Palin, Graham to Help Needy AK Villages

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CBNNews.com - Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Rev. Franklin Graham are joining forces to help a few Lower Yukon Alaskan villages in desperate need after a tough winter season.

Residents in two villages in particular, Marshall and Russian Mission, have been suffering from high fuel and food costs, poor fish harvests, and an unusually cold winter.

Palin, Graham, and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell are visiting those communities Friday to offer help. Gov. Palin made the surprise announcement Thursday, that she would join Graham's relief organization Samaritan's Purse in visiting the villages.

It is unclear how Palin and Graham's organization teamed up for the relief effort. But Graham is no stranger to Alaska. He briefly lived in the state at one point and returns often to visit. He also spoke at Gov. Palin's prayer breakfast in 2007 and 2008.

With help from residents in Wasilla, Alaska - Palin's hometown - Samaritan's Purse bought 44,000 pounds of food for the needy Alaskan region. National Guard volunteers in Wasilla, the fifth largest metropolitan city in the state, packed food for shipment to their neighbors in the rural areas.

"With the high cost of living, it's hard to say no," Russian Mission's city clerk, Agnes Housler, said of the help. "We can't go out hunting and fishing like we used to to get our subsistence food because gas and oil prices are so high."

The food will be distributed to more than 200 Alaskan families in need, state officials said.

Palin's administration has been working with residents of Russian Mission, a village of roughly 335 people, to determine their eligibility for aid programs. Many residents there have already received food and cash assistance.

"The state has made food drops, sent at least four teams of multi-agency personnel to identify the eligibility.," Palin's spokesman Bill McAllister, said. "The governor's visit puts an exclamation point on that ongoing effort."

One of Palin's toughest critics praised the governor for the efforts.

"I applaud her for following in the footsteps of what Alaskans and nonprofits and churches have already been doing over the last four to six weeks," Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks. Ramras has been one of Palin's most vocal critics in the past.

"I think she's setting a great example for the next wave of giving," he said.

Starting with a letter from an Emmonak man about hard times in his village, the news eventually led to a flood of private donations to the Lower Yukon in recent weeks, not to mention political finger-pointing.

Sources: www.gov.state.ak, Anchorage Daily News, AP

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