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April 14 Coronavirus Update: BCSF On Relief Efforts And The Ice Classic

Michelle DeWitt

Bethel Community Services Foundation Executive Director Michelle DeWitt joined KYUK's Katie Basile for an update on COVID-19 relief efforts, and changes to the Kuskokwim Ice Classic.

Bethel dug deep to help the region respond to COVID-19. DeWitt said that volunteers in the community made over 4,000 surgical masks, many of these headed out to surrounding village clinics. And when the organization created a special YK Delta COVID-19 Response fund with a goal of raising $5,000 through individual funds, people donated the money in four days, matching the $5,000 authorized by the BCSF Board of Directors. Then the Calista Corporation made a major contribution, followed by even more donations.

“We really want to thank people for the overwhelming support, and remind people we are still accepting donations,” said DeWitt. “We have identified a few priority areas that we will make grants towards, but really we’re open to whatever applicants say they need, and the first round of grants are open now through [April 17].”

DeWitt says that the deadline for applications for the first round of grants is tight, 5 p.m. on April 17. The fund plans to award eight $2,000 grants during the first round, with another grant application period soon to follow. To find out more, go to

The Kuskokwim Ice Classic is open for business, despite the pandemic. Instead of buying tickets at booths in local stores, though, you have to do it remotely by calling 545-8483 to place your bet on when the Kuskokwim River ice in front of Bethel is going to break up.

“We’re certainly going to have a later breakup. Out deadline is super late. It’s June 1,” said DeWitt. “We know we’ll probably have breakup before then, which means that our rule that we used last year will apply, and that’s that guesses have to be in the day before breakup occurs in order to be eligible to win. So folks can wait until the last minute, but it will be tough managing that volume on the phone so, you know, don’t wait to the total, total last minute.”

The 2020 winner will earn 50 percent of the amount raised, meaning that half of the money will go to whoever guesses the correct time that the ice in front of Bethel moves enough to trip the time clock in the Kuskokwim Ice Classic building. Should more than one person win, the jackpot will be split accordingly.

Community members interested in sewing masks for YKHC can pick up kits at the Bethel Community Services Office at 1795 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway. There are totes outside of the building where you can pick up the kits and drop off completed masks. 

Katie Basile is an independent photographer and multimedia storyteller from Bethel, Alaska.
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