Goldbelt Transportation Partners with Other Native Organizations in Slam Dunk for Chichagof Classic
Goldbelt Transportation’s new vessel, the Goldbelt Seawolf, made its first trip to Hoonah today, with a boatload of basketball players, a team of tax accountants, and representatives from both Sealaska and the University of Alaska Southeast. The trip was planned in a partnership between the organizers of the Chichagof Classic, Icy Strait Point, and Goldbelt, Inc. to provide much-needed transportation to over a hundred basketball players in the 8th Annual Chichagof Classic, and to serve as additional transportation for the village as they feel the impact of the reduction in ferry services.
Tournament organizers experienced a larger-than-usual response for this year’s Chichagof Classic, and were concerned about the logistics of so many teams trying to fly into the small Hoonah airport, especially during winter’s unpredictable weather.
“People come from all over the state for this tournament,” said Jessie Martin, tournament organizer. “We worried that not everyone would be able to make it into town to play, and the potential for families to get stranded halfway to Hoonah. This is our biggest tournament ever, in the middle of the ferry crisis, and the support from Goldbelt and Icy Strait Point has really helped everything come together. There’s a lot of excitement about this partnership, and the good that we see our Native organizations stepping up to do for our communities.”
While this trip to Hoonah was specifically organized to help support the tournament, it also served a variety of other community needs. With an onboard crane, drop-down bow, and capacity of 118, the Seawolf brought not only basketball players, but groceries, supplies, and other services to Hoonah today, including a Native and rural student recruiter from the University of Alaska Southeast and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) team from Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority.
“Our tax team jumped on the boat at quite literally the last minute – they’d been scheduled to fly in, but were going to have to cancel their tax assistance, Financial Cents, and home
maintenance workshops in Hoonah altogether because their flight was canceled due to weather,” said Desiree Jackson, Director of Tribal Services at Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority. “The team worked with Goldbelt to get the last few seats on the Seawolf. They came loaded down with huge bins full of groceries, which the vessel was able to accommodate without issue.”
The VITA program provides income tax assistance to rural communities, many of which do not have access to tax accountants. They also host other financial literacy programming in villages throughout Southeast.
“Our community thrives on the relationships our native organizations help grow and maintain,” said Tasha Heumann, Sealaska Brand Manager and tournament participant. “Basketball tournaments are real cultural events that help connect our people and communities. I’m thrilled everything came together to make this event possible – it’s our baby son’s first time visiting Hoonah, and it’s so important to our family that he connect with his culture.”
Goldbelt Transportation provides service to and from the Kensington gold mine daily, but with the addition of the Goldbelt Seawolf to the fleet, hopes to expand operations and increase service throughout the southeast region.
“Reliable, effective transportation solutions are vital to doing business and just living life here in Southeast Alaska,” said Clint Songer, General Manager of Goldbelt Transportation LLC. “Luckily, we’re able to be agile in working together to meet those needs – in this case, our partnership was truly a slam dunk for everyone involved.”