When folks in Seward need extra help, they can turn to a number of sources for assistance. There is a thriving food bank, a small hospice program, a behavioral health center and an independent living center for the town’s seniors.
But what about those people who have everyday needs, such as
- a bus ticket to Anchorage because they can’t afford to drive there for a medical appointment;
- a prescription that they don’t have the money or the medical benefits to pay for; or
- or even a warm pair of boots because their old ones are tattered and they must work outside in the cold?
That is where the Seward Ministerial Association often steps in to help. This interfaith association shows that coming together to help neighbors in need is a clear expression of Providence Health & Services Alaska’s mission: “steadfast in serving all, especially those who are poor and vulnerable.”
In partnership with Providence Alaska Foundation, Providence Health & Services Alaska invested $10,000 in community partnership funding to help the association continue its good works, filling in the gaps to help lift up those in need.
“This money was given to the Ministerial Association specifically for paying for the medications from Safeway,” said Father Richard Tero of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Seward, and the association’s treasurer for the past 20 years. “We monitor the funds, and once a month we pay the bill straight to the pharmacy.”
Doctors – sometimes locally and sometimes from Anchorage – will call in their patients’ prescriptions to the local Safeway pharmacy, and once a month the Seward Ministerial Association pays the bill. It is a safe and secure way to make sure patients are being treated properly and efficiently.
“A lot of the churches here work together on different things that are needed in the community,” Sacred Heart Deacon Walter Corrigan said. “That’s the joy of having a ministerial association, so we can talk about all of the things that need to be done.”
Fr. Tero said the funding from Providence, once called “the Vicar’s Fund,” historically was run through the local Episcopal church, but 20 years ago was folded into the Ministerial Association. The goal has always been the same – to fill in medical gaps for needy patients. Last year, another gap surfaced.
“We were told the Seward Bus Company would not accept Medicaid for taking the bus to medical appointments,” Fr. Tero said. This meant patients were not getting the care – or the prescriptions – they needed.
“Now we work with a bus company that goes up, and we’ve been paying the bus for two or three people a month to get to their medical appointments,” he added.
Retired Air Force priest Bill Hanrahan said the Providence funding that is earmarked for prescriptions and bus trips to medical appointments allows the remaining funds in the Ministerial Association to go toward other needs.
“We are the caretakers of this money, and being able to use the funds to provide things like bus tickets puts less of a load on the remaining ministerial fund,” Fr. Hanrahan said.
That means when a man came into the church needing a pair of boots for work, there was enough money in the Ministerial Association’s coffers to pay for that. When a request for help with an oil utility bill came in, that could be covered too. Sometimes people need help making rent – especially during the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the job market in Seward. The needs may vary, but the goal – to help provide care – remains the same.
“This is a great benefit to the community for people who have prescriptions but don’t have the money or are not on Medicaid or other struggles that they are having,” Fr. Tero said of Providence’s funding. “It helps them get the medication that the doctors say they need, when they need it.”