Update (Jan. 30, 4:40 p.m.)
Wednesday, Jan. 30, is the final day the Coast Guard’s consumables pantry in Juneau will be open. It will likely re-open in the event of another shutdown after Feb. 15.
The Coast Guard is the only branch of the U.S. military not receiving pay during the partial government shutdown. A new pantry for household supplies has popped up in Juneau to help service members make ends meet until their next paycheck.
The boat bay at U.S. Coast Guard Station Juneau looks like a small auto shop. Same high ceilings, same polished concrete floor. But there are no cars inside — or boats.
Instead, there’s a towering pile of paper towels, tables loaded with diapers and dog food, and about a dozen men and women in dark blue uniforms or Coast Guard hoodies, hauling boxes and arranging goods.
“It’s kind of all hands on deck here,” said Quy Nguyen.
Nguyen is the Coast Guard’s property officer for all of Alaska, Coast Guard District 17. He’s also the president of the Juneau chapter of the U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, a nonprofit that supports Coast Guard families.
Right now, Nguyen said, a lot of Coast Guard families are hurting because of the shutdown. The Department of Defense is fully funded through this September, but the Coast Guard falls under a different department: Homeland Security. Most Coast Guard civilian employees are on furlough, and active duty members are working without pay. They received their last paychecks on Dec. 31.
Nguyen’s organization recognized that Juneau already has plenty of food pantries.
“And we thought, ‘What else could we help members with?’ And we came up with consumable items,” said Nguyen, which he explained means “day-to-day use items” like laundry detergent, Ziploc bags and toiletries.
So the boat bay became a pop-up consumables pantry. Donations have come from Fred Meyers and Rainbow Foods, and Nguyen is hoping for more. In addition, financial donations will help them buy specific items requested by service members.
Earlier this week, the Coast Guard’s top official, Adm. Karl Schultz, released a video on Facebook. In it, he thanks his “shipmates” for their continued service. But, he said, members of the armed forces “should not be expected to shoulder this burden.”
“I remain heartened by assistance available to you within the lifelines and by the outpouring of support from local communities across the nation. But ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life as service members,” he said in the video.
Nguyen’s organization shared the video on their Facebook page. They may agree it’s unacceptable, but still they see the need in Juneau. So for as long as they have anything to give, and as long as the government stays closed, the pantry will be open.
The consumables pantry will be open at Coast Guard Station Juneau on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3-5 p.m. for all active duty military and their dependents, Coast Guard civilian employees, and Coast Guard retirees.
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