"Much credit is due the volunteers and professionals who dedicate their talents to non-profit endeavors. Everyone in the state benefits from their hard work. In the tradition of Alaskans, the Rasmuson Foundation is glad to lend a hand."
Spacer Image- Elmer Rasmuson

Alaskan nonprofit organizations serve all Alaskans. In doing so, they help shape and improve the quality of life for both our state and our communities. The following Alaskan voices serve as a testament to the power of Alaskan nonprofits and the communities which they serve.

On this cold December evening, as a group of citizens in this Anchorage community gather in a little downtown park, I remember a March night in 1983. Three teenagers, Samantha, Kris and I were somewhere in the Tennessee hills, on a Trailways bus, leaving behind chaos and confusion, bad parents, bad friends, bad lives, heading for something, anything better. (Full Story)
Committees get no respect, least of all a committee composed of grandmotherly Alaska Native women from villages who appear to be preoccupied with their knitting. But it was a committee like this — 16 members, all women but one, and most from small Native communities — that in 1975 founded the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC, pronounced "search"). Their mission was to improve health care for Alaska Natives living in the region. (Full Story)
I'm hanging out in a friend's kitchen with his new roommate, Kristin. She's making herself a birthday cake and we're joking about how her husband, Dave, should be doing this for her instead. They're newlyweds, back in Fairbanks for the summer after a whirlwind wedding and honeymoon two weeks ago. Kristin's husband is a smokejumper, getting some training jumps in on this wet, spring day. (Full Story)
My friend Rob and his neighbor were in the sauna with the Russians, members of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra that visited Haines through a miracle of coincidences and special grants, on their tour of Alaska, when the two Americans and two Russians looked at each other and promised, in mixed Russian (Rob speaks a little) and English, that they would be friends for life. "We melted what was left of the cold war" Rob declared. (Full Story)
Anchorage's Sullivan Arena is a big place. For a concert or a basketball game, it can seat more people -- 8,700 -- than live in most Alaska communities. Special Olympics Alaska needed a big place the night all the volunteers gathered for a final farewell. More than 6,000 volunteers had helped put on the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games, and the party, thrown a month after the Games ended, was a way to thank them all. (Full Story)
by Patrick Race
The Glory Hole shelter is a grungy, heartbreaking window into a reality we often ignore. There are people and stories here that lay bare all the ugliness the world has to offer; but more than that, you will find raw, palpable good. Here there are people with nothing giving everything and finding some lost part of themselves in the process. The world isn't perfectly round and a lot of people get caught on the jagged edges. The least we can do is put a roof over their head and food in their belly. Little Mikey asks for donations of turkey and ingredients for pie. Please help him out. (Full Story)
by Ellen Frankenstein
The Trail is a whimsical, possibly mysterious short inspired by late night episodic-serial TV watching. It is a celebration of Sitka Trail Works, a nonprofit that, along with its partners, has literally helped change the ground we walk on. The trails are places I walk solo to get exercise, clear my head, or stir up new ideas. I go with family or join friends, dogs and babies, discussing the serious, the mundane and the sublime. Rain or sun, cross country teams run, senior hiking clubs and people with disabilities visit on field trips to walk and picnic. The trails are home to berry pickers, bears, slugs and, as needed, crews with chain saws and axes. The invitation to respond creatively to the mission of a Rasmuson Foundation grantee in Sitka was also an opportunity to collaborate with Regal Cheese, a local band, game to haul their instruments into the woods. (Full Story)
The beds at the women's abuse shelter had been made at a prison. That's one of the things I noticed the night my three-year-old son and I straggled in, cold and hungry. The counselor led us to a dim room where women and children lay sleeping on bunk beds lined against the walls. (Full Story)
One: Atauciq
Cup'aq rides on her mother's back
Down the slippery boardwalk
Past the curled and snoozing sled dogs
towards her head start on life
(Full Story)

Let me tell you about this pond,
now hemmed by highway and houses:
of late summer swims and sun-splashed picnics,
of moose grazing waters so clear that fish
and fisherman watched each other. (Full Story)
It doesn't take a newcomer long to notice that red rubber boots are de rigueur on most of the hiking trails in the rainforest around Juneau. Many of the public trails in the area offer a chance to splash through ankle-deep puddles or slip around in muddy quagmires. But by July of 2009, anyone heading out for a stroll around the capital city may choose to reach for a pair of sandals, because innovative improvements to a trail along the edge of Auke Lake, on the eastern side of the University of Alaska Southeast campus, will offer a chance to not only walk or bicycle beneath the forest canopy but to take a dry-footed walk ON the water, atop a four hundred foot section of floating trail. (Full Story)
If you saw her making a speech at a Native elders potlatch, or arm wrestling some politician for program money, you might figure out Katherine Gottlieb is the CEO of a $100 million health corporation. (Full Story)
Elvera Voth stood on the scarred wooden stage talking to mezzo-soprano Sherri Weiler and baritone Jim Lanier, who were rehearsing a duet from Don Giovanni. The other 29 members of the Alaska Chamber Singers were milling around the stage, talking, drinking tea, eyeing a table laden with sausage, bread and cheese. (Full Story)

"This is Alaska. You can do everything," she sings. Pony-tailed Maria, her black eyes shining, is pretend-reading to her pretend-audience in the waiting room of the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center. Only six, she holds out her book about dinosaurs to show off illustrations, keeping up a steady banter. "You brush your teeth…shush shush shush. You brush your teeth each morning." She makes the most of this waiting time on a rainy October evening. It's quiet except for three young women softly talking over the hum of a heater and distant fax machine. While Maria and her father wait, she entertains her imaginary group, and he leafs through a picture book of purple and hot pink dinosaurs just like hers.

(Full Story)
Every year, when the dear lady at Hospice of the Tanana Valley asks me to volunteer for a shift at the "Light Up A Life" table in the Bentley Mall, I vow to say no. I am, after all, too busy. It's Christmas. My kids are coming home. (Full Story)
In the summer of 1999, my idea of a healthy meal was a Quarter Pounder without cheese. The only way I consumed barley was through its byproduct, beer. Oatmeal, when I ate it, was a vehicle for butter and brown sugar. I was about 25 pounds overweight, actually sick from eating junk food and didn't know it. (Full Story)
Access to Haines, Alaska's only radio station is up twenty-eight steps to the second floor, which becomes an issue on the night we haul up Horace Marks in his wheelchair. Palsied and hardly able to whisper, it is essential that the elder participate in this explication of a clan's treasured heritage. A five-hour ferry ride up from Juneau with three nephews validates his role as memory-keeper. (Full Story)
What's going on here? A 60-year-old Deadhead running a faith-based charity? Is this really what the religious right had in mind?

We can only hope so. (Full Story)

There seems no here, here, now. Our subsistence subsided.
The harbor is silted. Boats brood but do not plow the sea.
The airport proclaims itself the hub but is merely abided
by the blinded who flock to lodges or liquor, and never be.
(Full Story)
When I was a child, the world had few birds in it. Of course every kind of dabbler, twitcher, waggler, bobber, swooper, jabber and floater lived in Juneau. They shadowed the woods, shifted on the sea's ebb, and kited across the sky. But I did not see them. Only in the broadest categories could I recognize birds: eagle, raven, robin, gull, duck. My mind was unbirded. (Full Story)
When I started losing feeling in my arms, I asked my wife to run for an ambulance. The closest phone is a mile from our cabin, down an old logging road so pitted and bumpy that even in a pickup truck with high clearance, you drive at a crawl. I was thinking of how impossible it would be for me, right now, even as a passenger in our truck, and how much I needed that ambulance. (Full Story)
Seven years ago, my sister was dying. Trembling and incoherent, she once tried to tell me, by phone from Illinois, that flu was to blame for her inability to hold a brief conversation. She resented me for not believing the lie. (Full Story)
The Friends of the Library began preparing for the first annual "Lighting of the Library" for the holidays in August. All fall children in Haines and Klukwan made decorations for the tree, the rest of us unwound lights, glue gunned silk flowers on green garlands, tied bows, climbed ladders and at the last minute vacuumed carpet and polished the door handles. (Full Story)
by Brian George Smith
Haven House is a very special place here on the South Kenai Peninsula. Many lives are saved in this humble little clapboard building. Many lives are indeed begun anew. (Full Story)
It's a quiet December evening in Ambler, five below zero. I work at my woodpile, splitting and stacking. Far overhead, the northern lights flicker across the stars in pale green wraiths. (Full Story)
I was part of a group of women who started a safe house program for abused women in Barrow in the late 1970s. Unfortunately, Barrow being so small meant that in no time at all everyone knew where the safe houses were. But the cops kept an eye on our homes when we had someone staying with us and we all had strong locks. (Full Story)
Its official title is "Sunshine Community Health Center" but it's really just The Clinic.

It has been around since I was in elementary school. 25 years. (Full Story)
The years had disappeared. My home had fallen apart; my children were gone. My possessions had all been lost or abandoned. The only thing I had left was a happy little mutt named Gypsy I had rescued from the dog pound years before. We lived in an old station wagon all that winter. (Full Story)

I bought my first telescope, a Unitron 2.4 inch refractor for about $120 back in the early 1960s. As a struggling college student at Marquette University in Milwaukee Wisconsin, I had to pay it off in twelve installments. It survived the long trip to Barrow in 1985 and has been my basic scope for arctic stargazing ever since.

(Full Story)
When I was in junior high, I read Gone with the Wind. I cried so hard when the Tarleton twins died that the pages of my paperback warped and wrinkled. The book swelled to twice its normal size. My father said, "What are you all worked up over? It's only a book." (Full Story)
Bobby Stamp was the other deckhand on the first boat I ever fished on, the Gladys R. This was back in 1975. Bobby had a direct gaze and was slightly bowlegged. He was just starting to go gray then. He told me he was from Chenega, up in Prince William Sound, but the tidal wave in '64 had messed up the village pretty bad, and they all had had to leave. "That's how I ended up down here in Kodiak," said Bobby. (Full Story)
A few weeks before Christmas, I am sitting in a little well lit room on Fireweed Lane, in a Midtown Anchorage office, with about 20 other people of all shapes and sizes and colors, dinning on pork roast and corned beef and salad and mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes. Real mashed potatoes. The Four A's, a direct service and advocacy group for people with HIV / AIDS, offers these meals to their clients at their office every Friday. A guy sitting next to me, whom I'll call David, is eating with relish. (Full Story)
Enter, the age of impoverishment, which has, among other things, defined art as a "frill." Enter, private efforts to bring a modicum of arts education to our schools. Enter, an artists-in-the-schools program sponsored by Homer's non-profit Bunnell Street Gallery. (Full Story)
In Kotzebue—-unsheltered geographically, treeless, windswept and squatting on a gravel spit almost an island--our blizzard of the winter steps into town on a Friday with a reassuring 34 degrees below zero, drifting snow, one sixteenth mile visibility and northwest winds gusting to 40. Frozen ocean rises to low land—-white on white. (Full Story)
Notes on the play:
PROLOGUE was created organically, just as Perseverance Theatre was created through a grass-roots effort led by Molly Smith in 1979. The Playwright is mentoring the Student, explaining the process of developing the VOYAGE, a new play which is minutes from starting rehearsals. The Student explores the physical space just as s/he explores the origins of Perseverance. (Full Story)
Where some interview subjects have been wowed by my apparently state-of-the-art recorder, archivist Dirk Tordoff immediately knows my secret: The sleek, silver machine isn't the next big thing; it's obsolete — and it has been since the day I bought it. (Full Story)
Many schools around Alaska teach traditional skills in the interest of preserving them, but those skills rarely translate into a livable income in the modern world. Metlakatla Indian Community member Jack Hudson has managed to do both. (Full Story)

"The blessed will not care what angle they are
regarded from having nothing to hide."

- W. H. Auden

Somehow I think when the Kennedys have to go to court
(Full Story)
by Shane Castle
As an English professor, one of my favorite things to do is ask new students to define a word like religion. They quickly recognize the dilemma: I'm asking them to define the boundaries of a system that isn't particularly rigid. Understanding that abstract terms often lead one further into the mire, they seek terra firma, and in the end most rely almost entirely on a list of prevalent world religions: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam. (Full Story)
The boarded up house on Anchorage's East Third Avenue was too wretched to imagine people ever living there, people who kept the lawn mowed and put out the trash every week. Walls stripped and weeping moisture, it emitted a rot that burned the nose and turned the stomach. But it still had a roof, floors and lots of dark corners. And that's why we were there. (Full Story)
The ancient inhabitants of Kodiak Island came to life for me a decade ago on a late-summer day on a bluff overlooking Karluk Lagoon. Before going there to help out on an archaeology dig I had only a vague understanding of the lives of the Alutiiq people who once were the sole inhabitants of the island. (Full Story)
A square building, a garage, sits in the river bottom of Anchorage's Fish Creek, below the traffic noise of Northern Lights Boulevard, across the road from the row of worn-out trailers that line the creek, with a huge pencil hanging from the front wall where most businesses would hang a sign. (Full Story)
My client told me he didn't kill the woman. Days later her jeans and a pink sneaker washed up on shore. My client was accused of being hired by a husband to kill his wife. My client was supposed to have called the woman at the Kodiak Women's Resource Center, where she worked, and told her he had information that would help in the nasty custody battle she was having with her husband. (Full Story)
In the green-walled corner of Kodiak's Alutiiq museum, I survey masks, twelve remarkable masks. Carved out of wood, elaborately adorned with feathers, shells, lacquered in white, rust, black and other shades of earth. But these are not ancient masks; they were carved this summer. And they were not fashioned by native elders or master carvers; they were made by students, Native and non-Native alike, part of a summer art program sponsored by the museum. (Full Story)
I'd been lured to St. Paul Island by the promise of adventure and world-class wildlife viewing. Birders come to Alaska's Pribilof Archipelago on the chance that they will spot rare Asian "vagrants" seldom seen elsewhere in North America. The draw is big enough that people pay thousands of dollars to spend a few raw, wet, and windy days on this tiny volcanic landmass in the Bering Sea. They are hosted by Aleut residents whose Native ancestors were in their own way vagrants, carried here by forces beyond their control. (Full Story)
For a remote Alaskan island, Kodiak has a surprisingly diverse population. When I arrived a year ago, I noticed Alutiiq language posters around town and "News from the Philippines" in the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Near the harbor, a truck called Martha's Place sells Mexican food, and the canneries down Shelikof Avenue are filled with Asian and Central American workers. (Full Story)
I just got back from Australia. Okay, not really. Actually, I was in the UAA / APU Consortium Library, the building that looks like a gigantic bakery muffin, particularly when there's snow on the ground. Warm, earthy oranges and reds draw the visitor in; the walls curve, ending at a spectacular wall of glass rising three stories. Sunlight streams in year round. The tables are perfect for delving into a project. I'm tempted to linger, but I head to the computers instead because I've discovered a bit of interlibrary system sorcery called World Cat, and I can't leave it alone. (Full Story)
The first time I went out on the ice during whaling season in Barrow was in the spring of 1973. I'd barely been there for six months and, as a recently transplanted New Yorker, was blissfully ignorant of any danger that didn't involve derelicts with squeegees. My companion was a young Inupiaq lady not yet fifteen years old. (Full Story)
by Jerah Chadwick
"Like one stone
on a beach of stones
linked through you to all the rest"
-Lucy Dougall

(Full Story)
There's something magic about standing beside a historical artifact: it's the sense of being connected to other human beings, maybe famous ones, maybe not, who lived, worked and loved in a different time, a time that helped to shape our own. (Full Story)
by Cathy Carpenter Janvrin
Bethel was a great place to be a kid in the 1950s and 1960s. No, we weren't signed up for ballet or piano lessons or chauffeured to soccer. But we were free to wander through willows looking for robins' nests. Free to ramble over the tundra picking berries. Free to head out in the morning with a slingshot, a swiped butter knife for telling stories in the mud, a cigar box full of marbles - and the whole day ahead. (Full Story)
My first memory is of my mother's forefinger skimming beneath the words, "Once upon a time, in a faraway land, lived a beautiful princess named Snow White. She had skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony." In that moment, I fell in love with words, and I have never fallen out of it. (Full Story)
It's a frosty clear morning as I head to the pool. The sun shines on the stained glass over the doorways. I see a school of salmon swimming through green waters. I'm pulled inside by the swirling motion of a tiderip painting of seaweed and bulb kelp. Ah yes, time for the escape to the water world. (Full Story)
The venue was Cyrano's Off Center Playhouse, the play was "The Bells of Geneva" by Dick Reichman, and my husband and I were wondering if we'd made a mistake by coming. A video would have been cheaper by $50. No wonder we seldom see live theater. (Full Story)
Let's just say I'm not your model recycler.

When I first moved to Alaska, my first reaction on learning we lacked citywide recycling pickups was not concern. It was relief at having an excuse not to sort my trash. (Full Story)

After moving to Wrangell, a Southeast Alaska island, many years ago, I quickly learned there are several certainties: rain, fog and the daily sightings of a bicyclist named Willie. A youthful Native man in his 70's, Willie is a familiar figure, making his rounds of the Wrangell community on an old bicycle that, like its rider, shows the wear of many winter rides. It wasn't long before I learned of this slight dark man's involvement in many historic Wrangell ventures. (Full Story)
Every year, I sit at the YWCA of Anchorage's Women of Achievement luncheon, and I hear the stories of astounding women. Superlative women. Women who fought upstream their entire lives, make a huge difference, mentor other women, and usually – there's always something to top it off ... (Full Story)