Earlier this year, Naniq Director Mike Hinton’s sister was in crisis. Five Saltchuk companies worked together to help bring her home for Christmas.
In May, Mike Hinton took a phone call from his older sister that would change his life forever. Her health was failing, she said, and she wanted to be with family.
The only problem? She lived in the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation some 5,000 miles from Hinton’s home in Alaska.
“Leslie said, ‘Mike, I don’t know what to do.’ I asked her when she wanted to move, and she told me, ‘As soon as possible.’ So, I picked up the phone.”
Hinton, director of procurement for Anchorage-based Naniq Global Logistics, grew up in Alaska and had worked in the logistics field for the entirety of his career before enjoying a brief retirement as a vineyard owner in Lodi, California, in 2000. Six years later, he returned north and began working for Naniq.
“My sister had retired to Iowa from Portland, Oregon, but unfortunately, her husband passed away from cancer not long after. Leslie’s a beach girl, an adventurous kind of girl, and she decided that Iowa wasn’t where she wanted to spend her retirement after that.”
Hinton said she chose the Dominican Republic, moving to the island of Hispaniola in the early months of 2020. But when the pandemic hit, she found herself very much alone.
“The Dominican Republic locked down, and she was much more isolated than she thought she’d be,” he explained. “She was essentially homebound for more than two years. Then she got sick, and because medical services were so limited there at the time, she had to fly back and forth to Miami for treatment.”
Her strength and will to live were waning under the strain.
“That’s when she called me, and I reached out for help. A week later, everything was arranged. I couldn’t believe it.”
First, movers packed her household goods into containers while employees from Tropical Shipping cleared the way through customs, eventually moving the containers off-island to Florida and turned over to Will Lewis, Vice President of Operations at Shoreside Logistics.
“I remember saying, ‘Will, now we have to figure out how to get her stuff up here to Alaska. He said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what—I’ll just get into a moving truck and drive it up myself.’ And he did.”
Lewis, who joined the Shoreside in 2015 in part because of its reputation as a family-oriented workplace, said he was more than happy to help.
“When I heard Mike needed help, all I could think about was that someone would help me if I needed it. To help a fellow Saltchuk employee was worth embarking on a 3,000-mile journey in a U-Haul truck.”
The drive from Jacksonville, Florida, to Tacoma, Washington, took about a week, Hinton said, and that’s where Carlile Transportation and then TOTE Maritime took over, shipping Leslie’s goods from Tacoma to Anchorage. Finally, Naniq stepped in to coordinate the final leg from Anchorage to Palmer, Alaska, about an hour north, where Hinton lives.
“From my first phone call, it took six, maybe seven weeks, which is crazy fast,” Hinton said. “In the meantime, Leslie made three trips between the Dominican Republic and Alaska to pick up her three dogs and three cats from quarantine and get them all back here.”
Since his sister settled in Alaska for good in August, Hinton said her health has improved.
“She’s my older sister, and I’ve always looked up to her. It’s an amazing feeling to see her thriving up here. Of course, she lived in Alaska when we were kids, but she never wanted to return. But you look at Alaska differently when you’re 20 than when you’re 70. She’s joined a sewing club. She has a car. She drives the three blocks into downtown Palmer and sits and sews with her friends. She’s not isolated anymore.”
Hinton said this holiday season has been especially joyous, and he hopes every Saltchuk employee who helped along the way knows how grateful he is.
“We say it all the time—it’s a family of companies. And not just because it’s a group of companies but because there are people who work for our companies that I now consider my family.
“When Leslie was stuck, all I heard was, ‘I need to be with my family.’ So, I reached out to our other family. And they made it happen for us like family always does.”