Dear colleagues,
We’ve been on the go all summer and we guess you have, too. Make sure to find time to enjoy the season, wherever you are. Check out some of what we have been up to in recent weeks. Thanks for reading!
— Diane Kaplan, Foundation president and CEO

It started in Mountain View

Gene Grey, Diane Kaplan, Lucy Hansen and Kirk Rose, CEO of Anchorage Community Land Trust.

Back in 2003, the Foundation awarded $5 million to create Anchorage Community Land Trust, at that time our biggest grant ever to an organization that didn’t yet exist. We wanted to help Mountain View become an arts and culture district, and a neighborhood of choice.

Wow, did our belief in the power of community pay off. Anchorage Community Land Trust has evolved and grown to provide support in the neighborhoods where it is most needed. Through its Set Up Shop small business program, more than 250 entrepreneurs in Mountain View, Spenard, Fairview and Muldoon have received training, technical assistance and often access to capital. A Neighborhood Heroes celebration on Aug. 3 honored some of the best of these small businesses, from a sweet shop to a coffee shop, from a fusion restaurant to a counseling center. Lucy Hansen, founder of the Polynesian Association of Alaska, was recognized as the Community Partner of the Year, and I received the Lifetime Achievement Award. I can’t overstate how impactful it was to hear these award-winning entrepreneurs tell their stories.

Reshaping help for those experiencing homelessness in Ketchikan

Special thanks to board member Angela Salazar for connecting us with the Ketchikan Indian Community Housing Authority to develop a navigation center and permanent supportive housing project. She actively helps those most in need, regularly dropping off hygiene items at the PATH homeless shelter run by the Ketchikan Committee for the Homeless. The community is in the midst of expanding and reshaping services for those experiencing homelessness. An effort is underway to replace PATH, or the Park Avenue Temporary Home, which currently operates in a worn-out building. First City Homeless Services recently renovated the shelter next door and is adding programs to connect individuals with services. Senior Program Officer Bob Doehl traveled to the community for a kickoff workshop on supportive housing. With our Homelessness Initiative expanding across Alaska, we see ways to help in Ketchikan.

Planning for emergency shelter this winter

The Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness was requested by the Assembly to develop an emergency winter shelter plan to house single adults, just as it earlier developed a plan for housing families. The coalition is working with stakeholders and plans twice weekly meetings into September. The Bronson administration says it is working on a shelter plan for winter but the Anchorage Assembly said one is needed now. An estimated 350 people in Anchorage are now unsheltered, and shelters and housing programs are mainly full. The family shelter plan was created after a year of work with partners including Christian Health Associates. We are working with partners across the state to create long-term solutions to homelessness.

25 Years of Grantmakers Tour

Grantmakers Tour of Alaska guests and Foundation staff in Nome. (Photo by Esther Pederson)

Hard to believe that we’ve been doing this for 25 years! The 2022 Grantmakers Tour of Alaska was a resounding success. We especially appreciate all the board participation. Curtis McQueen flew to Yakutat for the welcome reception. Jay Gibbons, Cathy Rasmuson, Mike Navarre and Rebecca Brice Henderson — as well as Fran Ulmer — attended the reception at the Gibbons home in Anchorage. Jay, Mike and Rebecca helped us make connections at the leadership dinner at the Anchorage Museum, featuring special guest U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan. Jay and Rebecca participated in the luncheon at the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program, and both were joined by Dr. Kathy Hurlburt at the nonprofit networking dinner at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Chair Adam Gibbons and Jay gave remarks at the hangar just as the sun was coming up on Wednesday before the group took off for the Arctic. To top it off, Mike led a discussion at Rasmuson Foundation on Alaska state policy issues. Huge thanks to all sponsors, partners and supporters. It couldn’t happen without all of you!

$1.3 million for improvements at Independence Mine

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has announced a $1.3 million dollar award to Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation for Independence Mine repairs and renovations. The grant will be focused on rehabilitating four of the 16 buildings to be used by the public. Walter, a Helmsley trustee, participated in the Foundation’s 2019 Grantmakers Tour of Alaska. In 2020, The Helmsley Charitable Trust gave its first-ever grant to Alaska: $20 million for water and sewer improvements in the Bering Strait region. And, earlier this year, they committed $4.4 million to renovate the visitor center for the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve outside of Nome.

Seacoast Trust endowment sparking interest

A recent funders trip to Southeast Alaska provided connections and knowledge.

A funders trip to Juneau and Hoonah in July drew interest from a number of organizations in and out of Alaska. Alaska Venture Fund, Sealaska Inc., the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, and Spruce Root Inc. hosted the trip. The goal was to help funders learn more about Seacoast Trust, an endowment governed by Indigenous values for conservation and regenerative job creation in the Tongass National Forest region.

Outside funders that participated were: Chorus Foundation, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, Edgerton Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Wilburforce Foundation. Last year, Rasmuson and Edgerton foundations each invested $1 million in Seacoast Trust, which was created by Sealaska to serve as a permanent funding mechanism for what had been an informal network. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Wilburforce Foundation added an additional $1 million combined. The long-term vision is a $100 million fund.

Hundreds of Ukrainians welcomed to Alaska

More than 300 Ukrainians fleeing the war have arrived in Alaska and hundreds more are on the way, thanks to support from the Foundation and other partners. A small, church-affiliated nonprofit, New Chance, is covering travel expenses and coordinating emergency help through its Ukraine Relief Program. It has opened a welcome center in Downtown Anchorage where individuals can get a cup of coffee or tea, browse donations and get help with jobs, English lessons and the local culture. New Chance has raised over $950,000 including $150,000 from Rasmuson Foundation and a like amount in a match from Weidner Apartment Homes. The nonprofit has rapidly grown to seven full-time staff and 50 volunteers. More than 100 Alaskans have stepped up to sponsor the new arrivals.

A garden party for a cause

I was honored to host the 19th Alaska Native Heritage Center garden party fundraiser in August. The organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year brings together nonprofit and industry leaders. We topped the initial $500,000 goal with a total of $565,990, thanks to the support of our community! From the Foundation, I was joined by my cohosts, Foundation Board Chair Adam Gibbons and his wife Ingrid and Board members Marilyn Romano and Curtis McQueen.

Walter Harper commemorated as the first to summit Denali

Walter Harper was a skilled trapper, musher, riverboat pilot, mountain climber and trail guide, who, at age 20, led the first successful summit of Denali on June 7, 1913. The Koyukon-Athabascan adventurer was first to the top, yet his critical role in the climbing party’s achievement was long underrecognized, with Hudson Stuck and Harry Karstens collecting the glory. This summer, Board member Rebecca Brice Henderson and I were there when a life-size bronze statue of Walter Harper by sculptor Gary Lee Price of Utah was unveiled at Doyon Plaza in Downtown Fairbanks. It’s called “A Hand Up.” We supported the project with a $25,000 Tier 1 award that our late Chairman Ed presented during a board visit in June 2021.

Broadband News

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan hosted a Broadband Summit in August, and I participated on one of the panels. I explained the Foundation’s role as Digital Equity administrator for the State of Alaska and introduced our technical assistance experts from Maine-based Tilson Technologies. Later, Senior Fellow Kristina Woolston and Jeff Baird joined me in a one-on-one meeting with Alan Davidson, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information. We were able to discuss the unique challenges of broadband access in Alaska. Following the summit, our team had preliminary conversations with nonprofits to explore partnerships in reaching populations that have lacked access or meaningful access. More to come on that.