SAIL Project Returns Mobility to Sitkan

Sentinel Staff Writer

Jamie Jackson, who has multiple sclerosis, was finding it more and more difficult to negotiate the outside flight of stairs to reach the living area of her home near Harbor Mountain Road.

Her husband Tony was busy remodeling the garage into a ground floor apartment for Jamie, when a better solution appeared.

Thanks to a chairlift installed with the aid of Southeast Alaska Independent Living, Jamie, 66, will be able to continue living upstairs.

“We’re building an apartment downstairs, which is beautiful, (but) I prefer to stay up here... Now that we have that chair rail I’m hoping that I can just stay up here and not have to move into that beautiful apartment,” Jamie told the Sentinel.

Tony has spent years retrofitting their home to be more accessible, but until the chairlift came along, Jamie was going to have to move into the downstairs apartment.

“It’s like it changed her world,” he said. “To understand the full story of this, we started making a handicapped apartment in the garage because she can’t go up the stairs...She lost her yard because of her MS, so then we built her a 20-by-12-foot deck out back. That’s been her little gardening spot to go out to. So she’s got all these things that she’s losing, but now she’s got this lift and this lift is going to let her keep living upstairs instead of living in the garage. You can’t imagine what that does to a person’s spirit.”

TOP: Tony Jackson sits next to the newly installed chairlift outside his Johnson Street home Thursday. ABOVE: Jamie Jackson checks on her second-story garden Thursday. A grant from SAIL paid for a chairlift that allows her to negotiate the stairs.  (Sentinel Photos by James Poulson)

Jamie said the porch, decorated with numerous flower pots and situated with a fine view of Mt. Edgecumbe, is the place where she spends much of the summer.

The chairlift was installed two weeks ago, but Jamie has not yet had a chance to use it – she broke her leg in a fall in the shower earlier in the summer.

Still, it gives her something to look forward to, once her leg is healed enough to put weight on it, she said.

Tony said that through the years SAIL has provided other support.

“Originally, Phyllis Hackett, years and years ago when she was in SAIL she gave my wife a power chair, and so we used that for years and then we got a new one and gave that back to SAIL,” he said.

Despite MS, Jamie does what she can to make things work.

“It’s a pain in the butt. I’ve had it since 1985, so I’ve had it for a long time. It’s just a slow progressive, it just gets worse every year but not much,” she said. “And mine is mostly on my left side, so my left arm isn’t working, my left leg doesn’t work. So being in the wheelchair is a pain, but I mean you just make it work. You do what you can.”

At SAIL, Joel Hanson said the chairlift was a SAIL “Modifications for Aging in Place” project, with funding the Anchorage-based Rural Alaska Community Action Program, better known as RurAL CAP.

“Their goal was to safely access their home and that meant installing a chairlift there,” Hanson said. “So I went into the home and I kind of got an overview of what they needed and created a report for them... sent it to RurAL CAP ... the actual funder. They’re the granting agency for the Jacksons’ project. It’s really good to see that she can get up and down those stairs now, because it’s a tall flight of stairs for sure.”

Tony expressed appreciation for SAIL’s assistance. “Some societies are judged by how you treat your older folks,” he said. 

In recent years, Hanson said, SAIL has worked on a number of similar projects around Sitka.

“In the last two years we have worked on five projects, and there are two more in the works right now... They all have to be related to accessibility – like I said before, we’re an independent living center,” he said. “We don’t necessarily pay for just home repairs. We don’t find projects that are related to home repairs, we find projects that are specifically accessibility related.”

He noted that for many people living with disabilities, money is very tight.

“It’s very hard for people who are on very limited incomes, Social Security incomes, Social Security disability incomes, to save enough money to purchase all of the materials and pay all of the contractors is pretty unreasonable. Finding grant funding is key to the success of these programs,” Hanson said.

SAIL offers a wide range of programs, from personal care for veterans to employment skills classes and adaptive outdoors recreation.

“One of our most well-known program is our recreation program,” Hanson said. It’s been on pause since July when COVID cases spiked, “but as things are sort of leveling out a bit we’re going to start doing ORCA activities again in October.”

Anyone interested in SAIL programs can find more information at, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or call 1-888-500-7245.

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At a Glance

(updated 5-18-22)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:55 pm Wednesday, May 18.

New cases as of Wednesday: 1,675

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 249,522

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,252

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 3,762

Current Hospitalizations – 44

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "medium.'' Case statistics are as of Wednesday.

Cases in last 7 days – 54

Cumulative Sitka cases – 2,633

Hospitalizations (to date) – 32

Deceased (cumulative) – 6

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.





May 2002

Sitka’s state parks will remain open, thanks to an 11th-hour $80,000 appropriation approved by the state House Finance Committee, Rep. Peggy Wilson said. “It happened because everybody pulled together .... E-mails, letters, telephone calls came to Juneau from Sitka en masse,”she said. 

May 2002

 Laurence and Zelma Doig will leave the Sheldon Jackson campus this year after 30 years of service. Doig, in fact, has already been installed as skipper of the M/V Anna Jackman. Mrs. Doig, who has been librarian, will join her husband in Juneau at the end of May.