Sitka Health Summit chooses two community wellness projects for the next year

Starting a series of trauma-informed community conversations and reducing Sitka’s carbon emissions were the theme as Sitka residents gathered to choose two community wellness projects to pursue in 2017-18 at the 11th annual Sitka Health Summit, held Oct. 11-13, at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus and Sitka Public Library. The Sitka Local Foods Network got its start through a couple of Sitka Health Summit projects.

This year, the summit featured Justin Rivas, MPH, MIPA, of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, who also works with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Rivas led a boundary-spanning leadership workshop on Wednesday morning to help leaders learn how to be more inclusive in their planning. He also gave a presentation on health equity on Wednesday night.

The Sitka Health Summit Planning Day was expanded to a day and a half this year, with Rivas facilitating. On Thursday afternoon, Rivas discussed health equity and also went over some of the Sitka and Alaska health information gathered from the RWJF County Health Rankings ( He also discussed the site’s What Works For Health project ( that lists hundreds of possible health projects and the evidence-based research that shows how they work. On Friday, about 30-40 Sitkans gathered to select the two community wellness projects to pursue for the next year.

“The Sitka Health Summit team was successful in using data and evidence to inform the goal-setting process at this year’s planning day,” Rivas said. “They also met the challenge of strategically incorporating health equity in the selection of the year’s goals.”

There were 33 initial projects proposed, in a variety of categories such as physical activity, nutrition (including two people suggesting a veggie prescriptions project), mental health, health equity, etc. They were narrowed down to five semifinalists, and two of those were combined to make it four semifinal projects. The two chosen projects each will receive $2,000 in seed money, as well as some facilitation services from the Sitka Health Summit advisory team, to help get the projects off the ground.

“The planners chose two important goals for this year,” Sitka Health Summit Coalition member Doug Osborne said. “The first group decided to have some critical conversations about our community’s past and present as well as the kind of future we want for all of our residents. Understanding our ‘history’ (including the painful parts that often don’t get discussed), becoming a trauma-informed community, and uniting to end racism are going to contribute to a healthier Sitka that’s built on a foundation of mutual respect.

“The second goal the planners chose was to help protect our ocean, forest, and quality of life by reducing carbon emissions and addressing climate change. As the planners brainstormed ways to reduce CO2 emissions (the main greenhouse gas) it was clear that the solutions had several layers of benefits, such as saving money, improving air quality, promoting fitness and more. I wish both of the groups the best of luck as they work to make our world and our town healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable.”

Each of the two chosen community wellness projects will host a kick-off event in the near future, and these events are open to the public and anybody who wants to help with the project. More information about the projects, their kick-off meetings, and contact people are listed below.

  • Reduce carbon emissions in Sitka — 6:30-8 p.m., Monday, Oct. 23, Harrigan Centennial Hall, contact Heather Bauscher, 747-7509, (NOTE: Second meeting is 6-7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 30, at the Island Institute offices across from Baranof Elementary School) — Sitkans have a direct self interest in healthy oceans, forests and quality of life. By being better stewards of our resources, we can save money while helping the environment, protect our quality of life, help the next generation, and create a livable world now and in the future. All are invited to discuss CO2 reduction, stewardship, and a sustainable Sitka. (Note: Growing local food can be a part of this project.)
  • Trauma-informed community conversations — 6-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 9, Harrigan Centennial Hall, contact Loyd Platson, 747-3636, (NOTE: This is a change from the time, date and location originally announced for this meeting) — This project’s goal is in bringing together partners interested in community healing and equity, fostering community healing and understanding through dialogue, increasing cross-cultural understanding and respect, and creating a forum where conversations can be brought together. We as a community recognize that historical trauma affects the well-being and health equity of our community. We are going to have continuing conversations surrounding these topics, and this will be a safe space to talk about these things and our shared experience.

The Sitka Health Summit is coordinated and funded by a coalition of local groups that includes the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka Community Hospital, Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Counseling, the State of Alaska Division of Public HealthSection of Public Health Nursing, the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, White’s Pharmacy, the Sitka Health Summit Coalition.

For more information about the Sitka Health Summit and its current and past projects, go to Photos from the summit are posted on the Sitka Health Summit page on Facebook,


Cross boundaries at the 11th annual Sitka Health Summit on Oct. 11-13

The 11th annual Sitka Health Summit will be October 11-13 at various locations around Sitka.

​​Justin Rivas, MPH, MIPA, from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute will be leading two workshops and then providing facilitation for the planning days. All the events are free and open to the public.

The summit opens with the boundary spanning leadership workshop from 10:30 a.m. to noon, on Wednesday, Oct. 11, in Room 229 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. This interactive workshop comes from the Center for Creative Leadership and is based on the book Boundary Spanning Leadership by Chris Ernst.

For a diverse group of stakeholders to effectively cross boundaries and work together, partners must first define and understand the lines that differentiate them. You must be able to clearly see group boundaries before you can span them. This important step is often skipped in forming new partnerships. Throughout this class five types of universal boundaries will be examined and deconstructed with the goal of improving teamwork and, ultimately, results.

The next event is a presentation by Rivas on health equity and the impact income, race and geography has on health outcomes. This event takes place from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Sitka Public Library. Information and case studies about public health efforts to understand and address disparities, while promoting access and equity for all, will be shared and discussed.

This year we’ve expanded the Sitka Health Summit planning day into a day and a half of planning community wellness projects. They will take place from 1-4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 12, and from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, in Room 229 at the UAS Sitka Campus. For lunch during Friday’s events, Chef Edith Johnson of Our Town Catering will prepare a lunch with locally caught coho salmon and a locally grown kale and mixed-green salad with a champagne vinaigrette.

All ideas and all people are welcome to brainstorm, evaluate, select two inspiring health goals that will promote equity and well-being in Sitka. Each of the newly selected initiatives receives $2,000 in start-up funds, initial facilitation services, technical assistance, and a letter of support. Some of the past community initiatives include the Sitka Farmers Market, Sitka Kitch, Fish to Schools, Hames Athletic and Wellness Center, Sitka Community Playground, and earning Bicycle Friendly Community and Walk Friendly Communities designations, among other projects.

Sponsors for this year’s Health Equity themed Summit include the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka Community Hospital, Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Counseling, White’s Inc./Harry Race Pharmacy, Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services-Section of Public Health Nursing, the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus, and the Sitka Health Summit Coalition.

For more information or to save your spot at any the three events, contact Doug Osborne at 747-0373 or or Holly Marban at 966-8938 or Doug and Holly also are requesting people RSVP for the events, to help planning.

Please email them and let them know if you plan to attend the Wednesday morning workshop with Justin Rivas at UAS Sitka Campus (Event A), the health equity presentation Wednesday night at Sitka Public Library (Event B), and/or the Sitka Health Summit Planning Days on Thursday and Friday at UAS Sitka Campus (Event C).

• It’s time to … learn how to build a simple raised garden bed


While we’re waiting for spring to finally show up in Sitka, one thing gardeners can do to prepare for planting is build a simple raised garden bed. The pictures with this post feature members of the WISEGUYS men’s health group (Rick DeGroot, Kerry MacLane, Doug Osborne and his daughter, Darby, then 4) building a garden bed in May 2008 at Blatchley Community Garden in Sitka.


First, you will need some untreated lumber (treated lumber has chemicals that can get into your food), with 2x12s being good for the frame. Your garden bed will probably be between 3-4 feet wide and 6-8 feet long, depending on your garden space and your lumber. Don’t go much wider than four feet, because you will want to be able to easily reach across the garden so you can plant and weed without falling into the bed. You can go longer than eight feet, but you might need to use more than one board to get that length. So cut your boards to your desired length and width.


Next, lay out your lumber and nail or screw your boards together to form a box. Some people prefer screws over nails, because they don’t pull loose as easily as nails. But use what you have. Some people will add corner posts that can be punched into the ground.


After you’ve built the frame, cover the ground with a bunch of old cardboard or newspapers. This will act as a barrier to help keep weeds from getting into your veggies.



Now you can start filling your frame with soil. About halfway through filling the frame, you can add a layer of seaweed, compost or other soil amendments to add nutrients to your soil. Finish by adding top soil that you mix with some of your soil amendments.



Once you have your raised garden bed built and full of soil, you can start planting (if you’re past your last-frost date, which tends to be mid-May in Sitka). Once you have your seeds planted or starts transplanted, you can water your garden bed.


In Sitka it’s always a good idea to use row-cover over your garden, especially early in the season. This not only helps keep birds and other pests out of your garden, but the white fabric creates a mini-greenhouse effect that helps warm your soil so your seeds sprout sooner.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication on raised bed gardening

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication Gardening In Southeast Alaska

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication Southeast Alaska Garden Varieties

• Sitka Local Foods Network launches crowd-funding project for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm


StPetersSignWithToDoListSignOne of the key elements of the Sitka Local Foods Network’s efforts to bring more locally grown food to Sitka each year is the crops we grow at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, a communal garden behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church that produces food for the Sitka Farmers Market, local school lunch programs, and other venues. This month, the Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting a special projects fundraiser on the website to try and raise $1,200 to be used for improvements at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

“The SLFN is excited to launch our first foray into crowd sourcing,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “We can’t think of a better way to raise funds for our successful St.Peter’s Fellowship Farm and our extension garden at Pat Arvin’s. Our lead gardener, Laura Schmidt, together with our local food interns, have continued to guide us towards increased food production which we’ve then moved into the community. Please help us support this deliciously nourishing project with a donation of $10 to $100 to $1,000 and keep food production growing in Sitka.”

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm was the brainchild Bonnie Elsensohn, the wife of the church’s former rector. The church had recently removed a large tree behind the See House, and Bonnie thought the open space would be the perfect spot for a communal garden. In the spring of 2008 she contacted Lisa Sadleir-Hart and Doug Osborne, who were board members of what became the Sitka Local Foods Network, suggesting they make a presentation to the church vestry asking that the site become a place to grow vegetables for the new Sitka Farmers Market.

Wood from the felled tree was used to make the first five garden beds, and enough crops were grown to support three Sitka Farmers Markets later that summer. Now St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is 1,600 square feet, and it produces enough produce for six Sitka Farmers Markets,a garden stand at the Chelan Produce events during summer, a garden stand at the annual Running of the Boots fundraiser, sales to school lunch programs, and more.

This is the first crowd-funding event hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network, and we chose to use because it has tailored its program for nonprofit organizations. It is similar to other crowd-funding sites, such as,, or, but the service charges are lower on for organizations that have an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

The Sitka Local Foods Network is hoping to raise $1,200 in this campaign, which ends on Monday, Dec. 8. To learn more about the project and to contribute, click this link and follow the prompts on the page. You also can click on the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm photo in the right column of our main website page and it will take you directly to the fundraiser link.

All money raised by the Sitka Local Foods Network is used to fund Sitka Local Foods Network programs, such as the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, education programs, etc. All funds raised by the Sitka Local Foods Network is used according to our mission statement, which is to promote the growing, harvesting and eating of local food in Sitka and SE Alaska.


• Seventh annual Sitka Health Summit helps celebrate a culture of wellness in Sitka

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The seventh annual Sitka Health Summit is coming up, and this year’s event features health fair, lunch-and-learn, community planning day and community wellness awards.

This annual event got its start in 2007, when leaders from Sitka Community Hospital and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) got together to try and build bridges between their health organizations. Working with other partners, they created the Sitka Health Summit as a way to help improve the health culture in Sitka.

Summit_LogoThis year’s summit opens with the Sitka Community Health Fair, which takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. This event features workers from the Alaska Health Fair Inc., who will provide a variety of medical tests such as cholesterol checks, glucose tests, vision screenings, flu shots, and more. It also includes informational booths from a variety of health-related programs in Sitka.

At noon on Monday, Sept. 23, at Kettleson Memorial Library will be a lunch-and-learn with Dr. Don Lehmann, a local physician and sports medicine specialist. He will give a brief talk called “Whistle While You Walk,” which will feature highlights about Sitka’s trail system. Participants can enter for a chance to win a set of walking sticks.

The “Community Planning Day: Selecting Sitka’s Wellness Goals” is from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, at Sweetland Hall. This all-day event is when members of the community get together and select two community wellness projects to work on this year. The two projects will receive $1,500 in seed money, plus facilitation to help get the project going. Last year’s three winning projects included the Sitka Downtown Revitalization project, Walk Sitka‘s work in applying for a Walk Friendly Communities award, and the Sitka Community Food Assessment. Some of the top projects from previous years include the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community award applications in 2008 and 2012, the Choose Respect mural at Blatchley Middle School to raise awareness about sexual and domestic violence, the Sitka Outdoor Recreation Coalition’s Get Out, Sitka! project to get more families and kids outdoors, supporting the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center as a community resource, etc. There also have been several projects related to local foods, such as creating a Sitka Farmers Market, expanding community gardens and building a community greenhouse, planting dozens of fruit trees around town, promoting more local fish in school lunches, community composting,, and more. The first 65 people to RSVP will receive a free lunch (contact Clara Gray at

Finally, this year’s Sitka Community Wellness Champion Awards will be presented as part of the Monthly Grind at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi on Katlian Street. The awards are made in a variety of categories, such as physical fitness, nutrition, tobacco control and policy, holistic health, injury prevention, and general wellness.

For more information, call Doug Osborne at 966-8734 or go to the Sitka Health Summit’s website at

• Sitka Local Foods Network to host April 24 meeting to discuss Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center

This is the inside of a community greenhouse built above the Arctic Circle in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada, that has been one of the models for the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center (Photo from

This is the inside of a community greenhouse built above the Arctic Circle in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada, that has been one of the models for the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center (Photo from

Are you interested in helping Sitka increase its access to fresh, locally grown produce all year round? The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a gathering from 7-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, at Harrigan Centennial Hall to discuss plans for the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center.

Building a community greenhouse and education center was a community wellness goal from the 2008 Sitka Health Summit, but over the years there were a few problems bringing the project to fruition (usually with securing land). We are looking to build a 30-foot–by-52-foot greenhouse on a couple of possible sites, including on the Sheldon Jackson Campus or near the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, among other locations around town. This is the closest we’ve come to being able to start building a community greenhouse, which will help provide Sitka residents with more local produce, and it also will work with schools and local residents to teach gardening and horticulture.

In addition to the availability of land, we have been offered locally harvested wood to build the greenhouse frame, which will be modeled after another successful greenhouse built near Sitka in 2011.

For more information, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654 or Doug Osborne at 966-8734.

• Sitka residents pick three Sitka Health Summit wellness projects for 2012-13; including a community food assessment

Sitka residents gather for a group photo during the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

Sitka residents gather for a group photo during the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

Sitka residents want to revitalize the downtown core area, perform a community food assessment for food resiliency, and apply for a Walk Friendly Community award to show how walkable Sitka is as a community.

Those were the three community health priorities Sitka residents chose to work on this next year when they met during the Sitka Health Summit’s community planning meeting on Friday, Oct. 12, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. Sitka residents chose these three projects out of dozens of brain-stormed ideas. Each project will receive assistance with facilitation and $750 of seed money from the summit’s Health Initiatives Fund to start working on meeting the health goals.

The groups working on each project are setting up their first meetings and getting their contact lists together, and Sitka residents who want to participate are welcome to contact the interim group leaders (through the group’s first meetings, group leaders may change after the first meetings) listed below to find out more information.

  • Sitka downtown revitalization project, Angela McGraw, 747-1737,, first meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.
  • Sitka community food assessment, Renae Mathson, 966-8797,, first meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, in Room 108 at Rasmuson Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.
  • Walk Friendly Community, Charles Bingham, 738-8875,, first meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at Swan Lake Senior Center.
Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell speaks to Sitka residents at the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell speaks to Sitka residents at the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

The sixth annual Sitka Health Summit took place on Saturday, Oct. 6; Monday, Oct. 8; Wednesday, Oct. 10; and Friday, Oct. 12, at various locations around Sitka. In addition to Friday’s community planning meeting, the Sitka Health Summit opened the Sitka Community Health Fair and Neighborhood Block Party on Saturday at Sweetland Hall. It also featured a lunch-and-learn on Monday at Kettleson Memorial Library where Don Lehmann, MD, discussed “Exercise as Medicine;” and it featured the Sitka Health Summit Community Wellness Champion Awards Celebration on Wednesday night at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahidi.

The Sitka Health Summit is brought to you by Sitka Community Hospital, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Alaska Communications and the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus. Additional financial help and in-kind donations were provided by the City and Borough of Sitka, Guardian Flight Inc., Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, Scott Insurance Services, Shee Atiká Inc., AC Value Center/Lakeside, Sitka Vision Clinic, Wells Fargo, White’s Inc. (Harry Race Pharmacy, White’s Pharmacy, Seasons), Spenard Builders Supply, Don and Penny Lehmann, Alaska Health Fair Inc., and the State of Alaska Division of Public Health Nursing. The Sitka Health Summit’s vision is “to serve our great state as a model for community wellness by creating a healthy community where all Sitkans strive for and enjoy a high quality of life.”

For more information about the Sitka Health Summit, call Doug Osborne at 966-8734 or Alyssa Sexton at 747-0388, or go to our website at