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As anyone who’s done a home improvement project knows, building materials can be expensive. And as anyone who goes to the landfill knows, people throw away perfectly good stuff.

There’s a solution to both those problems, and it now has a home in Soldotna. BuildUp opened its physical doors two weeks ago. It’s a nonprofit organization that takes donated construction items that otherwise would be headed to the dump, and sells them to the public at deep discounts.

Amy Anderson, of Anderson Custom Builders, has been frustrated for years with throwing away usable materials.  

“Just from our own jobs, the accumulation of leftover doors, windows, tile, grout, Sheetrock was piling up and a lot of it ended up at the dump because we ran out of space,” Anderson said. “I go to the CD cell probably once a week and that’s hard to do.”

 


Jenny Neyman/KDLL

A year and a half ago, Rhonda McCormick localized a nationwide effort to support shopping and eating at locally owned businesses. The Soldotna Cash Mob was born.

Once a month, she invited any interested participants to eat at a designated restaurant at a designated time, then, as a group, go shop at a selected store. But since March, the “mob” mentality needed to change.

“Well, when COVID came and we went into lockdown, that kind of changed things a little bit and someone asked me if we were going to do a takeout version,” McCormick said. “And I was like, ‘Well, that’s a great idea.' So I set that up and then I thought, 'Well, we might as well do shopping that way, too.'”

Anna DeVolld

The 30th annual Caring for the Kenai program ended up finishing virtually, given the coronavirus pandemic, but the winning projects will make real-world differences.

The program usually ends in April with students giving their presentations and standing for questions from judges. But that part was put on hold until August, with the final judging happening over videoconferencing Aug. 6.

“We did a lot of planning, a lot of thinking and we had a lot of ideas of what we wanted to do for our 30th anniversary and, of course, everything changed. And this shows how the real-world experience of Caring for the Kenai helps the next generation change. And what you’ve learned from this, what we’ve learned from this, gives us all a lot of hope for the future,” said Merrill Sikorski, program founder and director.

Caring for the Kenai challenges high school students to come up with a project to better care for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula or improve the area’s preparedness for a natural disaster. Finalists and their schools get cash prizes. Students can participate with the same project more than once but repeat entries are judged on what they’ve done to further their project in the last year, rather than the initial idea.

Rogers family

A GoFundMe account has been set up to benefit the family of David Rogers, one of the seven people who died Friday morning in a midair collision near Soldotna.

He was a guide at High Adventure Air, which flies out of Longmere Lake, east of Soldotna. Rogers, pilot Greg Bell and four clients from South Carolina were in a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver. Kenai Rep. Gary Knopp, who was running for reelection to his Kenai District 30 seat, was the sole occupant of a Piper PA-12.

Investigators from the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

Maddy McElrea works at High Adventure Air and set up the GoFundMe account to cover the expenses of getting Rogers and his dog home Kansas, as well as funeral and other expenses. Rogers had a wife, Rhonda, and three kids. 

“And just really anything that’s going to help them get through these next few months. Because I know that David was kind of the worker in the family for them,” McElrea said.

It’s going to be a little less fashionable for women on the central peninsula, with a much-loved clothing design businesses leaving town. After 14 years creating colorful, cozy hoodies, pullovers, pants, skirts and more in Soldotna, Susanna Evins is buttoning up Mountain Mama Originals and selling off her fabric, trim — even her signature chunky buttons.

Her family is moving back to Montana. The move isn’t completely COVID-19 related but the pandemic has been an impetus to embrace life as it comes.

“I think that’s kind of what I’ve heard with a lot of people in the last few months. They’re kind of readjusting and figuring out, ‘OK, this means the most to me, so I if want this, then I need to make it happen,’” Evins said. “Yeah, family does (matter). And that’s where it comes down to is I want a better balance. And not even just family, I want to have time to learn other things besides just hustling and bustling, doing the same thing.”


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