It seems a contradiction, but CIRI descendant Kristin Helvey’s (Athabascan and Yu’pik) small-town Alaska upbringing inspired her to see the world.
Growing up in King Salmon, a community of fewer than 500 year-round residents in the Bristol Bay area, “was so much fun,” Kristin recalled. “Everyone knew everyone; it was a really tight-knit community. I was lucky in that during that time (the 1980s and 1990s) we had good fishing years, so the borough was really well funded. I was involved in a lot of different activities – softball, volleyball and student government – so it was a great blend of knowing your neighbors and feeling safe and protected, and getting to travel and do a lot of different things.”
Summers were spent on Kristin’s grandparents’ cattle ranch in Oklahoma. Her maternal grandmother “was a mover and a shaker, very philanthropic-minded and a leader in her community,” Kristin said. “I always knew I would attend college – it was an expectation of my parents – but my grandma was the one who instilled how important it is to do work that matters.”
For Kristin, that meant pursing a journalism and broadcasting degree with an emphasis in public relations (PR) at Oklahoma State University. “I was never one of those kids who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, but I always had a passion around health and community health, nutrition and exercise,” she explained. Her first position after graduating college in 2004 was for a community health center in Oklahoma, followed by six years with Southcentral Foundation (SCF).
A CIRI-affiliated nonprofit, SCF provides a range of health and wellness services for Alaska Native and American Indian people living in southcentral Alaska. Kristin started as a public relations manager in 2006 and, after only a year, was promoted to a director-level position.
“SCF’s service unit stretches from the Canadian border to the Aleutian Chain, so the audience is incredibly diverse, both geographically and culturally. A big part of my job was figuring out what’s applicable to our audience, fostering relationships, consensus-building and project management. It was the best of all possible worlds – a PR job in the area of health with an emphasis on Alaska Native issues.”
In 2010, married and with a baby on the way, Kristin was looking for a job with more flexibility. She started Helvey Communications because she wanted to keep doing work that interested her while maintaining a focus on her family, “but it expanded pretty quickly!
“There are pros and cons to owning your own business, and I’ve had a few surprises along the way, but I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing,” Kristin continued. “I’m the owner and principal [of Helvey Communications], but I utilize a network of skilled professionals on an as-needed basis. We’re a full-service firm without the overhead, which means I get to work with nonprofits and on smaller projects close to my heart.”
Kristin’s clients include the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the Healthy Native Babies Project (a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), SCF and United Way of Anchorage. She has received numerous awards over the years, including a Silver Anvil Award from the national chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.
In addition to running a successful business and a busy home life with a husband and two young sons, Kristin teaches marketing at Alaska Pacific University (she received her master’s degree from the school in 2009), and enjoys cooking, travel, health and fitness. She serves on the board of the Public Relations Society of America at both the state and regional level
“You always hear ‘it takes a village,’ and we have that mentality here in Alaska,” Kristin said. “You see it in rural areas, and you see it in larger cities like Anchorage. Those of us who live here, we’re fortunate to have community support and know that we’re all looking out for each other.”