Rasmuson Foundation 2018 Annual Letter

Helping after disaster

Top photo: Earthquake damage is seen on Vine Road south of Wasilla after the Nov. 30, 2018, earthquake.

After the quake: Shaken but not forsaken

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    Partners that contributed to Alaska Community Foundation earthquake recovery effort

  • Alaska Children’s Trust
  • The Alaska Community Foundation
  • Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority
  • Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Atwood Foundation
  • The Foraker Group
  • Knight Foundation
  • Mat-Su Health Foundation
  • Premera Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  • Rasmuson Foundation
  • United Way of Anchorage
  • Wells Fargo
  • 61 individuals and private businesses

The earth shuddered, ceilings crashed to floors, and a broken pipe sent water cascading through suddenly dark offices of an Eagle River nonprofit. In Anchorage, Alaska Junior Theater was poised for its biggest performance day of the year — until earthquake damage cancelled events all over town. Southcentral Alaska’s magnitude 7.1 quake on Nov. 30 hit nonprofit organizations hard.

Funders confronted the disaster with quick teamwork to fill needs and soften losses. Alaska grantmakers didn’t want to miss anyone.

Rasmuson Foundation President and CEO Diane Kaplan jumped on calls with colleagues to coordinate a response. The Foraker Group, which supports nonprofits, generated an online survey of damage and loss, a roadmap to private aid. The Alaska Community Foundation activated its Alaska Disaster Recovery Fund, seeded with $185,000 from Wells Fargo. Key players met repeatedly. United Way of Anchorage guided the way. Two weeks post-quake, funders evaluated a spreadsheet of surveyed needs on a big screen: Lost revenue. Damaged buildings and equipment. Unexpected expenses, such as Camp Fire Alaska caring for students of worried parents when schools suddenly closed. In the end, 11 funders spread more than $690,000 among 49 nonprofits. More than 60 individuals and private businesses pitched in too.

Atwood Foundation, with an interest in the arts, awarded to several including $20,000 to Alaska Junior Theater for lost ticket revenue. Knight Foundation provided Koahnic Broadcast Corp. $50,000 for repairs to radio station KNBA. Mat-Su Health Foundation stepped up with awards including $44,000 to Set Free Alaska, a heavily damaged treatment center. Funders, each with their own expertise, ensured needs were met across areas: the arts, media, children’s programs, social services and health care, said Nina Kemppel, Alaska Community Foundation president and CEO. “The funders took care of the funding,” she said, “so nonprofits could concentrate on the hard work in the field, including helping people facing significant challenges due to the earthquake.”

Crisis Canines (photo by Bob Hallinen)

After the earthquake, an Alaska nonprofit, National Crisis Response Canines, sent dogs into schools to comfort students. The organization later received a small earthquake recovery grant, unsolicited, as support for its work. (Photo by Bob Hallinen)

That coordination eliminated worry and boosted morale, said Diane Poage, executive director of Eagle River’s Family Outreach Center for Understanding Special Needs, or FOCUS, which serves children and adults with disabilities. Water damage made offices unusable. Relief came through disaster grants totaling $70,000 including $40,000 from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority for computers, storage, printers, scanners, WiFi hotspots and more. Without it: “we wouldn’t have been able to serve our families,” Poage said.

When disaster hits, Alaskans help Alaskans.

7.1 Magnitude of Nov. 30, 2018, earthquake
$690,000 Total earthquake relief granted to Alaska nonprofits
49 Number of nonprofits that benefited
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