Hello colleagues! We hope you are enjoying summer, wherever you are. Here are a few of the recent highlights from the Foundation.
— Diane Kaplan, president and CEO

Foundation supports Ukrainians resettling in Alaska

Rasmuson Foundation Chief of Staff Jeff Baird presents a welcoming gift to a new arrival from Ukraine at the Anchorage International Airport on May 18, 2022. (Photo by Amber Johnson)

Rasmuson Foundation’s board awarded a special grant to help 600 Ukrainians fleeing the war resettle in Alaska.

New Chance Inc., a nonprofit affiliated with New Chance Christian Church, is organizing flights for Ukrainians coming to Alaska. The Foundation contributed $150,000 toward the $750,000 cost. Alaska businesses and individuals have contributed generously, including $150,000 from Weidner Apartment Homes to match the Foundation award. New Chance, family members and other volunteers all are providing help in housing, feeding and employing the new arrivals.

“We are humbled Rasmuson Foundation came alongside our effort to better the lives of these arriving Ukrainians and grateful to the entire Alaskan community for their incredible support,” said New Chance program director Zori Opanasevych.

One of the donors came to the United States 47 years ago with the help of an anonymous contribution. Today he is one of Anchorage’s most successful businessmen and told New Chance this is “a life I would have not been afforded otherwise.”

Dozens of Ukrainians have arrived and more are coming. Most of those coming have strong family ties to Alaska and 150 are children. Many are settling in Delta Junction, which has a strong community of people from Ukraine.

Celebrating the Black in Alaska media project

Black in Alaska started out as an online story telling project, with photos, videos and stories on a dedicated website and shared out on social media. Thanks to a partnership with the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, a physical exhibit opened May 6. Photos and excerpts from 15 profiles are being featured initially, with more to rotate in over the coming year. Selected videos play in a loop. A QR code leads guests to the website for more.

To celebrate the Black in Alaska exhibit, we joined with Alaska Airlines to host a reception and panel discussion at the Anchorage Museum on May 13. We gathered the project’s profiled participants, sponsors, advisory committee members and creative team along with friends of the Foundation to commemorate this milestone. Speakers talking about the importance of the project and why they support it were: Board member and Alaska Airlines VP Marilyn Romano, VP Angela Cox, Black in Alaska Advisory Member Bill Bailey, Anchorage Museum archivist Julie Varee, and Arctic Slope Regional Corp. VP of Finance Walter Williams. Diana Birkett Rakow, senior vice president of public affairs & sustainability of Alaska Airlines and 2019 Grantmakers Tour of Alaska alum, attended. The event was also streamed on Zoom for those who were unable to join in person.

To celebrate the Black in Alaska exhibit at the Anchorage Museum, we joined with Alaska Airlines to host a reception and panel discussion on May 13. Pictured are: Marcus Wilson, Jovell Rennie, Alex McKay, Jewel Jones and Löki Gale Tobin.

Alex McKay, VP of programs, moderated the panel made up of Black in Alaska participants Marcus Wilson and Löki Gale Tobin, Black in Alaska creative team lead Jovell Rennie and Black in Alaska advisory committee member Jewel Jones.

Black-owned businesses were featured in the reception. Lamar Sloss, owner of Fromagio’s Artisan Cheese and one of those featured in Black in Alaska, catered. Desserts were from Eva’s Cupcakery owned by Eva Perry, a veteran and participant of Anchorage Community Land Trust’s Set up Shop program.

The Black in Alaska exhibit will be on view until early 2023.

We applaud our partners working to solve homelessness

We remain involved and invested in a public-private partnership to address homelessness in Anchorage. Four partnership members,  First Presbyterian Anchorage LLC, Providence Alaska, Rasmuson Foundation and Weidner Apartment Homes, issued a statement in June emphasizing our commitment to the work despite a serious setback. Independent facilitators Tom Barrett and Belinda Breaux withdraw from their role guiding the discussions because they no longer saw an environment for fruitful collaboration.

The need for collaboration could not be greater with the impending June 30 closure of the Sullivan Arena mass shelter. It is essential that all parties remain committed to ending homelessness by adhering to a plan jointly created with the Municipality of Anchorage to safely stand down the mass care shelter at the Sullivan Arena and quickly move people to stable housing. Solutions include a facility at 303 W. Fireweed Lane for those with complex needs, transformation of the GuestHouse hotel into workforce and supportive housing, a new Salvation Army treatment center and a municipal temporary shelter and navigation center.

We are grateful for the funders who have stepped up during this critical time. Besides the Municipality of Anchorage, they are: Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Calista Corp., Chugach Alaska Corp., Doyon Ltd., Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, Providence Alaska, Rasmuson Foundation and Weidner Apartment Homes.

Magnetic North film features Alaskan who lives history: Vic Fischer

Diane Kaplan captures a selfie with Jane Angvik and the man of the hour, Vic Fischer, at the premier of “Magnetic North: Vic Fischer” on May 17, 2022, at Loussac Library in Anchorage.

The latest Magnetic North film features Alaska Constitutional Convention delegate, former state legislator and advocate Vic Fischer. Our partner and the project lead, Alaska Humanities Forum, hosted a reception and screening on May 17 at Loussac Library. The event also was streamed online. The film explores Fischer’s story from childhood, through his political career in Alaska and his now current role as a passionate advocate for the state. Watch “Magnetic North: Vic Fischer” here.

Kameron Perez-Verdia, president and CEO of the Humanities Forum and I spoke before the screening, sharing how the Magnetic North film series started and how, as Elmer Rasmuson noted, “in Alaska, instead of learning about history, we live it.” At the end of Fischer’s film, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. He then went on stage to share some remarks. He expressed his gratitude to the Foundation, the Alaska Humanities Forum, film participants and, above all, to his wife, Jane Angvik. Afterward, the crowd had to give him another standing ovation. The Vic Fischer film is part of the second set of films, which launched last year with a documentary on Chairman Ed Rasmuson. Upcoming films will feature Willie Iġġiaġruk Hensley, Sheila Toomey, Katherine Gottlieb and Elsa Sargento.

A gathering of community foundations

Board Chair Adam Gibbons spoke to dozens of advisory board members and program managers at the annual Alaska Community Foundation Affiliate Program convening. Adam shared how the Affiliate Program goals are deeply entwined in the Foundation’s DNA. He told a story from the 1920s when his great-grandfather, Edward Anton Rasmuson, saw a collection of precious Tlingit baskets get purchased and taken out of state. It deeply troubled him to see cultural items and fortunes made in Alaska, leave Alaska. Giving back to Alaska is a value he instilled in Elmer and one that Elmer passed on to his children. During the Affiliate Program launch in 2008, Ed helped to pitch it to communities including Fairbanks, Sitka, Kodiak and Ketchikan. Adam expressed his gratitude at the work being done and pride at what they have accomplished both as community leaders and in building their endowments. We are now in the sixth year of Foundation support for the program under stewardship of program lead Jeff Baird. With four more years remaining in the grant commitment, Adam urged members to continue to focus on building their operating endowments. The two-day conference touched on a variety of topics, from building strong boards to being effective grantmakers. VP Alex McKay also participated on a panel.

Let’s celebrate our local parks

Rasmuson Foundation funds community challenge grants for Anchorage parks, trails and playgrounds that are overseen by our partner Anchorage Park Foundation. The latest round of 15 projects was celebrated May 13 at Cuddy Family Midtown Park. (Photo by Mike Conti)

Mountain bike trails at Russian Jack Springs Park. A tree identification project by students at O’Malley Elementary and a new Campbell Creek observation platform. Transformation of a Scenic Park tennis court to a dual pickleball and tennis court.

These are just a few of the 15 projects coming about through Rasmuson Foundation-funded community challenge grants for Anchorage parks, trails and playgrounds. The latest round of projects, overseen by our partner Anchorage Park Foundation, was celebrated May 13 at Cuddy Family Midtown Park. At the event, I highlighted how our late Chairman Ed reacted when he saw neglected parks and trails: Fix it. Specifically, he thought Anchorage Parks and Recreation employees should be in the field at parks, not in the office. In 2004, the Anchorage Park Foundation was created, helping neighbors improve local parks, advocating for park bonds, building inclusive playgrounds and so much more.

Food Bank of Alaska celebrates grand opening

Food Bank of Alaska moved into a new building in 2021.

On May 12, I spoke at the Food Bank of Alaska’s ribbon cutting for its new facility. The Food Bank moved into its new 78,000-square-foot building last summer after COVID-19 greatly increased needs for food distribution.

The Food Bank now has a large walk-in cooler and freezer, allowing the organization to accept larger donations of fresh produce and meat.

Rasmuson Foundation supported this project with a $500,000 Tier 2 in 2019 and a $25,000 Tier 1 in 2022.

We’ll miss you, Sonya!

After five years with the Foundation, Director of Events Sonya Wellman has moved on to be the corporate affairs manager at CIRI. Sonya was our maestro, pulling together receptions, celebrations, retreats and other gatherings that wowed our guests. She also managed event sponsorships, nominations of individuals for awards, and many of the logistics for one of our largest events of the year, the annual Grantmakers Tour of Alaska.

Outside of the Foundation, Sonya is a fisherwoman, sommelier, frequent traveler and an animal lover. A goodbye party took place at the end of May to send a party planner extraordinaire off in style. (Oh and she can fish, too!)

Sonya Wellman catches another beauty!