It seems like 2021 is flying by! Check out some of what we’ve been up to as summer winds down.
— Diane Kaplan, president and CEO

It’s a wrap on 2021 Grantmakers  Tour

Our 2021 Grantmakers Tour of Alaska is treated to dancing during a visit to the university’s Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program in August 2021.

After a pause in 2020, we pulled together a scaled-down 2021 Grantmakers Tour of Alaska. A highly engaged group of grantmakers took part: Anji Moraes, senior program officer, Vulcan Inc.; Bobby Krause, CEO, Johnson Scholarship Foundation, and his wife, Susan; Don Gips, CEO, Skoll Foundation; his wife, Liz Berry Gips, chair, African Leadership Academy Board; Jeff Cohen, executive vice president of communications, Arnold Ventures; Mike True, CFO, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust; and Nimrod Goor, trustee, Weinberg Foundation. The tour began Sunday, Aug. 16, and wrapped up Friday, Aug. 20.

Summer camps for Alaska youth: Fishing, boating, games and so much more

Youth practice fish cutting skills at Camp Sivunniigvik, run by Aqqaluk Trust near Noorvik.

Our summer camp initiative made a huge difference! A total of 83 camps were funded this summer around Alaska, from Sand Point to Sitka. In Northwest Alaska, the Native Village of Buckland ran a camp for 40 youth. In Southwest Alaska, the Native Village of Kwinhagak hosted camp for 60. With the continuing pandemic, some organizations adjusted timing or moved to a remote delivery model. One significant issue encountered was a lack of people available to work at camps. A total of $1.5 million was committed to serve more than 14,400 youth through scholarships and support of camp expenses and staff costs. The State of Alaska and Municipality of Anchorage matched Rasmuson Foundation funds with $1.1 million.

Fundraising in the garden for a partner

Dancers perform outside the Alaska Native Heritage Center building for this year’s garden party fundraiser.

My annual garden party fundraiser for Alaska Native Heritage Center was fruitful, with more than $301,000 raised. Special thanks to Adam and Ingrid Gibbons and Angela Cox for co-hosting the event, moved to the center this year. Board members Cathy Rasmuson and Marilyn Romano and Rasmuson Foundation staff member Kris Palmatier and VP Alexandra McKay participated. “It was our most successful fundraiser to date, and we could not have done it without all the love and support of our Rasmuson Foundation family,” Emily Edenshaw, Alaska Native Heritage Center president and CEO, wrote us afterwards.

 Meet you at Chanshtnu!

A large group participated in and watched the place naming ceremony for Chanshtnu, marked with an artistic signpost at Westchester Lagoon. At center left in blue is the artist, Melissa Shaginoff. She is wearing her own handmade traditional moose hide fire bag, the inspiration for the art.

Indigenous leaders and allies are putting a needed spotlight on Dena’ina language and culture in Alaska’s biggest city. The Dena’ina people of Knik Arm camped and fished in a place they called Chanshtnu, meaning Grass Creek. It’s now better known as Chester Creek, but in August the traditional name was celebrated with dance, song, artwork and a sign. We supported the project with a $50,000 grant in 2018 as part of our overall funding of Anchorage Park Foundation programs.

The metal sculpture encircling the signpost represents a fire bag, a traditional item both functional and beautiful in which tribal leaders carried fire-starting materials. Athabascan artist and linguist Joel Isaak helped shape the themes, and artist Melissa Shaginoff created the art. Aaron Leggett, president and chair of Native Village of Eklutna, and the Anchorage Park Foundation organized a committee to oversee the Indigenous Place Names Project and place signs at Anchorage parks and trails. External Affairs Program Officer Roy Agloinga is on the committee.

Grant for breast cancer detection

Two of our Board members underscored our support of Alaska’s breast cancer detection and treatment services by attending a fundraiser in Ketchikan for Waterfall Foundation, which raises money for health care in Alaska. Board members Angela Salazar and Marilyn Romano presented a grant of $25,000 to support this work.

In appreciation of Murdock’s Steve Moore

In August, we acknowledged and celebrated the great work that Steve Moore has done in his 15 years as CEO of M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Moore recently announced he is retiring. He has been one of our best partners. I hosted a dinner for him, his wife, Thanne, his children and their partners and members of the Leadership team.

This doesn’t happen by chance

The Jessica Stevens Community Foundation, serving Talkeetna and the Upper Susitna Valley through the Affiliate Program, in December completed our four-year challenge to raise $40,000 a year and receive a 1-to-1 match.  Its endowment now tops $1 million, making it the fifth affiliate to reach that mark after those in Haines, Fairbanks, Ketchikan and Seward. Now affiliates are trying to raise $30,000 a year — for another 1-to-1 match. “Rasmuson’s challenge is designed to help us get to self-sufficiency. With your continued support, we’ll get there,” the Jessica Stevens Foundation said in its summer newsletter. It recently adopted a new motto: “Great communities don’t happen by chance.”

Interior tribal chiefs connect with partners

Local youths welcome the Tanana Chiefs Conference partners on a river trip to four villages in June 2021.

Tanana Chiefs Conference in June hosted a Yukon River trip for its close partners. Lisa Demer, communications manager, attended for Rasmuson Foundation. Representatives recommended by Rasmuson Foundation from congressional offices, federal agencies, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Golden Heart Community Foundation and GCI took part. The group traveled by bus, small plane and boat to four Interior communities: Nenana, Tanana, Rampart and Stevens Village. Three of the four communities are seeking new health clinics and Stevens Village, a rebuilt water treatment plant. A common thread was a sense of despair over crashing Yukon River salmon runs.

Convening of Anchorage nonprofit leaders

In early August, we convened Anchorage nonprofit leaders for a virtual check-in. We shared an update on our grantmaking plans for the rest of the year and listened to how our partners were doing a year into the pandemic. About 60 organizations joined us, as did Cathy Rasmuson. The main takeaway was that organization CEOs are resilient but exhausted from all the uncertainty and stress. There is a huge staff shortage in the sector.

 Chance for Alaska leaders to refresh and reset

The deadline to apply for a Foundation sabbatical award is Sept. 15. Now entering its 18th year, the program offers awards up to $40,000 to cover salaries and expenses during a three- to six-month period. Candidates can find guidelines and applications on the grants section of our website. Cathy Rasmuson chairs our Sabbatical Committee, and Tanya Dumas staffs it.

A well-deserved honor

Our senior fellow on homelessness, Michele Brown, and her husband, Jeff Berliner.

Our senior fellow on homelessness, Michele Brown and her husband, Jeff Berliner, received the 2021 United Way of Anchorage Tocqueville Society Community Service Award, which recognizes their trailblazing and tireless efforts to build a stronger community for all. Ed and Cathy Rasmuson attended the event.