A good rule for life has been amplified over the past two years: Focus on what matters most.
Our Foundation has operated in a consistent way for many years. We want to keep true to values of family, hard work, honesty and giving back to the community as taught by my father, Elmer Rasmuson. He along with my grandmother, Jenny, helped create the Foundation in 1955. We still follow Dad’s original vision of supporting capital projects with long-term impacts, like medical equipment, museum displays, shelter beds and library books. Yet my father also recognized that the Foundation needed to change with the times and left the current board with the flexibility to do that.
Lucky thing! Because in 2020, business as usual wasn’t an option. We had to change, and we learned along the way.
Our board normally meets twice a year and I’m proud to say we still did. Early in the pandemic, before we knew if this crisis would last two months or two years, we also had a special meeting. Our assets had taken a significant hit, but none of us wanted to freeze spending at a time of great need. Our Foundation immediately committed $2 million to respond to COVID-19.
It seemed like the state closed almost overnight: no schools, no restaurants, locked office buildings. Our partner groups like Campfire Alaska quickly stepped forward with a plan to help the first responders with childcare. Catholic Social Services, its Brother Francis Shelter and Bean’s Café — among others — acted fast to help those experiencing homelessness by opening the Sullivan Arena, meeting the challenge of feeding, sheltering and supporting those most in need in a totally new and different manner. United Way of Anchorage worked with the city and others to fill in the blanks in helping individuals with rent, food and utilities.
What we saw this past year is what makes Alaska so different from Outside. It was neighbor helping neighbor. This was love in action. I’m proud to live in this great state. I applaud all the nonprofits and community organizations that have stepped forward to confront this pandemic head-on.
So many dedicated Alaskans throughout the state have been on the front lines and deserve a “thank you.” I am awestruck by their determination to find a solution and their endless energy to keep Alaska “running.” I am grateful to be an Alaskan. What matters to me are thriving communities, strong families and good health.
More than ever, I am motivated to ensure the Foundation will endure, for Alaska. As my father used to say, “a community that invests in itself is a healthy community.”