It’s been a minute! A lot is happening in Alaska. We thought you would be interested in some recent developments involving the Foundation, our work and our partners.
— Diane Kaplan, president and CEO

New fund will help those experiencing homelessness

A fund at The Alaska Community Foundation has been created to pool resources for capital acquisitions and operations serving those experiencing homelessness. Senior fellows Michele Brown and Bob Doehl hope it will encourage more partners — public and private — to braid and align funding. Funding alignment provides a path for success while reducing time spent on process. Rasmuson Foundation invested $2 million in this fund and has leveraged $9.5 million from other investors, including $6 million from the Municipality of Anchorage. Discussions are continuing with other prospective funders.

The Barratt Inn was previously identified as suitable for conversion to housing. However, we’ve learned it needs significantly more inspection and renovation than initially thought, so we are on pause until we get further information. We have some capital funds from public and private sources ready to deploy, and so have turned our attention to two other hotels for conversion to housing units. The owner will be the First Presbyterian Church for the short term. Operations will leverage existing rental assistance, housing stability funds, and ongoing HUD funding. We are working with the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness and RurAL CAP to develop the building operations and program services plan.

The Sockeye Inn in Midtown Anchorage will soon house individuals with medical needs who have been sheltered at the Sullivan Arena during the pandemic.

Unhoused people with physical or behavioral conditions or disabilities soon will receive more suitable care at the 61-unit Sockeye Inn than what was available at the congregate mass shelter. The Inn is under a purchase contract and set to close in late March. Capital funds are from private and public sources, including CARES Act funding from three Alaska Native corporations. The prospective owner will be the nonprofit Ship Creek Community Assets II, a sister nonprofit to the entity stood up to own the Third Avenue Navigation Center currently under development. The services plan is being developed by the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness and Catholic Social Services, which has experience with this population.

The Anchorage Homelessness Leadership Council  —on which I serve alongside high level government and business leaders —and Foundation staff had a successful virtual meeting with Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Feb. 17. Leaders underscored strong interest in furthering the work in homelessness. The HLC meets regularly and participants invest in the effort. During the meeting, senior fellow Michele presented plans for a possible housing trust to increase availability in the Anchorage area.

Cordova Community Foundation’s youngest donor

Alex Mejias of Cordova is all smiles after he received a thank you note from Cordova Community Foundation for his $100 donation through Pick.Click.Give.

Alex Mejias, a fourth grader at Mt. Eccles Elementary School in Cordova, wanted to make a donation through Pick.Click.Give. He was struggling to choose a nonprofit when his mom, Yaritza Mejias, told him what a community foundation does. He gave $100 to Cordova Community Foundation. After receiving a handwritten thank you note, Alex is spreading the word about the foundation and encouraging his friends to give, too. The Cordova Community Foundation said it “is amazed and honored to watch a new generation of philanthropists bloom in Cordova.”

The Andrew Mellon Foundation grants $2.9 million for new totems

Sealaska Heritage Institute has received a $2.9 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to commission 10 totem poles as part of the new Kootéeyaa Deiyí (Totem Pole Trail) in downtown Juneau. The grant will allow the institute to hire Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian master artists in Juneau and villages across Southeast Alaska. These totem poles will represent the Áak’w Kwáan and T’aaku Kwáan clans as well the Haida and Tsimshian clans. The institute plans to raise the poles in 2023.

Rasmuson Foundation hosted leaders from Andrew Mellon Foundation in past Grantmakers Tours of Alaska. Former vice president Mariët Westermann attended in 2016 and past president Earl Lewis, in 2015.

Two Alaskans receive USA Fellowships

Peter Williams of Sitka, pictured here, and Stephen Qacung Blanchett of Bethel each received an unrestricted United States Artists Fellowship award of $50,000 in 2022.

This year, United States Artists Fellowships include two Alaska artists who are also past Individual Artist Award recipients. Stephen Qacung Blanchett of Bethel (IAA 2016 & 2019) and Peter Williams of Sitka (IAA 2018) each will receive an unrestricted award of $50,000. Blanchett is a Yup’ik and Black musician who helped form the performance group Pamyua. Williams is a Yup’ik artist who creates high-end garments using furs and skins he harvests himself, bridging the gap between art, fashion and subsistence.

Rasmuson Foundation is one of the founders of United States Artists along with Ford, Rockefeller and Prudential foundations. The organization has provided over $36 million in direct financial support to artists across the country since 2006. To date, 18 Alaskans have received a fellowship.

Answering the question ‘Are the Arts Essential?’

A growing concern that the arts not valued in the United States led to the idea of the book “Are the Arts Essential?” It offers different perspectives on how the arts can impact society, communities, individuals and even the sciences.
In a series of 25 essays, scholars, artists, funders, cultural critics and a journalist each write their own response and share ideas and ambitions for the arts. Angela Cox, VP of external affairs, was one of the contributing writers.

In her essay, Angela explores the ways arts have created, maintained, and strengthen community identity and bonds. She says, “Art is not separate from the indigenous way of life, it is essential to our way of being.” She offers real life examples through her own experience and Rasmuson Foundation’s support of the arts.

The publication was edited by Alberta Arthurs, senior fellow of the John Brademas Center of New York University and 1998 Grantmakers Tour alumna, and Michael F. DiNiscia, deputy director for research and strategic initiatives of the John Brademas Center of New York University.

“Are the Arts Essential?” was published by NYU Press in February. New York University created a dedicated website for it here.

Two staff promotions

We are pleased to announce that staff members Carmen Goodwin and Erin Milan have been promoted.

Carmen has moved up from payroll and benefits administrator to payroll and benefits manager. She joined the Foundation in January 2009 and has managed employee payroll, benefits, onboarding/offboarding and other areas of human resources. She has also coordinated Rasmuson Foundation’s yearly workplace giving campaign.

Erin Milan first joined the Foundation in March 2021 as administrative assistant. She is now the executive assistant to the president and CEO. In her new role, Erin’s list of duties includes managing correspondence, screening requests, setting priorities, and assisting with the day-to-day activities of the President’s Office.

Rasmuson Foundation recognized at ‘A Night of Hope’

Jeff Baird accepts thank you gift from Hope Community Resources at Night of Hope event in February 2022.

During its annual fundraising event, Hope Community Resources thanked Rasmuson Foundation for a history of support and gifted us a dragon art piece, which represents how the Foundation is a “protector of nonprofits.” Jeff Baird, our chief of staff, accepted the gift on behalf of the Foundation. Senior program officer Tanya Dumas, director of finance Kris Palmatier and finance assistant Lailani Stone also attended on behalf of the Foundation.

Hope Community Resources provides community support to individuals and families who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury and mental health challenges. Rasmuson Foundation’s most recent grant was a Tier 2 of $400,000 in 2021 to repair and upgrade 30 assisted living homes in Anchorage.

Recognition for 2020 class of Top 40 under 40

Rasmuson Foundation staff members Roy Agloinga, Deborah Vo, Alex McKay, Angela Cox, Carmen Goodwin, Kris Palmatier and I commemorate the moment with a group photo with Verne Martell, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s husband.

Two years after the 2020 Top 40 under 40 class was revealed, VP Angela Cox and other Alaska leaders were finally able to accept their recognition and celebrate at an in-person gathering on Feb. 11. The nonprofit sector was well represented in the 2020 cohort, which included grantees Kirk Rose, CEO of Anchorage Community Land Trust; Emily Edenshaw, executive director of the Alaska Native Heritage Center; Ayyu Qassataq, vice president of First Alaskans Institute; Amanda Block, chief mission officer of Girl Scouts of Alaska; Sarah Harrington, executive director of Kodiak History Museum; Lindsie Mills, grants manager of Providence Alaska Foundation; Dr. Xiomara Owens, director of behavioral health aide training of Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; David Messier, rural energy manager of Tanana Chiefs Conference; Alana Peterson, executive director of Spruce Root; and David Rittenberg, program director of Brother Francis Shelter. Other notable class members are Adam Crum, commissioner of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and Becky (More) Chambless, a former Wells Fargo executive who now owns Ember Consulting, LLC.

See the whole list here.