Foundation approves projects from Unalakleet to Sitka

by Lisa Demer

Cabins in the wilderness, new ways of working with Alaska’s youth, and the first assisted living home in the Bering Strait region are among the areas of investment recently approved by the Rasmuson Foundation board of directors. At its biannual meeting, the board approved more than $6.5 million in awards. The investments are aimed at communities from Unalakleet to Sitka.

Two of the awards stand out as innovative efforts to help youth. One grant, for $112,844, will help Girl Scouts of Alaska establish a troop at Clare House women’s shelter in Anchorage. The goal of this partnership with Catholic Social Services is to provide more opportunities for girls who experience homelessness and to help their mothers become Scout leaders.

In the Mat-Su Valley, a new youth program is starting in Big Lake and Houston. United Way of Mat-Su is receiving $300,000 over three years for a program that will include after-school and summer activities, along with behavioral health services. The project has significant support from the community and other funders.

The program is modeled after a highly successful one in Iceland that has produced remarkable results. Between 1997 and 2016, the percentage of Icelandic teens who reported using any alcohol dropped from almost 40 percent to 7 percent, and the time teens spent with their parents doubled.

An award of $649,730 to the Native Village of Unalakleet will help construct a $7.7 million building to serve elders from the village as well as surrounding communities. The assisted living facility will include private rooms, space for communal eating and socializing, two affordable apartments for elders, and space for a live-in manager. The closest assisted living home is in Anchorage, more than 400 air miles away.

An award of $300,000 to the National Forest Foundation will help renovate 10 public use cabins in the Tongass and Chugach national forests. The Forest Foundation is the nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service and is matching the grant. The project will address significant needs at cabins that Alaskans use for vacations and weekend getaways, hunting trips and family reunions. The Windfall Lake cabin outside of Juneau, for instance, has a stunning lake view and is occupied almost 90 percent of the time. It needs new wooden pillars.

At its twice-a-year meetings, the Foundation board awards larger grants called Tier 2 grants and considers special initiatives. Applications for grants are accepted throughout the year. Potential grantees are encouraged to speak with a staff member before submitting a letter of inquiry.

See the attached list of awards approved in November by the Rasmuson Foundation board (at, including a special sprinkler system for the historic Russian Orthodox church in Unalaska.

About the Foundation: Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband “E.A.” Rasmuson. Through grantmaking and initiatives, the Foundation aims to promote a better life for all Alaskans.