Employee volunteerism: Betsy’s story
Alyeska Oil Movements Director Betsy Haines is an active board member for the YWCA Anchorage, motivated by a personal commitment to empowering women and youth.
How long have you been involved in the YWCA and in what capacity? I have attended the YWCA Women of Achievement luncheon, at the Alyeska sponsored table, for more than 15 years. Every time I attended I was so inspired by the women who were highlighted. I started to look into the mission of the YWCA and was equally inspired; I joined the board two years ago.
Why are you so committed to the YWCA? I have always been committed to helping girls and women improve their lives. Throughout my career I have looked for opportunity to use my experience and skills in differing areas whether it is helping Girl Scouts, the school district, women in Alyeska, Habitat for Humanity or elsewhere. I have also been involved with the Gold Nugget Triathlon whose mission is to improve the lives of women and girls through athletics.
The mission of the YWCA is very similar and equally powerful: “eliminating racism and empowering women.” I wanted to be a part of that mission because it is so important to the women and girls of our community and state.
What do you want others to know about the work of the Y? The YWCA is headed in a direction that excites me and many others. We have a new Executive Director who is amazing and inspiring and already has challenged the organization to expand from a local Anchorage view to a statewide view. We have three “signature” programs: Women’s Economic Empowerment, Women’s Wellness, and Youth Empowerment. I have focused my attention on the youth programs and with great support from Alyeska we fund Girls and Boys Circle programs at the elementary schools around Anchorage and in particular at our business partner school, Russian Jack. The work of the YWCA can help change the lives of our youth for the better!
How does your involvement with the Y align with your role at Alyeska? I believe in giving back to my community and here at Alyeska our matching gift plan, our school business partnership and time we are allowed to support community events is a real benefit and one I don’t take lightly. As budgets tighten up around the state, I feel fortunate to work at a company that still supports the community and it is part of my job to direct that support to areas where I have the energy and interest to match.
Health Fair delivers to Prince William Sound
For the communities of Cordova and Whittier, the tug/barge Krystal Sea/Cordova Provider is a common sight, shuttling supplies and fish between the two communities. But for eight days each spring, the vessel has extra special cargo--two nurses, a gaggle of wellness care providers and a mammogram van--as it makes its way around Prince William Sound for the Alyeska Traveling Health and Safety Fair.
For over ten years, the Alyeska-sponsored event has brought vital health and wellness services to communities of Cordova, Whittier, Chenega Bay, Tatitlek and Valdez. Medical professionals set up testing equipment so that community members can learn their blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other important health information. Volunteers also head into classrooms to talk to kids about drugs and alcohol, suicide, nutrition and other issues brought up by teachers and community members beforehand. The mammogram van, brought along by the Breast Cancer Detection Center in Fairbanks, saves many women an expensive trip into Anchorage.
“The Prince William Sound Health and Safety Fair is an incredibly important resource for the residents of the Sound,” says Pam Shirrell, a public health nurse and long time co-organizer of the event. “Alyeska saw a need, and worked creatively to solve it. Ten years later, we’re still seeing positive outcomes in the communities from our time there.”
Alyeska Lives United!
Along the pipeline, the United Way campaign is a unified event for TAPS employees. Simultaneous campaign kickoff and closeout celebrations always draw dozens of employees who are committed to supporting United Way’s work. Often these events include representatives from nonprofits that are benefited by United Way.
Why do so many Alyeska employees feel so strongly about the United Way? “For me, it’s about sharing what I can to help build a stronger community and improve the quality of life for those less fortunate than myself,” Inventory Control/Warehouse Supervisor Cheryl Graan said.
Although the cause is a serious one, employees like to have fun while raising money. Valdez is host to a variety of events during the annual company-wide United Way drive each fall. Whether it’s a hot dog drive-thru fundraiser, or a community 5-K run, they know how to get in the spirit!
Anchorage sponsors a “Canstruction” event as part of their United Way campaign to generate non-perishable food items and monetary donations for the Food Bank of Alaska. Some examples of sculptures include the Statue of Liberty and, of course, scenic representations of the pipeline. In order to participate in the contest, teams raise funds to cover design and construction costs, as well as building and dismantling the sculptures. Last year’s winning sculpture was Food Bank of Alaska’s logo.
Fairbanks has a tradition of concluding their United Way campaign with a pie contest. Bidding for homemade desserts is fast and furious, with ROW/EP&C Director Lorena Hegdal’s blueberry dessert a traditional top finisher. In addition to raising money for United Way, events such as these help build employee morale and ensure Alyeska’s reputation as a good corporate citizen.
In recent years, employees’ donations have benefited the United Way organizations in Anchorage, Fairbanks, the Matanuska Susitna Borough, the Kenai Peninsula, southeast Alaska and Valdez. Alyeska employees’ contributions are matched dollar-for-dollar. In 2011, the company’s overall donation to United Way topped $573,000.
Alyeska invests in school-business partnerships
From Thanksgiving feasts to Santa Claus fly-ins to in-classroom volunteering and tutoring, Alyeska Pipeline and its employees are committed to supporting Alaska’s schools and students. In every community where Anchorage has offices, employees have connected with local students and teachers. They help with school events and tutor students in the classroom.
Alyeska’s philanthropy program supports the reading program and the robotics team at the Valdez City Schools. Volunteers in Valdez have delivered Junior Achievement curriculum in classrooms for more than 25 years, said Flora Teo, President of Junior Achievement of Alaska. More recently, Alyeska has partnered with Junior Achievement and funded programs for Hermon Hutchens Elementary school, ensuring that more than 250 young people in Valdez receive the benefit of a Junior Achievement volunteer in their classroom.
“Junior Achievement helps make education relevant, encourages young people stay in school, help educators achieve their goals in the classroom, and educates Alaska’s future business leaders on the free enterprise system,” Teo said. “The level of dedication Alyeska has to young people goes beyond their financial support. Alyeska supports volunteerism in the community by allowing employees to spend time in the classroom to present JA lessons, and to discuss the workforce and the free enterprise system with young people across the state. This investment will help ensure that the future workforce in Alaska will be educated and inspired to succeed in a global economy.”
In Fairbanks, Alyeska supports a school-business partnership with Ticasuk Brown Elementary in North Pole. For the past several years, Alyeska has matched donations for various philanthropy projects undertaken by the student council. This year, the school raised over $1,000 (which was matched by Alyeska) for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Alyeska also supports the Boys and Girls Home School in Fairbanks with donations for projects such as a student garden, a peace room, and a “peace pole.” In addition, Alyeska maintains a close relationship with the school in Stevens Village, a pipeline corridor village near the Yukon River crossing. Past collaborative efforts include support for age-appropriate workforce development activities while the students were visiting Fairbanks, money for moose hide and other supplies needed to refurbish the students’ dance costumes, and money for books and other library supplies. And of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the toys and fresh fruit delivered annually to the children of Stevens Village, Rampart and Wiseman via helicopter by Alyeska employees and contractors disguised as Santa and his elves.
Anchorage-area employees have partnered with Russian Jack Elementary School for years – dating back to when the Anchorage headquarters was located beside the school. About a dozen volunteers every year spend time in the school, reading with students who need extra help.
“When I was a child in third grade, I had reading problems,” said Mike Levshakoff, Public Relations Coordinator at Alyeska. Encouraged after he read a long novel, Levshakoff started reading avidly and by fifth grade, was reading above grade level. “So that’s why I read with the kids,” he said. “I know not everyone has had an experience where reading was enjoyable.”
Many employees recall when the Russian Jack Elementary School burned down in 1998. Alyeska let the school use space in its headquarters for classrooms. Today, Alyeska still delivers a Thanksgiving feast to the students each November – always a highlight of the year for employees and students alike.
Alyeska employees Relay for Life
On June 22, Alyeska employees in Valdez spent hour-long shifts walking around the high school track as they participated in the American Cancer Society’s 24-hour Relay for Life in Valdez. This important event--held around Alaska and the country over the course of several weeks--raises money for cancer research and resources for those recently diagnosed.
“I think almost everyone knows someone that has been affected by cancer,” said Jenette Vlasoff, an Alyeska employee who organized the company’s Relay for Life team this year. “It’s important that Alyeska is out there in the community showing support for our friends and family members who have been affected by the disease.”
As well as organizing a team of employees to participate in the 24-hour relay, Alyeska supports the Relay financially in both Valdez and Fairbanks and supports cancer research funding and treatment resources in other ways. For instance, Alyeska sponsors a table at the American Cancer Society’s Anchorage Food and Wine festival, a major fundraiser for the non-profit in Alaska.
The company is a long-time sponsor of the Breast Cancer Detection Center in Fairbanks, and contributed funds so BCDC could purchase a new mammogram van, an important resource for Alaskan residents in smaller communities without access to a medical facility.
“Supporting the fight against cancer is a great example of how Alyeska contributes both money and volunteers to important causes,” Valdez Communications Manager Kate Herring said before leaving to walk laps around the track as part of the Valdez Relay for Life team.
Alyeska marks years of military support
Alyeska Pipeline is a longstanding booster of Alaska’s military – from supporting young soldiers new to Alaska, to backing organizations that provide direct services to enlisted personnel, to celebrating its own employees who have spent time in the Armed Services.
This support appears along the pipeline corridor. In Fairbanks, the Doyon Security Folks provided security for the community’s recent STOMP military appreciation parade. In Valdez, where the pipeline ends, Alyeska donates logistical support such as tents, generators and set-up assistance to the military appreciation barbecue. Spill response personnel in Valdez routinely partner with the United States Coast Guard as they train to jointly respond to emergencies.
A popular December event for Alyeska is the annual Military Appreciation Luncheon. It started in 2001 after many members of the local military community had to remain in the Anchorage area through the holidays, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Alyeska leadership thought it would be a nice gesture to host a lunch for those servicemen and women, and the tradition has remained in place since then, said Patti Altom, the Alyeska Administrative Assistant who coordinates the event.
“My feeling on why we do this is we want to support our military and let them know we support them, and we support the service they provide for our country,” Altom said. “It’s a very popular event for our employees too.”
Internally, Alyeska’s veterans are routinely honored around Veteran’s Day. In particular, Pipeline Security Captain Larry Graham and his team have gathered photos of TAPS employees and family members that honor their time in the service.
“Alyeska has always been pro-active in supporting and recognizing special groups and events within the community but I didn't see the same enthusiasm and commitment each November when Veterans Day rolled around,” Graham said, who admits his blood runs army green. “Being a new guy within the organization, I just assumed that the culture was designed solely to support the challenges of moving oil across Alaska. Then several years ago I was asked to make a Veteran's Day presentation and was totally surprised by the turn-out and interest from within the organization. Over the years and with the help of many special people, Veteran's Day within Alyeska (especially Fairbanks) has become quite the tradition. It's a day that we as Veterans can share and compare memories of our military services with each other and our fellow workers, a day that we all get a good laugh as we look at pictures of ourselves (in my case many years ago), and a day in which the focus from Alyeska's leadership points directly at our veterans.”
Alyeska rolls out Track & Field Day 2012
For the past seventeen years, Alyeska has sponsored Track and Field Day for hundreds of youngsters in the Interior. The games began under the leadership of Jesse Owens, an African American who overcame discrimination and other challenges to win four Olympic gold metals. The games became exclusively an Alyeska event since the Jesse Owens foundation folded many years ago.
Organized in conjunction with the Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks & Recreation Department, the annual games provide a chance for children to try out various distance races, long jumps, softball throws. This month, on Saturday, June 9, over 350 kids aged seven to twelve descended on the Lathrop High School track for the 17th annual Alyeska Track and Field Day.
“TAPS prides itself on a culture of safety and teamwork,” said Fairbanks Communications and Public Relations Manager Lynda Sather. “Our hope was that the young athletes competing at Track & Field Day would display these same values on and off the field—and they did!”
Alyeska provided bikes and helmets for first place winner, scooters and helmets for second place, and giant kites for third place. Every participant received a medal and water bottles filled with healthy treats.
As Sather told participants in this year’s games, you are sure to succeed if you always remember to be safe, to do your best, and to display good sportsmanship.