Pay It Forward: Pandemic Thoughts

Last summer, while standing on the boardwalk on the Spit, an acquaintance walked by. Without a word, she handed me something flat and plastic.

I stood for a minute watching her back as she continued on her way. I held the small object in my hand and read, “Hug Raincheck, (good for as many you need. No expiration date).” Emotions welled inside as I realized how much I missed a hug in this pandemic 2020. With family around me, we chose masks, distancing, and not to hug in order to stay healthy. As social mammals, we touch. We kiss. We caress. We hug. It’s part of our DNA.

Everyone feels this deprivation of contact. Covid-19 weighs on us with little end in sight. Numbers of cases continue to spike during winter months when people spend less time outside. The world and Homer, at the end of the road, are in a community/global health crisis.

When the pandemic forced Homer and Alaska to lock down early this year, Ravn Air went bankrupt and a quiet came over this town akin to September 11 when nationwide all flights were grounded. Afraid to be in large crowds, some in a risky age, we stayed home. Family and friends brought groceries and mail. School and meetings became virtual as we met on computers and society functioned virtually!

Our beautiful location didn’t change. Our lifestyle withdrew into our homes. Blessed with trails, skiing, hiking, and beautiful Kachemak Bay, Homer managed admirably. South Peninsula Hospital shut its doors to visitors and began testing in earnest. We flattened the curve, the fishing and tourist season opened as well as a few take out eateries. We relaxed. Each Thursday morning, KBBI interviewed employees from public health, the hospital, the city, and KPBSD to keep us informed. It worked. Numbers stayed low throughout the fishing and tourist season.

Come fall, schools opened in Homer knowing that could change. An at home football game changed the progress made. The virus resurfaced with gusto. Schools closed. Large gatherings stopped. We watch and listen in hopes of maintaining our low numbers while a vaccine research continues. Governor Dunleavy announced the virus condition in Alaska an emergency last week!

Working in my garden this past summer, thoughts turned to healing. How can we heal after this virus or during this virus raging?

How can we turn this experience into a “Pay It Forward?” Free hospital testing available, Homer City and Alaska grants in addition to business accommodations have kept us going. We successfully voted in the middle of a pandemic! We’ve learned. We’re learning how to navigate life in a totally new manner for all of us. We recognize how fortunate we are to live at the end of the road. Bravo to what we’ve accomplished!

This virus has wounded families, businesses, government, society as a whole. In our wounded condition, we can be healers for one another. Changed by this virus, we can use our imaginations to see ourselves whole and our country functioning again no different than athletes use imagination in training. We can listen to each other, enter into each other’s loneliness and pain and acknowledge how difficult life has become due to an invisible virus.

In our common humanity, we are all wounded healers. Going forward we must be vigilant. Patience and understanding are essential to “Pay It Forward” as we experience Covid-19 fatigue. Masks, distancing and small gatherings are our only tools at this writing. We can offer a hug raincheck to each other knowing we are all suffering, wounded healers.

Flo Larson

Homer Foundation, trustee

This article was published in the Homer News as part of a our monthly Pay It Forward column, sponsored by the Homer Foundation, a community foundation promoting local philanthropy since 1991. To learn more please visit us @ and like us on Facebook.

November 2020 Newsletter

Update from the Executive Director

Being thankful.

November is the month we often talk about being thankful. Who am I to break with tradition? I’m thankful for our donors and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you. I’ve asked a number of you” Why did you get involved with a community foundation?”  I can say that there are as many reasons as there are donors. Some common reasons include:

  • “I want to know my donation is doing good in the community. The Foundation investigates and gives grants where the need exists.”
  • “The Foundation is important. Not a day goes by when someone in the area is not effected by the Foundation. I want to be part of that.”
  • “I want my donation to be a lasting gift.”

In this day of email, text messages and the “crisis of the moment” news cycle we remember a community foundation is about a long term impact. An endowed fund is managed with the goal of doing good in perpetuity. Even if the program or agency ceases to exist, the Foundation will find another agency doing similar work to continue supporting our community. 

I’m also thankful for those farsighted, community minded leaders who, 29 years ago, decided they had a long term view of the future. We build on the foundation of those generations before us. Because of their vision, coupled with the generosity of the community, we are as our mission states, “enhancing the quality of life for people” here close to home. 

Thank you for partnering with us.



Annual Meeting

We look forward to seeing you all on:

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

6:00 pm

This will be a virtual meeting on the Zoom platform. Come to our annual meeting where review our investment portfolio, hear grant reports, donor and grantee highlights, and a chance to nominate your favorite nonprofit for one of three $500 People’s Choice Awards! Click on the Register Button to get the link for the webinar. Don’t miss your chance at winning $500 for your favorite local non-profit. 

New Fund

Congratulations to our most recent donor for starting their own named donor advised fund, the Julie Booth Ulmer Memorial Fund. This fund was started by Cathie Ulmer in honor of her daughter who died as an infant. The fund will provide funding to organizations and programs helping young people (generally 23 years old or younger) in need who have shown determination to better themselves and their situation. Welcome to our family of Funds!

Community Chest Grant

We are proud to partner with the City of Homer for their generous CARES Act grant to benefit the Homer Foundation’s Community Chest Fund. Through our community partner, the Homer Community Food Pantry, the Foundation’s Homer Community Chest Fund provides emergency funding to support families and individuals in times of need. The Homer Community Food Pantry is our point of contact for emergency aid. They have a program called the Emergency Non-Food Aid in which candidates are interviewed and the staff at the food pantry determine the needs for families.

Thank you City of Homer for supporting this vital service to our community. 

Recent Grants

Kachemak Heritage Land Trust

Inspired by the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization is looking to develop a comprehensive plan to prepare for future disasters as well as to enhance their response to the current pandemic. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Homer

This grant is going to support the creation of COVID-safe activity kits to support virtual activities for the 13 matches of Bigs and Littles in the Homer area.

Homer Flex School

The grant to Homer Flex School will be used to purchase supplies for their art and social studies programs to enrich the programs available to these at-risk students. 

Philanthropy Fact of the Month

 Did you know that 77 million Americans, or 30% of the adult population volunteer with non-profit organizations?

Homer Foundation 2020 Annual Meeting

This was a virtual webinar on the Zoom platform. Thank you to everyone who attended. We do have a recording below, and due to some technical difficulties, is missing the first 5 minutes of the meeting.

October 2020 Newsletter

Update from the Executive Director

What is your dream?

I was making a video to send my oldest granddaughter explaining what her grandfather does all day (yes, I’m the grandfather of 7 wonderful little people). I could have explained that we help people give in a long term way, or that we invest donations wisely to ensure that important causes and needs are met forever. Those things are true, but a little less understandable to a ten year old than I was hoping for. Here what I said instead: “In a small way, we make people’s dreams come true.”

It may sound somewhat simplistic, but it is true. For example:

  • For students who dream of going to college, we help make that dream come true with scholarships
  • Community non profits have a dream of feeding the hungry, providing health services, protecting the environment, promoting the arts (or one of the many other missions) we fund those activities, and
  • Donors have a dream of giving back to the community in a more meaningful way, or establishing a forever memorial in honor of a lost loved one. We  work with those donors to start a  fund that provides a lasting gift .

There are of course a lot of complex parts to making those dreams come true, but when we see that donor who now knows what they love will be supported forever, or that student head off to the next phase of their life, it’s all worth it. 

Yeah, grandpa has a good job. Let’s dream together.



Our leader in community legacy
Joyce Robinette

We are sad to learn about the loss of an amazing woman. Joyce Robinette has passed at age 85. She moved to Alaska in 1994 after teaching ‘outside’ and then taught in both Cordova and Adak. After retiring, she spent many hours volunteering with Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.

When Joyce sat down to her estate planning, she knew she wanted to leave a lasting impact on our community. We are honored she chose the Homer Foundation as the recipient of her bequest. Although the details are still being finalized, we know her gift to the Foundation included her home and are the beneficiary to her tax-sheltered annuity. This brings light onto one of the greatest benefits of a community foundation, our ability to administer complex gifts. Her desire was for the donation to be split between the Homer Foundation as well as our Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies Agency Designated Endowment Fund. 

If you are inspired by Joyce’s story and would like to know more about what we can do for you with planned gifts, visit our webpage here, or contact Mike at 235-0551 or

We will miss you Joyce, but always be inspired by your spirit.

Match Campaign

We were gifted $25,000 for a matching gift to fund operations. With this amazing gift the donors challenged us to raise a matching $25,000 from the community because the donor cares about the mission of the Homer Foundation and wants to ensure we are here long into the future. Through this campaign, the impact of every donations for operations is doubled up to $25,000. 

Please consider helping us reach our goal through a donation today. You can make that donation here:

You may also donate by: 

  • Mail- PO Box 2600, Homer, AK 99603
  • Contact the staff at or 907-235-0541
  • Fill out our pledge form here to commit to pay at a later time.

We want to thank you very much for your support!

Annual Meeting

We have set the date of our annual meeting!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

6:00 pm

This will be a virtual meeting on the Zoom platform. Come to our annual meeting where review our investment portfolio, hear grant reports, donor and grantee highlights, and a chance to nominate your favorite nonprofit for one of three $500 People’s Choice Awards! More details will come in a future email. 

Recent COVID-19 Response Grants
Homer High School: Intensive Needs Program

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the Intensive Needs students especially hard; with the use of cloth face coverings and social distancing, these students lost almost all of their social interactions and daily living skills in the community, not to mention most of the students have medically compromised health. This program asked for humanity shields of their staff and students. These shields will allow the students to see facial expressions as well as the staff to clearly communicate. 

Anchor Point Food Pantry

Their weekly clientele has more than tripled since the Covid-19 began. They are going through massive amounts of food for  dinners and to provide some of the staples. Presently, they have about 300 households on our list, and over 100 other households that receive delivery services. They feel that if there is a need — they must fill it, if it is possible. The Anchor Point Food Pantry will buy food and supplies for making dinners; and supply each household with a small bag (appropriate for its size) of food items to assist them through the week. 

Social Media

Do you want to be sure you keep up with all of the Homer Foundation news, including weekly updates on our grants, funds, and community? Then be sure to like and follow us on Facebook or Instagram today!

Pay It Forward: Educational Opportunities

October 2020

By Paula J.S. Martin,

I spent much of my life working in universities and colleges. I was honored to help educate a few generations of college students. I almost didn’t have that opportunity.

No one in my family was a college graduate. My mother worked hard to raise three kids as a single parent, due to being first widowed and then divorced from her second husband. Separation and divorce were rare back in 1964, and her path with three kids all under the age of eight was tough. She managed, but there was no extra money to help me with college tuition.

I had dreamed of becoming a college professor since I was in third grade, when I helped a neighbor kid figure out her homework—it was such a blast helping someone and seeing their understanding light up. I knew I needed to go to college to fulfill that dream.

Through working in summer jobs and part-time jobs, I had been able to save a few thousand dollars. In 1976 that, combined with continuing to work part-time throughout the school year including one year at a local factory, was just about enough to pay for tuition, room and board at a public university. It wasn’t easy but it was doable. Private colleges were out of reach. Those state-supported universities made all the difference for me, giving me access to my dream.

Today, tuition, room and board at those public state, four-year schools average well over $25,000 a year for state residents. Add in about $9,000 more to go to a public state university as an out-of-state resident. Those numbers double for private colleges. There are many reasons for this enormous increase in cost of universities: reduced state subsidies of universities, increased costs of personnel, more requirements of regulation, and larger numbers of student services. From the perspective of the student looking to enter, the reasons for the cost matters less than the barrier they represent. The wages of summer or part-time work did not keep up with the cost of going to college.

It is the rare student today that could pay that price for fulltime attendance without going into debt. In 2019, four-year, public university graduates averaged $29,900 in debt at graduation.

I speak with many people my age who recognize that they were lucky to have college opportunities, opportunities that are not available today without significant debt or family financial sacrifice.

Knowing the value those universities gave to me, and the hurdles of finances for students, throughout my career I was pleased to give a percentage of my income to the university to support financially hampered students. Each year my alma matter receives a check from me to help out the latest generation of students trying to figure out a way to pay for their education. One of the reasons I was happy to take on Board membership with the Homer Foundation is due to its significant scholarship programs. Many people in our community have donated to provide financial support for students in our region to help them fulfill their dreams that require higher education. Paying it forward makes such a difference, for today and for the future.

Sponsored by the Homer Foundation, a community foundation promoting local philanthropy since 1991. To learn more please visit us @ and like us on Facebook.

Paula Martin joined the Homer Foundation board in May of 2019. Paula lived in Homer since 2007, but has been working at various universities as faculty or administrator since 2007. Her husband has worked in Homer, they plan on living here far into the future. She has also started a consulting company that has already proved a strong resource of the non-profits in the greater Homer area. Paula has a love for science education, aquatic insects, fly fishing, and travel.

September 2020 Newsletter

Update from the Executive Director

The fireweed is turning fluffy, we had a little frost on the truck this morning and the silvers are in the Anchor River (well a few at least). Fall is here. It’s that way with life. It’s a beautiful summer and then you realize the sun is setting earlier everyday.

While that may sound a little melancholy, I’m actually very excited for the future. I want to thank Lindsey Wolter who helped us with our first webinar on bequest giving. She did a great job working through the various options. Having her there with all of you made it a success. It was great to see everyone’s interest in leaving legacy in the community.  A bequest gift is a wonderful way to keep impacting the things you cared about in life. If you’re thinking about your estate documents, we have sample language your legal or financial advisor can include in your estate documents. You can find that language here.

Sincerely, Mike


We’re changing the format of our newsletter. It will be more frequent (monthly) but shorter. We hope connecting more frequently will strengthen our connections in this season of greater separation.

Our COVID-19 Response

On March 25, 2020 the Board of Trustees created a new fund for the Homer Foundation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This fund is being used to support our local non-profits and the vital services they provide. This fund allows for flexibility for the agencies to apply as needed and for the Foundation to meet changing community needs. Right now, the focus for non-profits applying should be addressing basic needs including human services and emergency assistance or serving vulnerable populations. Here is a list of agencies who have received at least one grant from this fund:

  • Anchor Point Senior Center, $4,200
  • Homer Senior Center, $4,750
  • Anchor Point Community Food Pantry, $7,000
  • South Peninsula Haven House, $2,500
  • Homer Farmers Market, $2,500
  • Cook Inlet Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, $2,500
  • Homer Community Food Pantry, $2,850
  • Voznesenka Community Council, $2,500
  • Hospice of Homer, $799
  • Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, $2,500
  • Ninilchik Senior Center, $1,500
  • Ninilchik Community Library, $2,500
  • Alaska Coalition for Veterans and Military Families, $500
  • Homer High School, $2,500 

If you would like more information about the COVID-19 fund, you can go to our webpage here. 

Annual Report

Our year begins anew each July 1st, which means we are busily preparing our annual report, set to release at our Annual Meeting in November. This report is our most comprehensive outreach, including stories of impact from grant recipients and a list of all of our grant and scholarship recipients, updates from our committees, a financial review, and full list of our donors. If you would like to receive a copy of this report, contact the staff by replying to this email or calling us at 235-0541 to be added to our mailing list. 

August Quick Response Community Grants

Hospice of Homer has received funds to purchase new equipment such as ramps and wheelchair batteries. These will help them be able to expand their delivery options of their loaner medical equipment.

SPROUT has redesigned their IT Infrastructure to be able to accommodate working remotely as well as in person. This will serve them well into the future as well as now when they are preparing their fall programming. 

Homer Council on the Arts is preparing a new program, Art from the Heart. This program will work with school aged participants and pair them with elderly community members in a collaborative, innovative art project in the times of COVID-19.

Thank you Pick.Click.Give. Donors

Thank you to the 57 Alaskans who donated to the Homer Foundation through Pick.Click.Give. Because of your donations, we are able to support more non-profits in our community who are doing good close to home.

If you would like to join this group of donors, add the Homer Foundation to your charitable contribution through the Pick.Click.Give when applying for your PFD next year!

How you can help…
  • Make a donation today!
  • Commit to making that a monthly donation
  • Increase your annual gift
  • Donate as a business partner
  • Talk to your family about naming the Homer Foundation as a beneficiary through revocable planned giving.
  • Ask your employer to become a business partner.
  • Talk to your friends about why you give and encourage them to do the same

Social Media

Do you want to be sure you keep up with all of the Homer Foundation news, including weekly updates on our grants, funds, and community? Then be sure to like and follow us on Facebook or Instagram today!

Pay It Forward: Protecting our connection to nature

As I sit back and think about acts of kindness bestowed upon me throughout my life, I am so humbled. People are good. People care. People will be there for you in times of struggle. We are in challenging times right now. I frequently don’t recognize faces behind the masks. I can’t stop in to visit and hug an old friend. The simple things that we took for granted, shopping, school, appointments, social visits have become quite stressful, and for many non-existent. This isolation can be so debilitating. We are social creatures, social connection is essential to our wellbeing. It is at times like this that I return to the trails, to nature.

In 1987, I along with a fellow teacher, and 24 Homer Middle School students took on the goal of designing and building a trial system with fitness elements on the undeveloped borough land behind the school. The fitness elements have long since disappeared, but the trail system lives on. This in town trail with a short connection from the middle school trail to the Pratt Museum trail, is heavily used by locals in the area.

In the mid nineties, the spruce bark beetle infestation decimated the old growth forest throughout Homer. The habitat behind the school saw extensive damage as did the trail, but footsteps continued along the muddy remains. Over the years individuals connected to the school worked to bring life back to this trail, but the task was quite daunting. I stayed connected to these projects hoping to be able to contribute and have an impact. In 2016, a federally funded “Schoolyard Habitat” program was a much needed energy boost, but improvement efforts only scratched the surface. Sensing support within the school administration, I was able to secure a small pocket of school funding combined with a personable contribution, and hired out some major drainage work throughout this trail system. This work was critical for sustained success. But more important was the recruitment of retired teachers, present day teachers, a large number of community members and the HMS student body to volunteer some sweat equity. Over the years I estimate at least 200+ individuals have volunteered on this trail system alone. With a little bit of TLC, this trail system will sustain itself well into the future for our school students and community members to enjoy.

Why is this important? Kids need to be connected to nature. People need to be connected to nature. Countless studies show the importance of green space to countering trauma and distress. We are fortunate to live in Homer Alaska with it’s incredible beauty. We are blessed to have green space surrounding us. Our trails, our parks, and our gardens give us the connection to this green space, and today they are being utilized. But these spaces do not just happen. A healthy percentage of our community trails have been built by volunteers, and are maintained by volunteers who simply care and are willing to convert that into a little sweat equity. These volunteers see the benefit of green space and want to make sure that at some level we all have access to these community treasures. 

I am so appreciative and so humbled. Get out and get connected.

Deb Lowney, is a  longtime Homer resident, retired educator, artist, and a Parks, Art, Recreation, and Culture Advisory Commissioner for the City of Homer.

Planned Giving Webinar

Our lives are the sum of actions and relationships. Large and small, we have been shaped by those around us. What and who have you impacted in your life? There is a simple, but lasting way establish you legacy in the communities of the Southern Kenai Peninsula.

Make a planned gift.

We are hosting a free webinar on how to get started with planned giving. We will be joined by two guest presenters: attorneys Lindsay Wolter and Terri Spigelmyer. Both practice law with specific experience with bequests, estates, wills, and philanthropic giving. Then Mike Miller, our Executive Director, will finish the webinar with how the Homer Foundation can help you reach your philanthropic goals work in your planned giving. Go here to register, limited registrations available so don’t wait, reserve your spot today.

Pay it Forward: Communities take care of each other

As your community hospital, we have been taking extreme measures to protect the health and wellbeing of our patients and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic and to expand our capacity to care for those in need. We would not be able to do this without the amazing show of support that we have received from the community. Since the pandemic started we have had to modify the way that we function and provide care. During this time of uncertainty the community has selflessly jumped in to help take care of us at the hospital and their neighbors in the community. This community pulls together in times of crisis, and people have rallied behind our healthcare workers, showing support and kindness during this crazy time. From the beginning, we received immediate offers of support, with folks calling to ask what we needed and how they could help us help the community. Dozens of volunteers spent hours behind sewing machines to make thousands of cloth masks, surgical caps and headbands. When personal protective gear was hard to find, we had construction companies, boat builders and local stores donating new masks and supplies for our team members on the front lines. Local restaurants provided meals for staff working long hours, sometimes sent by thoughtful community members, other times from the restaurants themselves, even though their business may have been slow. We received cards filled with kind words, local art, flowers and chocolates.

South Peninsula Hospital

As healthcare workers, we go into this line of work because we want to help people, to take care of our community when times are hard. We often see people while they are experiencing challenging or painful times in their lives. When the hospital was facing a challenge, the community reached out and took care of our team, knowing that our staff was working long hours, acknowledging that things have not been normal, being patient through all the changes in processes and procedures and being flexible with us when appointments or times needed to be shifted. It was not only the tangible donations but the gratitude and goodwill that we received. It is hard to convey how much a kind word or small show of appreciation can mean to someone during times of heightened stress. Your support always means a lot to the organization, but is especially comforting during these trying times.

So we want to pay forward your kindness right back to the community by expressing our heartfelt thank you to you, our community. We are humbled by the outpouring of care and generosity you have shown SPH. We are proud to be your neighbors and local hospital and healthcare team, and honored to take care of you and your family. Thank you for taking care of us during this confusing time; we are here for you.

Nyla Lightcap, Administrative Assistant and Donations Coordinator, COVID-19 Public Information Team

South Peninsula Hospital

Thank you Rasmuson and Alaska Community Foundations

We wanted to thank our most generous donors to our COVID-19 Response Fund, Rasmuson Foundation and Alaska Community Foundation, for your $10,000 gift to the Southern Kenai Peninsula. We were able to award 5 organizations, recognized by our COVID response committee with the largest need in our area, unrestricted grants. The organizations were the Homer Community Food Pantry, Homer Senior Citizens, Anchor Point Food Pantry, Anchor Point Senior Citizens, and Ninilchik Senior Citizens. We are so grateful to be able to provide this to our community!