White House Honors ACS of Alaska with Presidential Award

Joshua Dubois, special assistant to President Obama and White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships executive director, handed the prestigious award to Joe Watts, Adventist Community Services Disaster Response national director, on behalf of Ephraim Palmero, Adventist Community Services of Alaska executive director, during the National Convention of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters in Orlando, Fla., on May 11. Palmero was cited for exemplary leadership in volunteer service and community participation.

In May 2009, the rapid melting of arctic ice resulted in huge chunks of ice floating in the rising waters of the Alaska Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. This resulted in massive ice-jams flooding river villages along the Middle and Lower Yukon including Eagle, Fort Yukon, Grayling, Holy Cross, Nulato, Akiak, Steven's Village and Upper and Lower Kalskag.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency declared a major state disaster, which activated ACS of Alaska, a designated first responder. Palmero, on behalf of ACS of Alaska, signed a memorandum of agreement with the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to operate the disaster relief donations operations. Under his leadership, ACS of Alaska, along with Alaska VOAD, coordinated a support system in response to the catastrophe.

Joe Watts and Doug Venn, North Pacific Union Conference ACS disaster relief director, became involved in supporting Alaska in its planning stages of donations operation and multiagency warehousing management.

ACS of Alaska and Alaska VOAD officers coordinated transportion of disaster goods to places inaccessible by road. The Alaska chapter of the Civil Air Patrol collaborated with ACS of Alaska and offered their flight hangar to operate as a staging warehouse. CAP fixed-wing aircrafts flew hundreds of hours delivering disaster commodities to flooded villages in Western Alaska. Carol Gordon and Verdie Culpepper, both Adventists serving FEMA as voluntary agency liaisons, provided technical support and federal assistance to this operation.

ACS of Alaska also partners with the Alaska Suicide Prevention Council and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in advocating a statewide suicide prevention initiative. ACS of Alaska has suicide prevention satellite programs in Savoonga, Gambell, Bethel and Selawik supported by the ACS social ministry fund and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services' Behavioral Health Division.

Palmero also serves the Alaska Conference as director for health ministries. He lives in Anchorage with his wife, Melba, and their two sons. To learn more about ACS of Alaska, visit www.acs-alaska.org.

Featured in: July 2010