By Chris Robinson for the Homer News
After 33 years in Alaska, our family moved to Homer over the spring of 2015.
We of course had visited many times over the years, including our 25th anniversary night in 1995. On Dec. 27. On the Spit. In a pickup camper. Yep, rib eyes and king crab and a bottle of Dom in a camper, on the spit, deep in winter. Now that was Homer-esque, right?
By the time of our move we thought we knew Homer pretty well. Scenic, certainly. But also Friendly, Hairy, Artistic, Creative, Fun-loving, Active, Scientific, Argumentative, Territorial, Entrepreneurial, and most essentially: Food-loving!
Perfect. Something for each of us – six in all, not counting the dogs and the cat, each of us with our own interests and aspirations.
Now two years in, we have in fact found all those attributes in Homer. It seems we underestimated Argumentative a bit (!), but we nonetheless do feel at home.
For my part, over our first year I met new people and reconnected with old friends who made their move years ago. I found myself in a tussle with City Hall and (successfully) chatted up the City Council over a couple of long evenings. Our second year, I began to engage in the life of our new community, and joined the board of the Homer Foundation about a year ago.
It was through the Foundation that I have learned something about Homer I had not before heard or read about: Homer has a giving heart. Through the Foundation I have seen that the people of this community, more than any in which I have lived, give continuously and generously to others in a thousand ways.
Most of that giving cannot be measured. Time, for example. Countless volunteer hours sustain activities and organizations for our children, our artists, our thespians, our schools, our ill and dying … you can make your own list.
Kahlil Gibran wrote about giving in “The Prophet”: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” People in our community truly do give of themselves.
Also ongoing, but often unnoted, is another example of unmeasured giving: support from our business community. This cannot be measured in its totality, but the ubiquitous thank you notes in offices and storefronts all over town tell us it is enormous. If the often-muttered “Homer tax” allows this flow of sharing and support, I pay it willingly.
Even this monthly column is an unmeasured (in fiscal value) contribution to the Homer Foundation’s efforts to encourage awareness and support of our non-profit sector and its needs.
Some giving in Homer, though, can be measured. For example during its 2017 fiscal year the Homer Foundation recorded $625,496 in new monies — these included dedicated (pass-through) allocations, and restricted and unrestricted donations to various funds. This was in addition to $2,507,334 in prior contributions already under Foundation management at the start of that year.
Those are big numbers for this small community.
Curious as to how Homer might compare with other communities on the Peninsula in another measure of giving, I recently requested information from the Alaska Pick.Click.Give (PCG) program, managed by the Alaska Community Foundation in coordination with the Permanent Fund Dividend.
GuideStar.org, a searchable national database of non-profits, shows that Homer has 50 IRS-recognized non-profits. This is 24.3 percent of the 206 non-profits listed for Homer, Kenai, Soldotna and Seward. Similarly, the 2016 Homer population was 27 percent of the total population for those communities.
But for the state fiscal year 2017, Pick.Click.Give reports the following contributions from PFD recipients to participating non-profits in each community:
Community (Zip) 2016 Population Total FY 17 PCG donations
Kenai (99611) 7,745 $21,800
Seward (99664) 2,787 $28,475
Soldotna (99669) 4,617 $38,693
Homer (99603) 5,631 $83,556
So with roughly 25 percent of both the population and the number of non-profits in these communities, Homer’s non-profits received nearly as much in Pick.Click.Give donations as the other three communities combined. You can do the math for your own percentages and per capita comparisons.
By this PCG measure, Homer again shows its giving heart.
So I have learned that the people of Homer provide remarkable supports for their local charitable services, whether through Pick.Click.Give, through direct donations to non-profits or the Foundation, or through their ongoing gifts of time, knowledge, leadership and creativity. Giving is as much a part of this town as our mountains and our bay and our sunbeams through the clouds.
Where do you fit in Homer’s culture of giving? If your giving is time and energy rather than fiscal, that is wonderful. Stay engaged with your preferred interest. And if you are moved to begin — or increase – your fiscal support of Homer’s nonprofit services, remember Pick.Click.Give. next year. Stop by the office of a nonprofit of your interest, or contact the Homer Foundation office or a board member to talk about options for fiscal giving, including estate giving.
As Kahlil Gibran also wrote: “All you have shall some day be given. Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.”
Chris Robinson is twice retired from his work directing Alaska agencies in low incidence disability special education and behavioral health. He thinks he may have retirement figured out now, but isn’t certain.