By Joseph Robertia
The dining section of the Albatross Restaurant and Lounge on Kalifornsky Beach Road sports the typical trophies of the Alaska outdoors for décor — fish mounts, a bear hide, strips of baleen and a king crab.
On Monday, however, even the gleaming silver of the salmon affixed to the wall couldn’t draw attention away from the other items decorating the space, stacked in overflowing yet orderly mounds throughout the room — clothes, bedding, shoes, LEGO kits, art supplies, sports gear, movies, electronics, a guitar and enough toys to set up a minidepartment store. All are trophies of a different sort, demonstrating the triumph of the holiday spirit over the challenges of economic hardship.
The spirit of giving is a common thread that connects people during the holidays, and it winds especially close around the owners and patrons of this tiny tavern just outside of Kenai.
For 20 years Pat Vinson, owner of the Albatross Restaurant and Lounge — known to locals as the Alby — has been devoted to making sure that the children of families facing financial difficulties still receive holiday gifts and a hearty meal.
This year, the Alby’s sponsorship of a Christmas drive conducted by Mountain View Elementary and Kenai Middle schools will provide for about 50 children.
“Sometimes I think I get more pleasure out of it than they do,” Vinson said. Continue reading