Friday, January 06, 2012

Civil Air Patrol helps distribute holiday food and gifts to Stevens Village, Alaska

Rolling out a Cessna airplane loaded with presents for takeoff to Stevens Village just before dawn.

Civil Air Patrol plane loaded with presents for Stevens Village children. CAP volunteers from left to right Maj. Bob Fath, Lt. Cindy Walker, Lt. Paul Merrifield. 
Photo by Peter DeCaro

STEVENS VILLAGE, Alaska - Christmas came early for the children of Stevens Village thanks to the volunteers from the Fairbanks-based 9th Composite Operation Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol on Saturday Dec. 17. The squadron flew to the village with four airplanes loaded with Christmas gifts and turkeys. Children, parents and flight crews gathered at the local school, where the children anxiously awaited their presents.

“It’s amazing, incredible,” said Joe Waarvik, the school’s principal. “Alyeska brought some presents for the children, and now this. Santa came twice.”

In addition to serving as the school’s principal, Waarvik is also the school’s sole teacher and guidance counselor, teaching kindergarten, third, fourth, sixth and seventh grades. This is his first year at Stevens Village. Waarvik, his wife, Alice, and their four children helped hand out the gifts. The Waarviks moved from Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The airlift was the brainchild of Cindy Walker, CAP’s finance officer, who coordinated the event with CAP pilot and volunteer Jim Knopke.

“I thought it would be nice to do something different for a change,” Walker said. “Every year we do the same thing, give each other gifts. This was a nice change, especially seeing the faces of those children when they were handed all of those gifts.”

Knopke, who works for Tanana Chiefs Conference, explained to those in attendance that he helped Walker by establishing a gift list for the kids, the names of the children, their age and what they hoped Santa would bring them. He said he would like to see this become an annual event for the CAP, where they would fly presents to a different village each year. “With that,” concluded Knopke, “I’d like to say basse’ (thank you).”

Santa and the 9th Composite Operation Squadron didn’t do this alone; they got some help from University of Alaska Fairbanks ROTC cadets, who also donated presents for the event. Thirty cadets produced about 40 gifts.

“We wanted to do something to help out, something that would make a difference,” said Senior Cadet Stephanie Parker, ROTC public affairs officer, who spearheaded the drive within the unit. “When we were told about this from one of our professors, we discussed it with our commander and decided that it was a worthy cause.”

Also representing the 9th COS were Mike and Bethe Davis, Robert Fath, Eddiy Daly, Jim Watson, Paul Merrifield, Kurt McKinney and Pete DeCaro.

“I am extremely proud of the teamwork and commitment of our squadron, and the UAF ROTC members who made this mission a success,” said Brad Sipperley, the 9th COS Squadron commander. “Being able to reach out and share the joy of Christmas with our neighbors, work together as a team, and share the project with the ROTC students at UAF was very satisfying for all involved.”

(Sipperley added that it was a large operation involving every aircraft at the unit’s disposal and that it began with a thorough mass safety briefing given by Lt. Col. Mike Ferguson, the unit’s safety officer.

“It was a bonding experience not only for us within the community, but also for our squadron members. And again, I am extremely proud of all those involved,” Sipperley said.

Stevens Village resident Horace Smoke made the closing remarks.

“On behalf of Stevens Village, I’d like to thank the Civil Air Patrol and the ROTC cadets for what they’ve done for the children.”)

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