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The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley was excited to participate in the first ever “Angel Tree” with the village of Akutan located in the Aleutian Islands Dec. 23.
During the cutter’s summer patrol of 2014, crewmembers went ashore to visit the village of Akutan and meet the school’s principal and a plan was hatched. The principal informed the children that this year the Coast Guard would be bringing “Santa” to their village. The kids made wish-lists and Alex Haley crewmembers sponsored individual kids. The ship sailed away knowing this winter all would be reunited.
The cutter returned to Akutan with Santa and a host of elves. Aboard the ship, Santa and the crew handed out gifts to the children and provided tours to the community. The crew also delivered over $5,000 in winter clothes and blankets to Akutan’s Safe Harbor Church. The donations were collected in a joint effort between the crew and the Coast Guard Base Kodiak Chapel. Petty Officer First Class Daryl Lirette noted, “Serving the American people is our job, but sometimes you can’t associate a face to that service. In Akutan, we were able to see what service to others looks like. I feel so blessed to be a part of that.”
Afterwards, the city of Akutan extended their gratitude by providing the crew a potluck at the community center. During dinner, everyone was treated to the Akutanam Axsniikangin (Akutan Dancers.) The dancers, with their handmade garments and hand drums representing traditional Aleut styles, performed seven dances including the crowd favorite “Uxchux” (Puffin Dance). Alex Haley crewmembers and other locals were invited to join the dancers for the “Chagix” (Halibut Dance.) After dinner, Safe Harbor Church’s pastor invited everyone to a candlelight Christmas Eve service. A sermon and Christmas hymns capped off the evening and exemplified the Christmas spirit shared between the crew and community.
Cmdr. Steve White, Alex Haley commanding officer commented, “We may have been away from our families during this holiday season, but the warmth and hospitality we received from the great people of Akutan brought true joy and cheer to our hearts! We are so appreciative of the community spirit shared between the Coast Guard and people of Alaska.”