Picture 001The afternoon drive from Anchorage was blustery, with clouds spitting rain and sleet, as I crept along the Glenn Highway toward Glennallen. I had come to Glennallen to celebrate the opening of the Buster Gene Memorial Facility and Gakona Community Health Clinic in the Native Village of Gakona, which is located about 4.5 miles from the Tok Cutoff. The three-and-a-half hour drive from Anchorage meant that I was going to spend the night in the region and so I put in some calls to partner organizations in the area to see if I could stop by and say hello.

As I drove toward I pondered a question a grantee had asked me during a conference earlier in the week, “Is it okay to come back to foundations for grant funding again?” At Rasmuson Foundation, the answer is an emphatic yes. Our goal is to build long-term relationships with nonprofit organizations in our state. Without our nonprofit partners, Rasmuson Foundation could not accomplish its mission of “serving all Alaskans.” It’s not uncommon for nonprofit organizations to seek and receive grant funding for several years in a row for various projects.

I arrived in Glennallen to some decidedly cooler temperatures and visited with the folks from ROAR (Recycling Our Areas Resources), who have built a beautiful recycling center where area residents can drop off office-pack, newspaper, tin and aluminum cans for recycling. Rasmuson Foundation funds were used to purchase a tractor trailer that carries bulk cardboard to Palmer, Alaska. The local Girl Scout troupe had cleaned up the recycling area the previous day and it was looking ship-shape for their neighbors to drop off their items.

I also stopped by the Alaska Bible College where Rasmuson Foundation funds were used to purchase exercise equipment for the school gymnasium. Registrar Carol Reimer proudly showed me the weight room and gymnasium, which is used by students and staff and is open to the entire Glennallen community. The building is one of the largest spaces in the Glennallen and can be used for meetings as well.

As the day warmed up, I visited with the Ahtna Heritage Foundation, which has just opened a cultural center in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The center is located in an amazing building and the Heritage Foundation is developing collections and exhibits. The Heritage Foundation has also started up a dance group that will perform at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention this month. I wound down by day with visits to prospective grantees from the Native Village of Kluti-Kaah and the Copper River Native Association.

With my wintry drive on the previous day, Friday morning dawned in spectacular fashion in Copper Center with the Wrangell Mountains soaring into the blue-bird sky.

After breakfasting with Arlene Rosenkrans from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, I made a quick stop at the Cross Roads Medical Center, where CEO Andre Hines described the clinic’s recent renovations. She was particularly appreciative of the teleradiology equipment that allows her doctors to consult with specialists in Oregon to provide speedy diagnosis for patients. Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association Program Services Company headed up the $5.38 million project that created Alaska Rural Telehealth Network, a teleradiology and real-time video-conferencing system. The Rasmuson Foundation funded a portion of the project, along with the Denali Commission and the State of Alaska.

And finally, I drove from Glennallen to Gakona. Rasmuson Foundation joined several other funders to build the clinic and multi-purpose facility and the community turned out to celebrate. Specifically, the building will house primary health services, tribal youth/family services, behavioral health services, elders/preschool nutrition program, early childhood services, and distance learning opportunities. The facility will be well used and well loved. The Ahtna Heritage Foundation’s dancers came to sing and dance and no one wanted the music to stop. Do you have stories or memories about the people and organizations doing great work in the Copper River area? Please share them here.

Photo: Andre Hines points out the new telradiology equipment at Cross Roads Medical Center. Photo courtesy Cross Roads Medical Center.