Important Federal Grant Opens Doors For ONC's Elder Services

Catherine Peters plays bingo at the ONC Senior Center in 2016, before it shut down.
Credit Dean Swope / KYUK

This year, Orutsararmiut Native Council is broadening its services for Elders and tackling potential elder abuse. 

"This grant help us for one, help us open our senior center and being able to connect Elders to other services," said Nikki Pollack, who directs ONC's senior services. 

ONC is looking at two options for its plans. One is to reopen its senior center; the other is to renovate the tribe’s multi-purpose building next to Pinky’s Park.

ONC received the grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services' Administration for Community Living. The grant's official title is the National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative, and the size of the grant is more than $300,000. Pollack says that the rest of the money will come in matching funds, so the total amount ONC plans to spend on this effort adds up to nearly $700,000.

"This is the first time in the U.S. history [that this grant has been awarded to a tribe], so there's a lot of expectation to perform like we said we would. It's basically doing what we're doing now, but having the supplemental funding," Pollack said. 

Pollack says that while the grant focuses on Indigenous needs, ONC will definitely check in on potential Elder abuse involving non-tribal members. The grant could help ONC achieve a long-term goal of developing its 17-acre subdivision near the Public Health building on Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway. The plan is to build an inter-generational facility: one room would be dedicated to Elders, the other to children, and then there would be one big space for both to interact. Pollack says that this plan is key to keeping the Yup’ik culture vibrant.

"Being able to share life experiences, demonstrate life skills, and being able to speak the language so the kids can hear and articulate some of the verbiage, I think that's really what's going to help cultural preservation," Pollack said. 

Pollack says that they plan to make the decision about the senior center by late summer. Meanwhile, ONC received two more big grants last year to help with the other important issues of suicide and domestic violence.