NVE hosts Coast Guard Appreciation Luncheon

Guests feasted on homemade mac and cheese and fresh halibut

U.S. Coast Guard members and their families stationed in Cordova were guests of honor on Aug. 4, the 227th birthday of the Coast Guard, at a festive luncheon hosted by the Native Village of Eyak.

“The services of the Coast Guard are an integral component to Cordova, particularly with what they provide to the fishing fleet,” said Sarah Kathrein, NVE’s tribal justice system administrator, who directed the event.

“The Coast Guard does so much for our community, and it’s important that we express our gratitude,” Kathrein said. “We love the idea of getting the community together to show our appreciation of what the Coast Guard does, but it also serves as a fantastic opportunity for locals to meet Coast Guard members and their families.”

The event honored those onboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Sycamore, and at the Coast Guard Air Station/Forward Operating location at the Mile 13 airport.

Some 45 active Coast Guard members, including Lt. Cmdr Collin Bronson, commander of the Sycamore, were among the 110 guests.

Cordova is fortunate to have the servicemen and women as part of our community, said NVE Tribal Council President Darrel Olsen. “We hope and pray we never need the Coast Guard, but they are always ready to assist (us). The Coast Guard is the one presence we have of our military – if we did not have their presence in Cordova, I would be concerned about the response times to emergencies. Their priority is search and rescue, and navigable aids that keep our fisher people safe,” Olsen said.

“They’re also a big part of our community. They attend our schools, participate in sports, assist in community events. NVE likes to share our culture with them, too, as most are not from Alaska. We are proud of our history and culture, and want to share it with the service people serving here,” he said.

Olsen said he was happy to see so many locals, Native elders, city and school officials who turned out to visit with the Coast Guard.

The crowd was feted with a nacho bar, plus a variety of salads, homemade macaroni and cheese, fried bread, salmon and spinach stuffed pastries, and fresh-caught halibut prepared by caterer Chris Belgarde and her staff.

Baker Diane Ujoika supplied cakes, and Donni Adams donated 50 pounds of halibut, cleaned and ready for dinner.

Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin said businesses pitched in to thank the Coast Guard and welcome the new commander and new crew of the Sycamore.

“The businesses pitched in to thank those who are already stationed in Cordova, and to welcome the new commander and new crew. Both the Sycamore and air station were well represented, packing the Little Chapel full, and extending their own appreciation to the community for the event and our support,” he said.

Prizes, donated by Cordova’s businesses, were raffled off during the luncheon.

“I was blown away by the support received from the community. I had enough prizes to raffle off, that every active Coast Guard member at the event won something,” she said.

Table decorations included 100 hand-painted, patriotic rocks, created by Cordova Rocks’ founder Jessicca Hoover, and other townsfolk. The rocks, which were meant to be taken home following the luncheon, were a big hit with military personnel and their kids.

“It was a personal touch from community members. Also, NVE’s day camp kids decorated rock bags for people to take their rocks home with them. We also handed out a goodie bag to each active member of the Coast Guard, with some NVE swag and local information provided by the Chamber of Commerce. They also had some tasty chocolates, courtesy of the Net Loft,” Kathrein said.

“NVE may be the host, but this event wouldn’t be half as amazing if the community weren’t as involved as they are. Thank you to all the businesses and individuals that donated to this event. I’m thankful I can participate in organizing this event and show the Coast Guard how much members of the local community appreciate them,” she said.

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at cgibbens-stimson@thecordovatimes.com or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.