Bethel pool shows perseverance pays

Jeff Baird, Senior Program Associate

Elmer Rasmuson lived a lifetime of achievement.

He grew the National Bank of Alaska into the largest in the state, served as Mayor of Anchorage, and chaired the Alaska Permanent Fund Board of Trustees, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the University of Alaska Board of Regents.

But there was one achievement that eluded Elmer his entire life. He dreamed of being an Eagle Scout. But he couldn’t swim. And Boy Scouts required that candidates for its highest rank be proficient swimmers. Growing up in Yakutat and Skagway, he had no place to learn.

Last Saturday Rasmuson Foundation experienced something very special when we were invited to participate in the grand opening of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Regional Aquatic Health and Safety Center in Bethel (Tier 2 award of $740,549 for furniture, fixtures, equipment and art). In front of a crowd of a couple hundred people, Board members Natasha von Imhof (Elmer’s granddaughter), Linda Leary and President Diane Kaplan joined other state and local leaders in jumping into the deep end, officially opening the pool up to the community.

The $23 million facility was decades in the making and a tribute to the hard work, spirit and determination of leaders like Bev Hoffman who long ago took their own plunge in committing to shepherd the project to fruition. As a result of all the meetings, phone calls, letters, two sales tax increases and countless cookie drives, the people of the Y-K have a beautiful place to learn to swim; to exercise; to recreate and come together as a community.

So regardless of whether the goal is to become a better swimmer in a region that has lost so many to drownings, or to become an Eagle Scout, the people of the Y-K will know that despite the daunting odds, they persevered and came together to build something great. And that is inspiration to us all. Congratulations Y-K, and thanks for letting us be part of the celebration.

President’s Report for October 2014

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO

Rasmuson staff frequently get out and about to visit grant recipients, see project outcomes and conduct site visits. The following is a sampling of our activities in September, and grantee news.

On Sept. 11, Vice President of Programs Sammye Pokryfki and Program Associate Sharity Sommer attended the Metlakatla Indian Community longhouse restoration grand opening ($159,214 Tier 2, Dec. ’12; $19,880 Tier 1 furnishings, Aug. ’14). The pair also visited the Metlakatla library, town hall, Head Start facility, senior center, and wellness center.metlakatla

On Sept. 11, Haines Assisted Living Center held an open house in the new upper floor of its Soboleff/McRae Veterans Village Wellness Center ($499,900 Tier 2, ground floor construction). A grand opening to celebrate the full renovation is scheduled for early 2015.

On Sept. 12, Juneau-based Perseverance Theatre launched its 2014-2015 Anchorage season with a donor appreciation night champagne toast at Sevigny Studio in downtown Anchorage. The group then proceeded to the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts Sydney Laurence Theater for the opening night of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” and a discussion with director Carolyn Howarth.


Who loves AEDC

Cassandra Stalzer, Communications Director

iloveanchorageWe are not surprised.

After all, the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) has been energetic and creative in its approach to economic community development.

Others have also noticed.

President’s Report: September 2014

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO
photo 1

Staffs Jeff Baird and Claudia Maria-Mateo, with Stephanie Winters, report for duty as volunteer ushers for kids excited to attend Anchorage’s air show last summer.

Rasmuson board members and staff travel frequently throughout Alaska to visit grant recipients, see project outcomes and conduct site visits. The following is a sampling of our activities earlier this summer.

On July 10, Board member Adam Gibbons attended Trailside Discovery Camp’s “birthday” celebration ($15,000 Tier 1, June ’13 – purchase kayaks) and spoke about the value of getting kids outdoors.

On July 26, staff Jeff Baird and Claudia Maria-Mateo helped usher youth from Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood onto buses headed to the Arctic Thunder air show on Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER). The bus transportation was sponsored in partnership with The Ted Stevens Foundation so that kids who otherwise might not be able to attend could enjoy the air show.

Board member Natasha von Imhof spoke Aug. 27 at the Providence Alaska Foundation unveiling of the new RT 600 Stepper Ergometer System physical therapy rehab equipment ($25,000 Tier 1, May ’14). Providence submitted the grant request for the cutting edge therapeutic device on behalf of stroke patients and individuals with spinal injuries. The Stepper helps patients receive appropriate care without leaving Alaska.

World-class health care innovation in AK

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO

This column originally appeared in the Sept. 24, 2014 edition of the Alaska Dispatch News

Senior leaders from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were among many visitors  to Southcentral Foundation this year to see the Nuka System. They are Dana Hovig, global development director, Allan Golston, U.S. program president, and Chris Elias, global development president.

Senior leaders from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were among many visitors to Southcentral Foundation this year to see the Nuka System. They are Dana Hovig, global development director, Allan Golston, U.S. program president, and Chris Elias, global development president.

In the areas of health and wellbeing, Alaska is frequently last in many indicators that are not a source of pride for our state. But in the U-Med district of Anchorage, a revolution is taking place that holds the promise to make Alaska first in innovating health care. It is called Nuka.

In many ways, it makes sense that Alaska is ground zero for health care innovation. When it comes to health care costs, we are the top of the top. Alaska spends the most in a country with the highest health care costs in the world. Yet the performance of our health care system does not match its cost. Alaska is one of the best states to be born in, but our babies are less likely to survive and grow into healthy adults than in any other state.

Timing is everything

Jeff Baird, Senior Program Associate

To quote the words of the venerable Willie Nelson, “The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”

Timing, my friends, is everything, and this is especially true when it comes to applying for grants. Submit a request too early, and your application might not be well positioned for success. Apply too late, and there might not be enough time to get it processed before funds are needed.

Now, if that sounds ominous, don’t be alarmed. Rasmuson Foundation staff is here to help you navigate the deadline process. So, give us a call, and we’ll discuss your project. In the meantime, here are the deadlines for some of the Foundation’s core programs.

Tier 1 grants (up to $25,000): There is no application deadline! You can apply any time, and complete applications will be processed within 90 days.

Tier 2 grants (any request above $25,000): Tier 2 Letters of Inquiry are accepted year-round. Tier 2 grants are awarded during the biannual board meetings, which generally take place in June and November each year. You should allow at least six to nine months for the Tier 2 review process and always contact a program officer prior to submitting a letter of inquiry, to get the best advice on timing.

Sabbatical: The Foundation awards one cycle of sabbaticals per year. The application is available on our website year-round and is due October 1.

Individual Artist: The Foundation awards one round of Individual Artist grants per year. The application is available on our website January 1, and is due March 1.

Program-related Investments: Applicants interested in pursuing a PRI should contact Chris Perez to determine if this program matches the proposed project. PRIs are also awarded during the biannual board meetings, and follow the same schedule as Tier 2 requests.


Philanthropy in Alaska: Who gives

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO

This post was written by Rasmuson Foundation President, Diane Kaplan together with Dennis McMillian, president/CEO of The Foraker Group. It originally appeared on the Opinion page in the August 15 edition of Alaska Dispatch News. That story can be found here.

We don’t usually talk much about charitable giving during the summer. It’s partly timing.  We’re in the quiet period between Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) applications. We’re months from the year-end flurry of fundraising activity. And Alaskans are busy enjoying all that our wonderful summers have to offer.

Even so, the most recent Foraker Nonprofit Economic Impact Study is worth some attention. In it, The Foraker Group has determined that Alaska nonprofits get a much bigger share of their unrestricted contributions – 15 percent – from corporations than nonprofits nationally.


LaRue Barnes says: September 17th, 2014 at 7:33 am
Thank you for this report. Our very large state with its small groups of populations that have real wilderness separating them, will keep business and program delivery costs above the national norm. We need both healthy corporate and private contributions. It is particularly tricky for nonprofits. One family's move can shift budgets and service plans dramatically.It is good to see where we might fit in the big picture. The time to flourish is now,we may not always have the various investors and granting programs available across the state. READ MORE
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Foundation Visits Bering Straits Communities

Lily Weed, Communications Fellow

Rasmuson Foundation photos Lily Weed

Last month a contingent from Rasmuson Foundation visited the communities of Golovin, Saint Michael, Koyuk and Elim (a planned trip to White Mountain was cancelled due to weather). Rasmuson Board Vice Chair Cathy Rasmuson, CEO Diane Kaplan, and staff were joined by Nina Kemppel of Alaska Humanities Forum, Bebucks Ivanoff of NSEDC, and Melanie Bahnke and Bryant Hammond of Kawerak. The goal of the visit was for the Foundation to gain a first hand understanding of local priorities while also raising awareness of grants available.

Highlights of the trip include: the grand opening of the search and rescue center in Golovin; a tour of the old school building and discussion of its potential with Saint Michael community members; a visit to Headstart and dinner with friends in Nome; answering the questions of Koyuk residents about the Foundation and seeing their library (which is located in the heart of town); and a presentation by Elim resident Emily Murray on the need for a Youth and Elder Center as a place for the town’s artists to pass on their skills to younger generations. More information about the trip can be found in the stories of the Bering Straits area reporters who joined the group on each of the two days of travel: Foundation Hears Funding Aims of Bering Strait Communities and Rasmuson Foundation Staff Tour Regional Communities.

Barbara Baugh says: August 15th, 2014 at 10:30 am
It is so heartwarming to hear about your visits to Golovin, St. Micahels, Elim and Koyuk, To have such an experienced, knowledge group listen to their needs, make it possible for them to show off their new center and answer questions is so important. You are giving these villages hope that someone cares about them. Barbara Baugh READ MORE
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Nice day for bill signing

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO
HB 75 best

It was a sunny, still day in Kenai and the mosquitos were buzzing. State and Kenai Peninsula leaders were assembled: Governor Sean Parnell, Commissioners Diane Blumer (Labor), Susan Bell (Commerce) and Cora Campbell (Fish and Game); Senate President Charlie Huggins and House Speaker Mike Chenault; Senators Pete Micciche and Lesil McGuire; Representatives Paul Seaton, Kurt Olson and Lynn Gattis; Kenai Borough Mayor Mike Navarre; Kenai Mayor Pat Porter.

Bill-signing ceremonies are an American tradition. Alaska Community Foundation President Candace Winkler and I were in Kenai earlier this week for the signing of HB75, which enables more organizations to participate in Pick.Click.Give. HB75 also sets in place a mechanism to sustain the program in the future, setting aside a small portion of each organization’s donations. (Pick.Click.Give enables Alaskans to donate all or part of their PFD’s to nonprofit causes of their choice.) There is a chuckle from the assembled crowd when it’s noted that this legislation won’t cost the state a penny. Present are representatives of organizations that will benefit: a Fairbanks arts organization, a Kenai Peninsula women’s shelter, and a Christian college. It’s a good day. The speeches are made, the applause follows, the signing is done, and ceremonial pens commemorating the event are handed out by the Governor. Cameras click all the while. It’s a nice day in Kenai.

Adam Gibbons says: August 6th, 2014 at 5:46 am
Wonderful news and occasion! I hope you blessed the event w some post-signing sockeye fishing! READ MORE
Dana Paperman says: August 6th, 2014 at 1:46 am
It is with utmost gratefulness that the Seward Senior Center will again become a recipient of this terrific statewide fundraising opportunity. Thank you to our government representatives, and to those that support the not for profit human services in the great state of Alaska. It is a good day! READ MORE
Michael Hawfield says: August 5th, 2014 at 12:02 pm
CONGRATULATIONS. Alaskans win all the way around. READ MORE
Joanne Phillips-Nutter says: August 5th, 2014 at 8:46 am
A wonderful day indeed! HB75 is truly a win-win-win. Thank you Rasmuson Foundation and ALL who supported getting this bill signed. READ MORE
David Anderson says: August 5th, 2014 at 8:22 am
A truly auspicious event for one of the most innovative and community supportive programs ever. Well done and thanks to all involved! READ MORE
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A day on the Yukon with Captain Schutt

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO

Rasmuson Foundation photos by Sharity Sommer and Ian Dutton.


Most days, Aaron Schutt is managing the business of Doyon, Limited, the regional Alaska Native Corporation for the Interior, meeting with business partners or some of his 19,000 fellow shareholders, or coaching for his kids’ hockey teams. But on this day, he is Captain Schutt, piloting his boat, Sonrisa, on the Yukon River. It’s the time of year when Rasmuson Foundation’s Board of Directors visits an area of the state to see first-hand the work of the Foundation and learn about community issues from the people who live there.

We meet Aaron in Tanana, ­­­­129 air miles from Fairbanks, and tour the town with Tribal Administrator Shannon Erhart and Tribal Council Chair Curtis Sommer. We stop at the Senior Center and drop off a load of fresh fruit for the elders. We see the washeteria (laundry/showers), the school, housing, and the remnants of the old Tanana Mission Church. The community hopes to preserve the church, which is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

We stop for a visit with Cynthia Erickson and her Tanana 4-H kids. They are the kids who made that show-stopping presentation at last year’s Alaska Federation of Natives Convention with their message of hope and commitment to stamp out suicide.

Mid-way in our 160-mile river trip, we stop in on Roger and Carole Huntington as they prepare – along with 40 volunteers from Faith Bible Fellowship in Big Lake and the National Samaritan Purse charity – to welcome 60 kids to Kokrine Hills Bible Camp the next morning. We are impressed with the beautiful facilities, the vegetables growing high in the camp greenhouse, and the buzz of excitement.

Upon arrival in Galena (one boat had engine trouble, requiring a rescue) we are treated to a feast with community members at the Elder Center, which is back in tip-top shape after suffering damage in the devastating flood of Memorial Day 2013. Salmon, moose, beaver, herring roe and lasagna are on the menu thanks to Agnes Sweetsir, the center’s administrator.

Community members talk about their needs and aspirations. Chairman Ed Rasmuson presents a check to Mayor Jon Korta to help rebuild the flood-damaged baseball field. Mayor Korta and Tribal Administrator March Runner lead us on a tour of the town to see how industrious Galena residents are rebuilding – 90% of homes were damaged or destroyed in 2013. We pass by the baseball field, tent accommodations set-up for volunteers, the GILA boarding school in the old Air Force base, Sidney Huntington School, swimming pool, and the Edgar Nollner Health Center.

Captain Schutt smiles with satisfaction. It’s been a good day.