HEALY — The “Welcome To Healy” sign is looking for a little love — and it may finally have found some.
The Denali Chamber of Commerce has agreed to manage fundraising to restore the Healy sign, which is badly in need of renovation.
Local businesses and community members are encouraged to donate to the project by mailing a donation to Denali Chamber of Commerce, Re: Healy Sign, P.O. Box 437, Healy, AK 99743.
The colorful flowered sign, at the Healy intersection, has been there for about 11 years. It was the culmination of a year-long high school service learning class.
Former Alaska State Teacher of the Year Sonja Schmidt taught the class and oversaw the project, done entirely by students.
“Students first conducted a needs assessment, then ran a design contest, learned about sign design, took field trips to the Vital Signs studio during planning and construction of the sign,” Schmidt said.
Students also “worked with the Denali Borough and the state of Alaska to get permits for the sign, ran a fundraising campaign and helped with grant writing.”
Students raised about $4,000.
When the sign arrived, several local businesses donated their time and equipment to install the posts. Students then installed the sign under guidance of the Denali Borough School District maintenance supervisor.
“The sign has become an iconic source of pride for residents and is used widely to promote local businesses,” Schmidt said.
Photos of the sign regularly appear on websites and tourist brochures.
The students who made it happen just celebrated their 10-year class reunion and according to Schmidt, they “are mindful of the impact their work has had on promoting the sense of community of Healy.”
Local volunteers such as Craig Schmidt and Kevin Hamel have maintained the sign periodically through the years, but it needs more work. The sign needs a facelift after years of being exposed to wind, sun, rain and snow.
One board on the northern side of the sign is gone, perhaps the victim of high winds. The laminate on the back began peeling off about three years ago. Kevin Hamel “graciously had the varnishing done,” Schmidt said.
The company that made the sign, Vital Signs, is preparing an estimate of the cost to repair.
Schmidt, who retired, but kept her hand in this project, is anxious for the community to embrace this project. She hopes everyone will help to make the sign something the community can be proud of.
“Let’s make sure those students come back on their 20-year reunion and once again can have their picture taken by their sign,” she said.
It is important to her that students still feel the glow of success from that project so many years later. Who knows? It might even inspire other students to take on other service projects in the community, she said.