Supported by

The Atlantic Selects

A Coast Guard Community Struggles to Put Food on the Table

Jan 29, 2019 | 831 videos
Video by Derek Knowles

Dixie Lambert has lived in the small fishing village of Cordova, Alaska, for 36 years. She knows almost everyone in the community—most of them U.S. Coast Guard employees and their families. During the 35-day shutdown, Lambert observed how many of these furloughed families struggled to make ends meet, so she began soliciting public donations at the local grocery store.

The filmmaker Derek Knowles, who was in the area filming another documentary project, met Lambert and was immediately struck by her personality and spirit. “She knew everyone who came into the store and transformed the grim backdrop of the shutdown into an occasion for good-humored action,” Knowles told The Atlantic. He decided to film Lambert for the better part of a day as she provided Cordovans with assistance buying groceries. “I felt like I got a window into Cordova itself and the power that can come from a genuine community, where everyone knows one another and cares for his or her neighbor,” said Knowles.

Alaska has one of the highest per capita rates of federal employees in the nation. As a result, it was hit especially hard by the economic effects of the shutdown. Even though the government has now temporarily reopened, Knowles said that many residents of Cordova are anxious that the deal won’t last long.

“We’re not even trying to guess what will happen next,” Lambert recently told Knowles.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to

Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.