Team RWB Receives Grant for Suicide Prevention in Alaska

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Alaska is unique, to say the least. It is the epitome of contradictions; light and dark, warm and cold, snow and lush greenery. There are large cities of over 300,000 people and towns where neighbors live over 25 miles apart. It’s a place that can feel cold, dark, and isolating, but the people make it warm, inviting, and a little less lonely. 

According to the US Census Bureau, over 10% of Alaska’s population are veterans, and finding support for that population can be difficult in such a vast area. Team Red, White & Blue (Team RWB) supports veterans’ health and wellness nationwide and recently received a grant to assist Alaska in a statewide suicide prevention effort.

The grant was part of a $170,000 initiative by GCI, a provider of data, mobile, video, voice and managed services to consumer and business customers throughout Alaska, presented to 15 organizations across the state including Team RWB.  

Chris Oliver currently leads volunteers in Alaska as a Team RWB State Coordinator, in addition to her staff role as Data Manager. As a military spouse, yoga instructor, and Team RWB member since 2014, Oliver has seen first-hand the positive impacts of physical activity on veterans’ mental health. 

“With so much blank space, it is easy for our veterans to fall through the cracks,” said Oliver. “The plan is to offer virtual coffee chats and workouts, including yoga, as we work with our partners at the Alaska VA and other VSOs to deliver in person programming.”

Department of Veterans Affairs data states that 13 percent of Alaska’s veteran population live outside of a borough with a VA clinic, making it difficult for them to access programs and resources that may be available.

“The grant will allow us to bring our programs to them – no traveling required,” said Oliver.

“GCI is in the business of connecting Alaskans. As we head into dark winter days, after months of COVID precautions, we want to make certain we all continue to take care of each other,” said Jen Nelson, senior manager of corporate communications and community engagement, and one of the founders of the GCI Suicide Prevention Fund. “This suicide prevention program is important to our employees, because sadly it is an issue personal to so many of us. We are glad we can provide significant funds to this effort in 2020.”

Team RWB has had a presence in Alaska since 2013 and has established chapters in both Anchorage and Fairbanks. This grant, managed by the Alaska Community Foundation, allows Team RWB to continue planning and deploying suicide prevention strategies that are customized to address needs specific to Alaska, especially in rural areas. 

For more information about the GCI Suicide Prevention Fund, visit https://www.gci.com/why-gci/gcigives/gci-suicide-prevention-fund. To find a Team RWB chapter near you, visit https://www.teamrwb.org/chapter-locator/

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