Help at home — Project Homeless Connect serves record number

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Trista Cavallo cuts hair and boosts spirits at Project Homeless Connect held Thursday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Trista Cavallo cuts hair and boosts spirits at Project Homeless Connect held Thursday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

It’s a little hard to say what the best-case scenario for Project Homeless Connect would be.

One of the organizers, Lisa Roberts, said they had more people than ever come to the fourth annual event, held at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Thursday.

“I think we’re busier this year than we were last year. A lot more people coming through,” she said. “We have served so many people we have run out of sandwiches, so we have had to go to store and buy bread and meat and cheese so that we can get everybody fed because that’s the one thing, I don’t want anybody going away from here hungry today.”

But, ultimately, Roberts would rather have no one show up because no one in the community was homeless. That’s unfortunately not the case.

“We do know that there is a lot of things going on around us, that we’ve had a lot of words of layoffs and that sort of thing from different big corporations, so I think that could be a part of it,” Roberts said.

As the name implies, Project Homeless Connect links people lacking adequate housing with a variety of services. Those in need can come speak to representatives of various agencies and nonprofit organizations that help with housing, food, mental and physical health, disabilities, transportation, employment, child care and much more. This year they added a veterinarian to give vaccines to service animals, as well as a musician proving some background ambiance.

The clothing donations were a hit.

“I’ve seen a lot of wonderful people here today. It’s been really good,” said Janet Anderson, who was volunteering to help match the donated items with attendees. “Lot of coats today, people have really went through a lot of coats and I’m just amazed at community help that we’ve had.”

The booths offering haircuts and massages were occupied nonstop.

“Constant. I had to tell somebody, ‘I’ll be right back, I have to go to the bathroom,’” said Trista Cavallo, one of the volunteer hair cutters.

Cavallo lives in Idaho now, but was back on the central Kenai Peninsula for a visit when her friends asked her to come along and help out.

“It doesn’t cost me anything to cut hair so why not do it for free for people who need it?” she said.

She knew one of her customers, John, from Ministry of the Living Stones Church in Sterling. She gave him a bit of grief as well as a trim.

“I thought about shaving it all and then just giving him a comb-over,” she said.

“A Donald Trump look?” said John’s wife, Dre.

“Yeah,” Cavallo said, while John good-naturedly sat through their teasing.

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Ruffner back up for Board of Fish

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Gov. Bill Walker announced his nominees Tuesday to fill three seats on the Alaska Board of Fisheries, and one of them is back for round two.

Gov. Walker again chose Soldotna’s Robert Ruffner for the board, just a year after the recently retired executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum lost a contentious confirmation battle in the Legislature.

“It was a little bit of a surprise to me because I thought that I needed to wait a year before the governor could put my name back forward, but as it turns out that’s not the case, I can be nominated again,” Ruffner said Tuesday. “And when they called me yesterday I said, ‘Sure.’ Nothing’s changed in my life significantly enough that I wouldn’t be interested in trying to do the best for fisheries across the state, so I’m happy to put my name back in.”

The governor also selected Alan Cain, of Anchorage, and Israel Payton, who grew up in Skwenta and now lives in Wasilla. Cain is a natural resources enforcement adviser and trainer, with a 40-year career as an Alaska Wildlife Trooper, criminal justice planner and private contractor. In that time, he spent 15 years as an enforcement adviser to the Alaska Board of Fisheries, according to the governor’s office.

Payton grew up living a subsistence lifestyle, worked as a hunting and fishing guide in Southcentral and Western Alaska for nearly 20 years, and is a member of the Matanuska-Susitna Fish and Game Advisory Committee. He currently works as a salesman for Airframes Alaska.

The governor’s office notes Ruffner’s experience as an environmental scientist and head of the Kenai Watershed Forum among his qualifications, as well as his positions on the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission and North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission Advisory Panel.

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View from Out West: Breaking the dress code — Alaska values function over any form of fussy

Photo courtesy of Clark Fair. Clark Fair, his little sister and mother all dressed up for a trip to town in 1968.

Photo courtesy of Clark Fair. Clark Fair, his little sister and mother all dressed up for a trip to town in 1968.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

In more than 50 years of Kenai Peninsula residency, I never considered myself a townie, even though I lived twice (1960-62 and 1989-93) inside Soldotna city limits. Most of my life on the Kenai was spent on the Fair family homestead, about midway between Soldotna and Sterling, and “going into town” almost always meant (a) putting on nicer clothes and (b) driving.

The dressing-up part was a hangover from my parents’ childhoods in rural Indiana. Although Dad lived on a farm during only part of each year, Mom lived on a farm full time. Going into town was a special occasion, whether the destination was the grocery or Sunday church services. Consequently, one’s everyday appearance wasn’t good enough. A trip into town meant first washing off the farm dirt, combing or brushing one’s hair and exchanging grubby farm clothes for something clean, and preferably pressed. It meant dresses for women and slacks, starched shirts and hats for men.

Mom swears that it felt good dressing up, even for a trip to the market. Looking good was a pleasant change from the norm. So when Mom and Dad became Alaskans and produced Alaskan children, they attempted to dress those children accordingly when it came time to venture into town.

I can remember fighting against pulling off patched blue jeans and pulling on woolen trousers, against replacing a comfortable T-shirt with a dress shirt, buttoned at the collar and cuffs, with the tails tucked neatly into my pants. I can also remember numerous passes with a comb through my unruly hair, plastered with water to keep a rooster tail at bay.

I wasn’t exactly tortured, but I wasn’t exactly comfortable, either. I saw myself as a play-in-the-dirt, tear-the-knees-out-of-pants, go-outside-in-good-socks kind of kid, not some namby-pamby, go-to-the-store, listen-to-parents’-jabber, snazzy-dressing kind of kid.

I was a homestead boy.

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Peninsula well-positioned to weather state’s economic storm

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The prevalent message at this year’s Industry Outlook Forum was good news, bad news.

The two-day event, put on by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, brought together speakers representing various sectors of the Kenai Peninsula’s economy.

Alyssa Rodrigues, economist with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, kicked things off Thursday morning. With her statewide perspective she called herself a bit of a Debbie Downer, as state government faces a fiscal crises in the billions of dollars. But she had happier news for the peninsula.

“So, the Kenai Peninsula typically outperforms the state. And it moves with the state, so when the state sees rough times, the peninsula typically does, as well, but it doesn’t seem to be impacted as badly as the state,” Rodrigues said.

The jobs outlook for the state forecasts a decline of .7 percent in 2016, which isn’t rosy, Rodrigues said, but less than a percentage point isn’t terrible, either. The peninsula is looking at even less of a jobs decline of .4 percent.

When oil prices last took a dive in the 1980s and the state plunged into a recession, the peninsula declined, as well, but has since seen more growth than the state. That could be a good thing, or a not-so-good thing.

“The question then is, is the Kenai going to do better because of all that growth that happened, or is it just that much further to fall?” Rodrigues said.

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Penne for your business thoughts — Entrepreneur finding success with homemade product

Photo courtesy of Rosie Reutov. Rosie Reuto, of Sterling, has made her penchant for pasta-making into an expanding business.

Photo courtesy of Rosie Reutov. Rosie Reuto, of Sterling, has made her penchant for pasta-making into an expanding business.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

For many Alaskans, shopping local is more than just food for thought. A woman from Sterling is hoping her penne will make her more than a few pennies by targeting it to those who want fresher ingredients while supporting the local economy.

“If you’ve ever tried homemade pasta, it has a fresh flavor,” said Rosie Reutov, owner of Rosie’s Pasta.

Reutov got her start by sticking close to her mother while she prepared meals for the family.

“My mother taught me when I was very young. I was always in the kitchen when she was cooking,” Reutov said.

By 10 years old, Reutov could make her own pasta by hand. Over the next few decades she continued to build her culinary skills and two years ago began marketing her pasta close to home, in her tiny, tight-knit Russian community.

“It was out of the way to go to stores in town, and Russians like to make and eat their own foods,” she said.

Reutov quickly developed a steady clientele, so she wondered if others might be interested in her products, made from basic, wholesome ingredients, such as water, farm-fresh eggs and semolina flour — a durum wheat flour that is higher in protein than all-purpose flour, and considered by some to be better for pasta than softer flours.

“I wanted to get bigger and see how far I could go,” Reutov said.

So she bought a commercial pasta maker for her Department of Environmental Conservation-approved kitchen and began turning out much more product.

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Common Ground: Bird (dog) is the word

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Communication is key in training bird dogs — once you learn to speak their particular language.

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Communication is key in training bird dogs — once you learn to speak their particular language.

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

Bird dogs are sophisticated in the way they understand words. Just as the ancient Greeks recognized six different varieties of the word “love,” a bird dog recognizes many different meanings for a number of simple commands. They will sometimes cock their heads when “No” is yelled because they are not sure which of the word’s 126 meanings is intended.

“How,” they muse, “are we supposed to know how to satisfy a command when humans have not moved beyond their limited vocabulary?” Trans-species communication can transcend many barriers, but the biggest hurdle identified by eight out of 10 bird dogs is “multiple word meanings.” The other two dogs identify “overuse of the exclamation point in basic dog commands.” This survey was performed using homemade ginger treats and may not reflect the views of all dogs.

“Sit,” the first command taught to many dogs, comes from the Old English “sittan,” meaning “to occupy a seat, be seated, sit down, seat oneself; remain, continue; settle, encamp, occupy; lie in wait; besiege.” It can also mean to be inactive, withhold applause, to do nothing or to sit pretty. It’s no wonder the word causes confusion.

Many dogs will lie down and fall asleep in order to demonstrate the word’s Proto-Germanic origins. The word can be frightening, as it involves a lack of action. It would stress me out to be commanded to, “Do nothing!” while my back end was pushed down and I was offered a treat. Given the word’s etymology, I wouldn’t know if I was supposed to put my butt on the floor or run for office.

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Night Lights: Leap at the chance for stargazing this month

sky_in_February_2016

Graphic courtesy of Andy Veh

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Late in the evening, winter constellations such as Taurus, Pegasus and Andromeda have set already. But others show their glory, such as Orion with its seven bright stars — among them red Betelgeuse and blue Rigel — Auriga with yellow Capella, Gemini with Castor and Pollux, and Procyon and Sirius in Canis Minor and Major, both arching toward the horizon from the Twins.

Lately, I have enjoyed seeing the brightest star, Sirius, above the southern horizon in the evening. Leo, a harbinger of spring, with Regulus in its front paw, appears high in the south. The Big Dipper is now virtually overhead. Blue Vega and Cygnus with Deneb are just above the Little Dipper. Polaris, as always, is 60 degrees above the northern horizon. And in the east, Bootes appears with red Arcturus.

Uranus can still be seen in the evening, but it requires a finder chart (I recommend Googling one). The sun has finally moved in on slow-orbiting Neptune (of course, the sun doesn’t move, Earth’s orbit just gives it that impression), so that the planet is no longer visible until the fall.

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