November was a busy month for the Foundation, grantees and partners. In this week's blog, President and CEO Diane Kaplan recaps some of the events and activities.

The Rasmuson Foundation 60th Anniversary Celebration, held Nov. 19 in the Mary Louise Rasmuson Atrium, Anchorage Museum, was a fitting climax to a productive Board meeting. The Board awarded $5.8 million in grants, elected new Board member Jason Metrokin and bid a fond farewell to outgoing Board member Anthony Mallott.

Ed and Cathy Rasmuson

Ed and Cathy Rasmuson

Sixteen organizations received discretionary grants of $2,000: Zach Gordon Youth Center (Juneau), Hillcrest Children’s Center (Anchorage), Facing Foster Care in Alaska, Working Against Violence for Everyone (Petersburg), UAA Honors Program, Sealaska Heritage Institute, Catholic Social Services, Southeast Alaska Independent Living, Ilisagvik College Foundation (Barrow), Campfire Alaska, Clare House (Anchorage), Alaska SeaLife Center (Seward), Food Bank of Alaska, Cook Inlet Tribal Council KIDS Program, Planned Parenthood Alaska, and Volunteers of America – Alaska Treatment Program.

Gov. Bill Walker joined Alison Kear, executive director at Covenant House Alaska, in a surprise presentation to Katherine Gottlieb and me with “Lizzie Awards.” The awards honor individuals for dedication to ending teen homelessness.

The Plan4Alaska campaign continues to make rounds on the speakers circuit – Harvard/Yale Club, BP Citizen Action Program, Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police, Spenard Rotary, ANCSA CEOs, Oceanview Community Council, AgeNet, the AFN board of directors, the Campfire Alaska Board of Directors, Our Alaska, and to a group of education leaders. The Plan 4 Alaska social media channels have been launched on Facebook and Twitter.

Thomas-CenterSt. Mary’s Episcopal Church celebrated the grand opening of its new Thomas Center for Senior Leadership on Nov. 22 ($169,825 Tier 2, Nov. ‘14; purchase furniture, fixtures, and equipment). Project Director Mike McCormack called the Foundation’s support “an invaluable tool in enabling us to provide a first class facility to support the growing senior housing market with a new approach to senior living.”

Program Officer Jayson Smart and I attended a pair of grand openings Nov. 6 in Cordova. Pioneers Grand Igloo #19 restored one of the oldest buildings in the state ($200,000 Tier 2; June ’13). The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and had been identified by the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation as one of Alaska’s 10 most endangered buildings. It’s one of two original Pioneer Igloo buildings still standing. The Cordova Center is a long-sought community facility, housing the library, museum, performing arts theater and assembly meeting room under one roof ($750,000 Tier 2; Nov. ’14, top-off and matching grant).

A big crowd turned out for the grand opening of the Cordova Center.

A big crowd turned out for the grand opening of the Cordova Center.

A fantastic group of ladies gathered at Sophie Station in Fairbanks Nov. 23 to celebrate the 90th birthday of former Attorney General Grace Schaible. Her trail-breaking career, adventurous spirit and philanthropic activities make her a treasure to Alaska. Grace joined Chairman Ed Rasmuson, Jeff Cook and me at the launch meeting for the Golden Heart Community Foundation. Happy birthday, Grace!

Dakaxeen Mehner

Dakaxeen Mehner

Congratulations to Alaska artists Kathleen Carlo-Kendall and Dakaxeen Mehner on being named 2015 United States Artists Fellows ($1 million Foundation Initiative, July ’10; endowment). Fellows are selected through a rigorous, highly competitive process involving hundreds of experts, scholars, administrators and artists and receive an unrestricted $50,000 award and recognition as one of America’s most accomplished and innovative artists.

Partner news
M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust announced $818,000 to Alaska nonprofits at its August meeting. The grantees are:

$200,000 to Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for a new building;
$248,000 to Breast Cancer Detection Center of Alaska for mobile mammography equipment to serve rural patients;
$170,000 to Cordova Historical Society for exhibit fabrication and collection storage; and,
$200,000 to Special Olympics Alaska for facility construction.

The Chilkat Valley Community Foundation awarded about $18,000 in grants to 14 Haines area nonprofit organizations in November. The largest grants went to Hospice of Haines and the Senior Center.

Grantee news
The Anchorage Museum’s Polar Lab initiative recently received a $150,000 grant from the Surdna Foundation [Phil Henderson, Ed Tour ‘09] through its Thriving Cultures grant program. The three-year grant will fund a wide range of programs and exhibitions that engage artists with the Arctic, helping give indigenous artists a voice in contemporary northern issues.

Staff news

Program Officer Jayson Smart attended the Nov. 7 grand opening of Juneau Public Library – Mendenhall Valley Branch ($495,000 Tier 2, June ’14; furniture, fixtures and equipment). In addition to a $1 million commitment from Friends of Juneau Public Libraries, $7 million from the State of Alaska Library Matching Grant program and a voter-supported Borough sales tax to support construction, more than 750 individuals, families, union chapters and businesses purchased a brick to help defray costs.

Foundation staff were treated to public speaking training by super trainer Michael Balaoing on Nov. 5 and 6.