Hello colleagues! I am pleased to share the latest updates from the Foundation. We love hearing and amplifying good news about grantees, partners and the sector!
— Diane Kaplan, president and CEO

Philanthropy gets behind Anchorage solutions for homelessness

Partners in the effort to move people from homeless to housed gather after a press conference on April 25, 2022, at The Nave in Anchorage.

Private funders have given their stamp of approval for a plan to move people experiencing homelessness from a mass care shelter to housing by committing $7 million to ensure safe housing for those experiencing homelessness. Those funds match the Municipality of Anchorage’s commitment of $6 million.

We announced the public-private support at a press conference on April 25 held at The Nave, Cook Inlet Housing Authority’s community space in Spenard.

Philanthropic partners have been wanting to invest even more in solving homelessness than they already do — contingent on a unified plan acceptable to the community rather than isolated, unconnected projects.

The administration of Mayor Dave Bronson, the Anchorage Assembly, the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness and private funders came up with a plan that supports smaller, geographically distributed facilities tailored to specific populations who have been at the Sullivan Arena temporary shelter and assorted hotels.

Besides the Foundation, other funders supporting projects from the unified plan are: Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Calista Corp., Chugach Alaska Corp., Doyon Ltd., Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, Providence Alaska and Weidner Apartment Homes.

A visit to Juneau

Board Chair Adam and President Diane Kaplan visited the Elizabeth Peratrovich mural on the Downtown Juneau Library building in April 2022. It was created by Tlingit-Athabascan artist and 2020 Individual Artist Award recipient, Crystal Worl.

In late March, board Chair Adam Gibbons and I traveled to Alaska’s capital to talk about broadband, housing and other top priorities.

Between meetings, Adam and I visited two grantees. We toured the new location of Glory Hall, which provides emergency shelter, meals and care on Teal Street. We were welcomed by executive director Mariya Lovishchuk and her staff Luke Vroman and Chloe Papier. Former board member and current Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott joined us at Sealaska Heritage Institute, where we were briefed by President Rosita Worl on Sealaska’s near completed plaza and first ever 360-degree totem pole with designs all the way around.

Pick.Click.Give. update

Play time! Ayyu Qassataq, vice president & indigenous operations director of First Alaskans Institute, is featured in a 2022 Pick.Click.Give promotion.

As another Permanent Fund Dividend application deadline passed, Pick.Click.Give. neared $3 million in pledges to Alaska nonprofits made through the platform. Jessie Lavoie, program manager at The Alaska Community Foundation, shared that she is confident it will hit the mark. Dollars per donor continue to exceed last year’s level, and the number of individual donors is 23,167 so far. Nonprofits are working with their pledge lists and encouraging donors to increase commitments. Alaskans can update pledges through Aug. 31.

Alaska at the ready for federal dollars

More than 1,000 people converged recently on the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage to participate in a two-day summit organized by Sen. Lisa Murkowski and a network of Alaska organizations that support infrastructure development. With dozens of federal and state agencies represented, we saw this as a crucial opportunity for Alaskans to learn about and prepare for the funding opportunities. We provided $40,000 in travel scholarships to ensure strong rural participation. The scale of funding potentially coming into the state for things like broadband, transportation, and water and sewer infrastructure is eye-popping. A tremendous amount of coordination and effort is needed to fully take advantage of the opportunities. The infrastructure summit was a good start.

Foundation Vice President Alexandra McKay speaks in front of guests at the Federal Infrastructure Symposium held in April 2022 at the Dena’ina Center.

Day one kicked off with a keynote address from the senator, and then presentations by the federal agencies in charge of the various funding programs. A nearby room was set up with dozens of staffed agency booths to allow for more in-depth conversations. Day two, led by the Alaska Municipal League, featured more detailed workshops around the topics of workforce development, grants and technical assistance, and regional planning. We had strong staff representation at the conference and participated both on panels (VP of Programs Alexandra McKay and broadband consultant Kristina Woolston) and in workshop planning (program officer Monica Garcia-Itchoak). Sen. Natasha von Imhof and Board member Mike Navarre attended the conference, with Mike speaking on the Foundation’s broadband plans. Tilson, the Maine-based company we contracted with to provide technical assistance to Alaska applicants, had two representatives fly in for the conference and served on one panel. We were able to make introductions to some key stakeholders, and they left with better context about the challenges of infrastructure projects in Alaska.

Camp grants generated interest beyond expectation

Youth in summer 2021 were practicing fish cutting skills with the help of elders at Camp Sivunniigvik, run by Aqqaluk Trust, near Noorvik in Northwest Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Aqqaluk Trust)

Response to the spring 2022 grant opportunity for Alaska camps was immense. Applications were evaluated by a committee that included VP Alexandra McKay, Tanya King and Monica Garcia-Itchoak from Rasmuson Foundation; Eleanor Huffines, Stefanie O’Brien and Jessie Lavoie from The Alaska Community Foundation, and Shauna Hegna, ACF board member and Koniag Inc. president. They considered the strength of each proposal, potential impact and geographic diversity, in winnowing the list of 123 applicants to 93 grantees awarded a total of $994,000 in grants. A number of culture camps were funded as well as camps run by faith-based organizations and tried-and-true large operators such as Camp Fire. We are so pleased the Board agreed last November to continue the Camps Initiative with $3 million over three years.

CITC wins prestigious award for “Never Alone”

The Peabody Awards announced “Never Alone – Kisima Ingitchuna” as a 2022 awardee.

This year’s Peabody Award honorees include Cook Inlet Tribal Council for the video game “Never Alone – Kisima Ingitchuna.”

On its website, Peabody Awards described the game as enchanting, artful and interactive and noted it was created “through an Indigenous-led process and company, the first of its kind in the United States.” This is the first year the Peabodies recognized digital media.

Never Alone” follows a young girl named Nuna and her pet Arctic fox as she fights against a winter storm that threatens her community. The story was adapted by writer, storyteller, poet and 2021 Individual Artist Award recipient Ishmael Hope.

Watch the trailer for “Never Alone” here. Rasmuson Foundation supported the creation of “Never Alone” with a $1 million program-related investment in 2014.

Comings and goings

Alaska Pacific University’s new president, Janelle Vanasse.

Alaska Pacific University is getting a new president, Janelle Vanasse, who brings 29 years of education experience in Alaska. She served as superintendent at Mt. Edgecumbe High School and, among other roles in the Bethel area, was founding director of Yuut Elitnaurviat — the People’s Learning Center, where we worked closely with her.

Abbe Hensley, founding director of Best Beginnings, has shared her plans to retire at the end of 2022. After the formation of the Alaska Ready to Read, Ready to Learn Task Force in 2005, she was selected to lead the public-private partnership. She says the board and staff will continue to work towards the mission of growing readers, building strong families and engaging community.

After 16 years, Nancy DeCherney is retiring May 10 as executive director of the Juneau Artist and Humanities Council. The council’s board formed a succession committee to search for new leadership.

Just another day at work for Sarah Howard!

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center has promoted Sarah Howard as its new executive director. Howard has been with the center since 2010 and was most recently its curator. She says, “I’m overwhelmed with appreciation that our board of directors has given me this opportunity to grow within the organization, as well as having the support of this awesome team we have here at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. … I am excited to get to work!” The center also named Becky Chambless as its new development director. She was formerly the vice president of community relations at Wells Fargo.