Anchorage’s diversity celebrated

Rasmuson Foundation

On Friday, April 4, more than 90 people showed up at an event celebrating Anchorage’s extraordinary diversity. The idea for a gathering, which came from conversations between community leaders and Rasmuson Foundation President Diane Kaplan, quickly drew the support and partnership from around the community. Mayor Dan Sullivan, along with several business and civic leaders, called a news conference to “affirm that Anchorage is a welcoming community made rich and vibrant thanks to the diversity of its residents.” These photos capture just some of those who attended.

Created with flickr slideshow.

In addition to Diane and Mayor Sullivan, remarks from Wells Fargo Bank Alaska Regional President Joe Everhart who pointed out the increased economic value generated by a diverse community. Others who spoke at the event were Anchorage School District Superintendant Ed Graff; Father Fred Bugarin, Anchorage Faith and Action – Congregations Together (AFACT); Anchorage Chamber of Commerce President Andrew Halcro; and Doyon, Ltd. President Aaron Schutt reinforced how our community draws strength from its variety of cultures and backgrounds.

The banner signed by participants at the event is now being used by business and nonprofit organizations to promote community awareness of the importance of diversity. The next public display of the banner will be at the YWCA Stand Against Racism event on April 25th.

Heather Flynn says: April 15th, 2014 at 6:21 pm
Having just reviewed scholarship applications at Bartlett, I can attest that anchorage's refugees are adding much to our community. Nearly all finalists are "minority" and more than half are Hmong. READ MORE
Rachel Olson says: April 15th, 2014 at 4:38 pm
This is EXCELLENT. Messaging is KEY in communicating to people in our community that every race is celebrated! We need new and consistent messaging from government, media and education that communicates that every culture is celebrated and that women and children are esteemed valuable to our community. Also messaging that communicates the importance of learning who you are and discovering/cultivating your talents to find purpose and direction in life. Ideally, the consistent blending of messages that communicates that 1) all people are valuable and 2) encouraging people to discover who they are will decrease hopelessness, lack of identity and therefore decrease alcoholism and drug abuse, and therefore decrease domestic violence and child abuse. READ MORE

Alaskans’ giving through Pick.Click.Give. hits new highs

Rasmuson Foundation

In 2008, the groundwork was first laid for Pick.Click.Give., a way for Alaskans to contribute a portion of their Permanent Fund Dividend to one or more Alaska nonprofit organizations. Now, five years later, Pick.Click.Give. Program Manager Heather Beaty reports on the latest PFD contributions from generous Alaskans.

Heather Beaty

Heather Beaty

Alaskans set a record this year for donations made to local nonprofits through Pick.Click.Give.  More Alaskans than ever before participated in the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) charitable donation program, sharing millions of dollars with Alaska’s nonprofits.

As of April 1, 26,773 Alaskans donated $2,771,400 from their PFDs, which is $325,950 or 13% more than last year. The average amount donated per person was also record-breaking, increasing 11% from $94 in 2013 to $104 in 2014. Overall, 4.8% of Alaskans who filed online for the PFD made donations through Pick.Click.Give.

Housing Anchorage: Breaking gridlock. Breaking ground.

Chris Perez, Program Officer

Readers of the Anchorage Daily News may have noticed a recent uptick in reporting about the lack of affordable housing options in our state’s largest city. This is a welcome development because the simple fact is there are too few housing units to meet the current and projected housing needs for our city’s population. More people than available housing units results in price inflation, lower quality of life, stymied economic growth, and more.

This is a real problem for victims of domestic violence who cannot find a place to stay when they are ready to leave a shelter, for working families who are prepared to leave subsidized housing but have no decent housing options, for job seekers who chose not to move to Alaska, and kids returning from college to Alaska and finding there are no reasonable places for them to stay.

Catherine DeLacee says: April 10th, 2014 at 2:47 pm
Thank you for your article affirming what is happening in Anchorage and across the State of Alaska. It seems inherently obvious it is harder to attract busness development without housing for employees/community members. As a housing assistance provider, the limited inventory virtually locks out the working poor as no one relinquishes housing now because there may well not be alternatives available. I look forward to watching Anchorage setting a new benchmark. READ MORE
Natasha Price says: April 3rd, 2014 at 2:33 pm
Thank you for this clearly written and informative article. My family is experiencing many of the problems you stated. I was born and raised in Anchorage and even with two incomes we cannot afford to buy a home that is remotely similar to what we are renting. Combing real estate sites such as Trulia has become a nightly activity for my husband and me. I only hope my hometown will become more hospitable to middle- and low-income families who are seeking a better quality of life. READ MORE
Saralyn Tabachnick says: April 1st, 2014 at 12:52 pm
This is great news! Lack of affordable housing is a huge issue throughout much of Alaska. It's very exciting to see Housing Anchorage begin discussions and solutions- I'm very interested to see how it moves forward, and impacts other parts of the state. Good Luck! READ MORE
Heather Flynn says: March 31st, 2014 at 9:31 pm
Redevelopment of the area surrounding I and L St and 7th and 9th Ave for housing on a sliding scale would free up other rental or owner occupied housing. READ MORE
Ira Perman says: March 31st, 2014 at 4:57 pm
Thank you Chris for your article on Anchorage's housing shortage. I can attest to the shortage and its impact upon young adults by observing how my two children, both in the their 20's, are dealing with the shortage and the high price of homes and rentals the shortage enables. I would like to suggest the Rasmuson Foundation bring another player to the table (if they are not already there): A Eklutna, Inc., Anchorage's largest owner of undeveloped/developable land. Eklutna, Inc. owns thousands of developable acres between Eagle River and the northern boundary of the Municipality of Anchorage. I recently attended a presentation by the leaders of Eklutna, Inc. to the Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Sullivan in which they made it clear they desire to develop much of their lands for residential use. Much of their land is strategical located along the Glenn Highway and Alaska Railroad line, routes with great mass transit potential. Proper zoning, infrastructure development and financial incentives would encourage higher density than Eklutna, Inc. is currently considering. Yours truly, Ira Perman READ MORE
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Calling on faith organizations

Jeff Baird, Senior Program Associate
Ed Rasmuson listens at the Faith Convening

Ed Rasmuson listens at the Faith Convening

In 2012, Rasmuson Foundation awarded United Way of Anchorage $1 million to give to Alaskans who needed help buying food, paying rent and accessing other basic necessities. In looking at the list of organizations United Way relied on to distribute the funds into their communities, we noticed more than half were faith-based, and many of those were religious institutions.

While Rasmuson Foundation has an extensive history of partnering with nonprofits delivering core social services in their communities, including organizations like Covenant House, Catholic Social Services, Anchorage Faith & Action Congregations Together and Volunteers of America that are rooted in faith, we don’t have as strong of a grasp of the work being done by religious groups. Last week representatives from more than 70 Anchorage and Mat-Su Valley-based faith communities joined Rasmuson Foundation at the BP Energy Center to partake in a conversation on service to those in need.

The event, which was attended by Foundation Chairman Ed Rasmuson, President and CEO Diane Kaplan and John Franklin of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, had two primary purposes.

Rev. Michael Burke says: April 9th, 2014 at 4:35 pm
Thanks, Jeff, to you and Rasmuson for all the work you do throughout the community. I think this meeting was well run and a good beginning. Rev. Michael Burke Sr. Pastor / Rector St. Mary's Episcopal Church Anchorage Alaska READ MORE

New grants and fresh news

Rasmuson Foundation

In this post, we recap news from the Foundation and the greater nonprofit world. There was plenty of good news to report, but also some early warnings of challenges that may lie ahead.

River of Bears

River of Bears

The Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program was featured in the Jan. 21 edition of US News & World Report. The article, “Alaska STEM advocate helps women, minorities succeed as a model for reversing the trend of fewer minorities and women,” highlighted ANSEP’s successful efforts to recruit and retain Alaska Native and female students.

In its most recent Tier 2 report, Perseverance Theatre shared observations about its effort to expand its programming into the Anchorage market. Individual donations from Anchorage residents are on the rise, many through Pick.Click.Give. The Juneau-based theater says corporate sponsorships have increased as a result of Anchorage programming: “We have renewed support from Alyeska Pipeline Service Company ($2,500), BP ($5,000), ConocoPhillips ($5,000), First National Bank of Alaska ($1,000), and Wells Fargo ($2,500) and have found a new donor with Coeur Alaska ($1,000). This year’s Anchorage season opened with Tony Award-winning “God of Carnage,” next up are a world-premiere of Alaska playwright Arlitia Jones’ production “Rush at Everlasting” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams.”

Heather Flynn says: March 18th, 2014 at 12:08 pm
Appalled that state cutting funding to the Neighborhood Health Center AND not expanding Medicaid. Selfish, mean and short-sighted. READ MORE

Updates from AK and beyond

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO

We at the Foundation feel fortunate that the nature of our work demands that board and staff, alike, participate in community and national activities. Here’s a sampling of our recent events and travels.

Foundation board member Aaron Schutt spoke Jan. 31 at the ANSEP event “Building a Sustainable Future.”

Foundation board member Aaron Schutt spoke Jan. 31 at the ANSEP event “Building a Sustainable Future.”

On Jan. 31, Board members Aaron Schutt and Linda Leary, and Vice President of Programs Sammye Pokryfki attended the 2014 Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) “Building a Sustainable Future” celebration and extravaganza, held at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage. The annual event honors the accomplishments of the students and recognizes the donors who help make it possible. The Foundation recently committed $5 million over five years (Tier 2, June ’13) to support ANSEP’s pre-college middle school academies, fund a comprehensive external evaluation, and support leadership development and Alaska Native faculty development. The commitment was a reflection of the incredible work ANSEP has done to raise expectations for academic achievement for all students, its engagement of a broad base of champions and funders, its infusion of culturally relevant curricula, and its successes with its Summer Bridge computer building program.

Heather Flynn says: March 14th, 2014 at 4:32 pm
Splendid post. Alaska is blessed to share your work and generosity. READ MORE

Rethinking leadership: Chaos, conflict, and courage

Sammye Pokryfki, Vice President of Programs

harvardOne of the many benefits of working at Rasmuson Foundation is that staff members have the opportunity to participate in personal professional development activities. Earlier this month, I attended a week-long Executive Education course at Harvard with the unwieldy title “Leadership in the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict, and Courage.”  As I expected, the faculty was impressively credentialed, the curriculum included lectures from renowned scholars, books and journal articles were filled with the latest research, and lively discussions challenged my thinking. What I didn’t expect was to meet 66 fellow students – half of them from 19 other countries – all seeking insights on the notion of leading with courage and authenticity. We learned together and we learned from each other. Ultimately, we found we had more in common than any of us expected.

The course was an immersive experience. I shared a dorm-style apartment with a classmate and we ate together as a group cafeteria-style. All instruction took place in the John F. Kennedy School of Government where we spent about 10 hours in class each day. In short, we lived with our classmates, got to know them, shared details about our families, our work and our communities. The distance between the Kennedy School and my apartment was a half mile and I was grateful for the walks twice a day (even when it snowed 10 inches New England style). My daily treks woke me up in the morning and at the end of the long day, provided a few minutes alone to sort my thoughts. I had plenty of sorting to do – the class gave me a lot to think about.

A vital part of the Executive Education approach to learning is the case study method pioneered at Harvard.  Students are asked to outline a case based on a real-life situation, share it with the group, and allow other participants to think through problem-solving methods and possible solutions. We were encouraged by the faculty and our peers to re-think leadership as an adaptive activity rather than a position of authority, and we talked about “staying alive” amid the dangers of leadership. Some of this information was new to me and some was a validation of what I already knew to be true.

Our class is now linked through social media and one of my classmates sent a message to everyone in which he reflected on the learning experience we shared. He quoted Will Rogers: “A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, the other by association with smarter people.” I knew I would learn a lot at the Harvard course. But the breadth, the depth and the people I learned from – that was way more than I expected.

More information about the Harvard Executive Education program and a list of course offerings can be found online.

Sammye Pokryfki says: March 4th, 2014 at 4:57 pm
Thanks for the feedback and it sounds like I get to have lunch with two wonderful people. I recommend the book "Leadership on the Line" by Marty Linsky and Ron Heifetz, for further exploration. READ MORE
Samantha Kirstein says: March 4th, 2014 at 1:24 pm
Sammye, great topic. I envy your opportunity. As leaders of small non-profits we are always being challenged during periods of chaos, conflict and it always takes courage to step out of the box to meet the new situation which faces the organization. If we really want to change the world, and we do, we cannot continue to respond in the same old ways. Next time you are in Fairbanks please let me buy you lunch so that we can talk this through. We will all learn from your experience. READ MORE
Mary Gibbs says: March 4th, 2014 at 12:59 pm
Sammye, what a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. You are truly fortunate to be part of an organization that never stops developing its folks. I'd love to hear more about staying alive amid the dangers of leadership. Perhaps we can have lunch or dinner and you can tell me about it. Thanks. Mary READ MORE

Building strong hometowns

Rasmuson Foundation

Rasmuson Foundation launched the Community Asset Building Initiative in 2008 to encourage and support the creation of permanent community assets at the local level. In this guest blog, Ricardo Lopez, Program Officer at The Alaska Community Foundation, recounts the progress to date and draws parallels with a beloved Alaska institution.

Ricardo Lopez, Program Officer, The Alaska Community Foundation

Ricardo Lopez

Alaska is a fascinating mix of the old and the new.  Around the state, traditions of sharing – many steeped in centuries of history – coexist with new models for giving that are building community assets for generations to come.  While Alaska is young in terms of formal endowments, there is one example we all can understand – the Alaska Permanent Fund.

In 1976, Alaska voters approved a process to set aside a portion of oil revenues to create a permanently endowed fund to benefit current and future generations.  In 1977, the Alaska Permanent Fund was established with an initial investment of $734,000.  Now 37 years later, the Alaska Permanent Fund exceeds $42 billion.

I was born in Anchorage in 1976.  Somewhere in an old family photo album is a snapshot from 1982 of me and my three siblings – probably standing in our pajamas – proudly holding our first PFD checks for $1,000.  I am grateful that my parents had the foresight to put our annual dividend straight into a college savings account.  When my siblings and I graduated from high school, we each used our modest “nest egg” to help offset the cost of post-secondary education as we earned our degrees.  Like many Alaskans who benefitted from the Alaska Permanent Fund, I understand that building permanent and protected community assets can transform our future.

The Community Asset Building Initiative (CABI) builds on the model of a statewide permanent fund and takes it a step further – by bringing it one step closer to home.

Carla Beam says: March 7th, 2014 at 7:25 pm
Nice story, Ricardo. And what a wonderful story is unfolding in all those CABI communities. READ MORE launches today

Aleesha Towns-Bain, Program Officer

RAscreenshotToday, we launch a new website for Recover Alaska, a multi-sector action group working to reduce the damage associated with excessive use of alcohol in our state.

The status quo of excessive alcohol use in Alaska is intolerable: domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, suicide, homelessness, violent crime, incarceration, and death. A deeply-ingrained status quo – even one that wreaks havoc on people’s lives – doesn’t budge easily.

Recover Alaska is a solutions-focused effort to recover, reclaim, and restore the strengths of Alaska’s families and communities by getting to the root causes of excessive alcohol consumption. (See history here and here.)

In 2013, Recover Alaska joined with the Anchorage Daily News to highlight the devastating impact of excessive drinking on our state and potential paths forward. The product of the partnership is State of Intoxication, a year-long journalistic investigation of the impact of alcohol on Alaska. This series is supported by the Recover Alaska Journalism Project fund at The Alaska Community Foundation. Contributors to the fund are Alaska Children’s Trust, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Mat-Su Health Foundation, Providence Health & Services Alaska, Rasmuson Foundation, and Wells Fargo.

The State of Intoxication news series has been running since July. The coverage is statewide,

On the death of Terry Adkins

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO
Terry Adkins in Nome, 2011.

Terry Adkins in Nome, 2011.

Rasmuson Foundation is saddened by the news that friend and widely-acclaimed artist and musician Terry Adkins died of heart failure Friday at the age of 60. Terry was a fine arts professor at University of Pennsylvania and an accomplished musician in jazz and experimental music.

Going back four decades, I first heard of Terry Adkins when I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. My life at the time centered around the public radio station WXPN and the jazz, folk and rock musicians who frequently visited the studios and, later in the evenings, performed at the Foxhole Jazz Club at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church next door to the station.

Among the most notable of these groups was Sun Ra and his Arkestra.

Kenneth Adams says: March 30th, 2014 at 10:52 am
Mr. Adkins taught me at Kentucky State University. He was the coolest man; understated and distinctive in his style and demeanor. When I saw him on the subway when I moved to NYC in the early 80's, he was still that same man. I was excited to see him - he influenced me in ways I am still understanding. He wasn't that much older, but he was wise beyond his years. Our exchange on the train was brief - he wished me the best in my endeavors and then he was off. Never saw him again. As I venture into retirement from many years of teaching middle school, I will attempt to pick up a paint brush and pursue other artistic endeavors. Mr. Adkins, my teacher, the coolest cat i have ever known, whose inspiration influenced many of his students - will be remembered! READ MORE