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Hal Faulkner was kicked out of the Marines in 1956 for homosexuality. He's now terminally ill, and the Marine Corps expedited his dying wish to correct his status to "honorable discharge." Since the Pentagon changed its policy, tens of thousands of gay veterans are navigating a maze of red tape to correct their discharges status and gain access to VA benefits.
There are 26 public radio stations throughout the state of Alaska, providing vital news and information to a diverse area over twice the size of Texas.
Angela Denning-Barnes has worked at KYUK in Bethel for more than a decade, reporting on stories from the very edge of society.
For her living in, and reporting on, bush Alaska is more than just a lifestyle – it’s a source of true happiness.
Story & Video:
Today we’re giving back. Since its introduction in 2009, Alaska’s Pick Click Give program has enjoyed major success, despite residents seeing diminishing Permanent Fund Dividends almost every year. Heather Beaty is the Program Manager for Pick Click Give, and she expects the increase of donations to continue in 2014.
“Each year it’s been in existence it’s grown. It started out with just half a million dollars raised, but in 2013 a new record was set when more than 26,000 Alaskans donated more than 2.4 million to charities around the state,” Beaty says.
Beaty says along with donations the amount of non-profit groups on the list has also grown. This year alone, there were more than 50 groups added, ranging from the Anchorage Park foundation to The Fairbanks Rollergirls roller derby. She says its can be a bit overwhelming for donors choose from the now 512 groups, but there are tools available to make it easier.
“We recommend that people go to pickclickgive.org because we’ve set up our website so that you can search through the organizations a number of different ways. For example you can just look at the ones in your community if you want to make sure you’re giving where you’re living. Or you can go through and look at the cause types, so if you’re passionate about something you can find the organization out there that would be eager to get your donation,” Beaty says.
Beaty says Pick Click Give isn’t just about monetary donations; it’s a free tool for non-profits to get their name out there and connect with the community.
“And non-profits let us know that a lot of the donors they get through Pick Click Give are interacting with their organization for the first time. So it’s a new connection for them and a new opportunity to get people involved with their mission, to get more volunteers and to get more resources to do the work that they’re doing,” Beaty says.
This year Pick Click Give is unveiling a new campaign and slogan for the project. The mantra is “Lovalaska.”
“It really grew out of what we hear from people when they talk about why they give. It’s because they really value where they live. We all recognize that Alaska is an incredible and special place, and we’re proud to live here. And we really value our communities and our neighbors, and Pick Click Give is one way to express that love,” Beaty says.
And Beaty says 2014 couldn’t be a better year for people to show that love. It will be the first year in the PFD’s five year average that won’t have 2008’s economic collapse factored into the amount.
“So all of the recovery that’s been happening in the past few years is going to be reflected in a bigger PFD check for Alaskans this October,” Beaty says.
As far as her personal Pick Click Give list goes, Beaty wouldn’t give me specifics. But that’s mostly because her list is always changing.
“It is hard to narrow it down. I just keep thinking ‘well this year I’ll focus on these 10 organizations and next year I’ll focus on these 10.’ It’s a pretty big list of small gifts but I feel it’s a really wonderful way to acknowledge the hard work that everyone in the non-profit sector is doing,” Beaty says.
As the sun set early in downtown Anchorage on Sunday, ten teams of ice carvers were putting the finishing touches on their sculptures for the annual "Crystal Gallery of Ice" competition. But only one team could walk away with the top prize -- and bragging rights.January 5, 2014
Rebecca Himschoot teaches Science at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary. She’s one of two Alaskan teachers honored by the White House this year, and one of only 102 teachers nationwide who receive the recognition, which includes a $10,000 cash prize from the National Science Foundation.
Rebecca Himschoot is the Science teacher for 2nd through 5th grade. She says that she really doesn’t do anything extraordinary for her students, beyond what any good teacher tries to do.
It’s mainly about keeping kids engaged. The skies over Sitka are gray and rainy much of the time. Learning about planets and astronomy can be a tough sell. But Himschoot, through a grant from the local charitable trust, brings in a Starlab every year, and inflates it — sort of like a giant bouncy castle — inside the gym.
“If my teacher in elementary school had brought in a planetarium to the classroom, it probably would have caught my attention, and maybe even changed the direction I went with my education.”
Himschoot also takes advantage of opportunities for professional development that other teachers may not. In 2007 she traveled aboard a research vessel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as one of NOAA’s Teachers at Sea. It was a three-week cruise in the Bering Sea studying the pollock fishery.
But she also finds opportunities closer to home.
“I try to use local resources as much as I can to connect kids to science, so I bring in lots of Forest Service scientists. The Sitka Sound Science Center has brought some scientists to town who came into the classroom and helped kids connect more to science. So I think it’s those little extras that might catch attention.”
It was Forest Service biologist Rob Miller who nominated Himschoot for the award, which goes to only two teachers from each state. Himschoot entered the paperwork back in 2012, and had pretty much forgotten about it until she was notified this past December, just before school went out on winter break.
The national recognition — along with a lot of rest over vacation — has helped energize her getting back into the classroom.
“Though I had an excellent education, I was not turned on to Science. I feel I have an obligation — if I have the great gift to teach Science all day every day, that comes with the responsibility of helping kids connect more to Science and making it more real to them.”
Besides winning $10,000, which she can spend any way she likes, Himschoot will get an all-expense trip to Washington DC, and a chance to meet President Obama. The president’s schedule could upset that plan. More of a sure thing, though, is a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian Institution.
That’s cool, she’s pretty sure.
“Possibly geeky for other people, but for a teacher very, very exciting.”
Two other Sitka teachers are previous winners of the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science: Cheryl Hedden and Barbara Renoux.
Himschoot’s colleague from Alaska, sharing this year’s honor, is Amy Laufer, a Math teacher at Kasuun Elementary in Anchorage.
KCAW’s Melissa Marconi-Wentzel contributed to this story.
Proposition 65 requires businesses to post public announcements about toxic chemicals in in their products. The law has been on the books for more than 20 years, and though it protects consumers, some say lawsuits over compliance disproportionately affect small businesses.