As we head into 2021, I am pleased to share highlights from our December roundup of activities. It’s terrific to see so much support for Alaska organizations — and such creative projects — in a year that has brought challenges never before seen.

With special emphasis on “new,” Happy New Year!

Diane Kaplan, president and CEO, Rasmuson Foundation

Small grant awards for emergency needs

We reopened our small grant program to applications for emergency needs in November. We were flooded with some 80 requests for Tier 1 awards capped at $10,000. The usual cap is $25,000. Our Program Team winnowed the list to 31 awards totaling $246,590 based on urgency of need, immediacy of proposed work, other funding and overall impact. Alexandra McKay, the Foundation’s vice president of programs, noted that “the focus on emergency needs and adaptations to COVID made it the most satisfying batch I have done.”

Organizations that received an emergency grant through this cycle are: Affinityfilms Inc., Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, AK Child & Family, Alaska Native Justice Center, Alaska Theatre of Youth, Athabascan Fiddlers Association, Bayshore Elementary PTA, Beans Café, Bethel Community Services Foundation, Blood N Fire Ministry of Alaska, Chilkat Valley Pre-School, City of Angoon, Clarks Point Village Council, Cordova Church of the Nazarene, Cordova Family Resource Center, Cyrano’s Theatre Company, Early Learning Coalition, Denali Preschool and Learning Center, Farthest North Girl Scout Council, Glacier View Community Council, Great Alaska Council Boy Scouts, International Gallery of Contemporary Art, Kake Tribal Heritage Foundation, Mat-Su Valley Interfaith Hospitality Network, Mt. Edgecumbe Preschool Inc., No Limits Inc, Onward & Upward, Out North, Outer Coast, Petersburg Children’s Center, Reach 907, Residential Youth Care Inc., Southeast Region EMS Council, Tri-Valley Community Library and World Eskimo-Indian Olympics. Some of the applications not approved will be considered for Tier 1, or small grant, awards beginning in January 2021.

Healthy meals in win-win-win partnership

The 49th State Brewing Company kitchen crew keeps the hot meals coming in this recent photo. 49th State CEO David McCarthy said the program has saved seven jobs, and his kitchen has the capacity to do much more. (Photo by David McCarthy)

A new program to feed the hungry also is helping Anchorage restaurants and the economy. The Alaska Hospitality Retailers Association, the Municipality of Anchorage and the United Way of Anchorage are teaming up to bring revenue to the restaurant industry; keep cooks, dishwashers and delivery people on the job; and provide welcome meals to those who are especially vulnerable: children, seniors, people with disabilities and those who are seeking housing, jobs and safe shelter.

As of mid-December, 49th State Brewing, Lucky Wishbone, Kindred Spirits, Subway, Matanuska Brewing, Gallo’s, Peppercini’s and Spenard Roadhouse were taking part, and other establishments are expected to join. Boys & Girls Clubs, AWAIC domestic violence shelter and Chugach View senior housing are among 29 sites receiving meals. From early November through Dec. 6, more than 20,300 meals were prepared at a cost of $298,626, or less than $15 a meal on average, according to the United Way. The business is helping the hospitality industry, which has had fewer than half the regular staff working. Sales for the year are down 72%. United Way received $600,000 to purchase meals through the Coronavirus Nonprofit Relief Fund, a partnership between The Alaska Community Foundation and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The remainder of the 2020 funds will be spent for holiday meals and on meals for people being sheltered in hotels when the Sullivan Arena is full. The Anchorage Assembly has added another $600,000 to the effort. A similar program in Juneau also has been a dramatic success.

PPE distribution in full swing

Christian Health Associates through its Alaska Medical Missions is busy distributing personal protective equipment to nonprofits and other frontline organizations that have had trouble finding or paying for it. Our PPE project is managing this work. Some of the supplies have come from the organization Get Us PPE, which was created by physicians and medical researchers to provide PPE to frontline workers and under-resourced communities with a focus on equity. We also are working with the C19 Coalition,which includes partners from government, manufacturing, nonprofits and private business. Stay tuned for more! To date, 10 behavioral health and 59 senior/disability providers have received PPE. Christian Health Associates is sending household kits to 32 villages with limited water/sewer infrastructure. Additional PPE distributions in January will go to domestic violence and sexual assault providers, social workers, food banks, youth programs and childcare providers.

Convenings with Alaska’s Black leaders

Work continues to strengthen relationships with Alaska’s Black leaders. Board member Marilyn Romano and staff members convened Interior leaders for the second time this year and with individuals from Anchorage and other parts of the state for a third time. This work is helping us understand needs and build connections so that communities previously underserved by the Foundation better connect to opportunities. Interior colleagues relayed serious concerns with education in the pandemic including how vulnerable students are falling behind. We learned from Diane Fleeks how Perseverance Theatre supported the recent Black Alaskan Art Matters exhibit that was curated by three Black artists including Alyssa Quintyne in Fairbanks.

Fairbanks attendees included: Bill Bailey of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.; Pastor Joe Blackburn of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church; Wendy Dominique, president of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board; museum collections manager Diane Fleeks; business consultant Rodney Gaskins; Bernard Gatewood, retired superintendent of the Fairbanks Youth Facility; Eric Gurley, executive director of Access Alaska; Hope Church pastor Jonathan Kenney and Helenmarie Matesi of the NAACP and League of Women Voters. For Rasmuson Foundation in addition to board member Marilyn Romano, vice presidents Angela Cox and Alexandra McKay and External Affairs associate Emily Kwon attended.

Doris Duke Foundation support for R.O.C.K. Mat-Su

A new two-year $300,000 award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation will support Mat-Su Health Foundation’s R.O.C.K. Mat-Su collaboration. The Raising Our Children with Kindness initiative will receive $150,000 a year earmarked for:

  • FIT Court, for Families with Infants and Toddlers. The therapeutic court aims to build strong supports for families and ensure children have stability. We supported this program with a $375,000 grant in 2018;
  • Work to address systemic racism and intergenerational trauma; and
  • Community engagement/rural organizing.

Elizabeth Ripley, CEO of Mat-Su Health Foundation, stayed in touch with Doris Duke Foundation after an earlier award in 2018, $1 million over three years to strengthen support services for children and family. Doris Duke Foundation is a three-time participant in Rasmuson Foundation’s Grantmakers Tour of Alaska, most recently in 2018. The tour introduces Outside grantmakers to the challenges, needs and successes of Alaska nonprofits and tribal organizations.

Artistic connections in San Francisco at SOCAP

VP Alexandra McKay also joined the arts track planning group for the annual conference of SOCAP Global, which works for a more just and sustainable economy through social capital. ArtPlace America (specifically, Jamie Bennett, a Grantmakers Tour alum) connected Rasmuson Foundation to a close SOCAP partner in San Francisco, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). The arts center is committed to integrating artists into community investment for good and has created its first artist cohort to work on solutions to social, cultural and environmental needs. We supported Alaska artists in taking part in the SOCAP arts track: Yngvil Van Guttu, Christy NaMee Erickson, Allison Akootchook Warden and Melissa Shaginoff. The first three are all Individual Artist Award recipients, and Guttu and Erickson have gone on to become members of the YBCA artist cohort and new artist-led giving circle. This $250,000 initiative is launching in early 2021 to drive investment in the arts, primarily to those who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

At the SOCAP virtual conference, McKay facilitated two discussion panels. A Truth and Reconciliation panel included Liz Medicine Crow of First Alaskans Institute. The second panel focused on the importance of investing in systems to support artists and culture bearers. Guttu and Stephen Blanchett, another IAA recipient, were among the presenters on that panel.