The Magic of Local Response To Local Needs

Kids at Weller Elementary School in Fairbanks have gotten good use of cross country skis for recess and P.E. thanks to a 2018 grant to the PTA from Golden Heart Community Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Golden Heart Community Foundation)

Alaska’s community foundations are proving to be one of the best ways to encourage communities to invest in themselves. They are fundraisers and grantmakers, partners and conveners. Since 2008, we have joined with The Alaska Community Foundation to launch and support its Affiliate Program. From Kodiak to Ketchikan, Fairbanks to Haines, 11 affiliated foundations are up and running, with more in the pipeline. Local people are identifying highest needs — and solutions.

When a new nonprofit, Humanity in Progress, formed in Petersburg to help those with unstable housing, its first grant came from the local community foundation for a food pantry and rent and utility assistance. After mudslides in December 2020 led to loss of life, property and infrastructure in Haines, the Chilkat Valley Community Foundation created an emergency fund. Kodiak student athletes are assured of travel off the island for competition through a community foundation endowed fund.

Some of the affiliates already have endowments topping $1 million or even double that, ensuring sustainable grantmaking far into the future. Grants are often small but impactful. Recent ones include: $2,000 to Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center for a drone to support cutting-edge avalanche forecasting; $3,250 to The Bread Line soup kitchen in Fairbanks for a kitchen project; and $5,000 to Ketchikan Wellness Coalition for a community garden. In 2021, another milestone was reached when the Seward Community Foundation became the first to hit the $1 million mark in grantmaking. Among the recent beneficiaries: Qutekcak Native Tribe, which received $8,000 for an Alaska Native arts program that includes classes on beading, carving and more.

In 2021, the Seward Community Foundation became the first local fund in the Affiliate Program to hit the $1 million mark in grantmaking. (Photo courtesy of Seward Community Foundation)