State Budget Vetoes and Homer Community Impacts

In every corner of the state Alaskans are talking about the state budget and the impacts it will have on the quality of life for young and old.  After the State Legislature approved a budget with some very deep cuts, Governor Dunleavy used his veto pen to cut another $444 Million.  These cuts, primarily in higher education and social services, will profoundly impact the life of all Alaskans, including those in the Homer area.

The Homer Foundation is the oldest community foundation in Alaska and regularly interacts with many other nonprofits in the region. In conversations with some of our partners in the Homer area, we know that as a result of his budget local nonprofits will lose significant funding.  What does this mean for our community?  Our partners tell us the loss of state funding will mean layoffs, lost matching grants, and reduced help for members of our community that need it most.  Here are just some of the outcomes:

  • Medicaid dental services – Some 300 adults who receive dental care at the SVT health center each year would lose access to those services under elimination of the state’s Medicaid adult dental benefit.
  • Early childhood – State funding is eliminated for Head Start and several other early education programs. Homer’s Head Start program serves twenty children aged 3 to 5. In addition, elimination of the Best Beginnings program could cut enrollment in half for the local Homer Imagination Library program, which provides hundreds of kids here with early-reader books.
  • South Peninsula Hospital – Medicaid payments for elderly long-term-care patients help subsidize unprofitable services at our small-town hospital. Medicaid cuts  – first by the Legislature, then by the governor – will cost the hospital hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. Short-term impacts in long-term care would likely be reduced staffing.  Elsewhere at the hospital, cuts to Medicaid and behavioral health treatment grants are expected to divert patients into the emergency room, where they would receive more expensive care that hospitals have to cover without reimbursement.
  • Homer seniors – Many elderly residents living in or near poverty on the Lower Kenai Peninsula count on the state’s need-based senior benefits program, which was eliminated. Monthly grants of $76 to $250 were used by seniors for food, rent and medicine. Homer-area recipients probably number in the hundreds, though exact figures aren’t available; the state counts 1,200 recipients on the Kenai Peninsula.
  • Arts – Elimination of the State Council on the Arts will punch a $20,000 hole in the budget of the Homer Council on the Arts, or 12-15 percent of its budget.
  • Public Radio – KBBI anticipates layoffs and programming changes, but the full effects of the budget cuts will create a ripple effect that is hard to gauge. The radio stations’ $75,000 in state funds were eliminated, jeopardizing the ability to bring in an additional $125,000 in federal funding. No funds are provided to support the station’s central role in the lower Kenai Peninsula’s emergency alert system. In addition, $30,000 in engineering services provided by the state will go away.
  • Behavioral Health Services – State mental health grants used to pay for state-required services that are not covered by insurance, such as emergencies at the hospital or police station, are eliminated — cutting income up to $250,000 in the budget of the South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services.
  • The Homeless Assistance Program run by the Haven House will be cut by at least $60,000 in funding due to the near-elimination of the state’s homeless assistance grants.

There appears to be a misunderstanding in some quarters that the philanthropic sector will fill these budget holes. This is wishful thinking.  This statement is not based on the generosity of Alaskans, it’s based on scale.  In 2018 total philanthropic giving in Alaska added up to approximately $135 million.  This amounts to just a portion of the cuts proposed in the budget even before the Governor’s vetoes.

Locally, in 2018 the Homer area nonprofit sector accounted for $5.9 million in revenues of which $2.4 million was new money into the area.   Much of this was federal matching funds which require State funding to qualify for the Federal portion.  As a leading local distributor of funds, last fiscal year the Homer Foundation distributed $150,000 in grants and scholarships.  We are proud of our fund holders, donors and volunteers who love this community and help their neighbors by giving to the foundation.  We are also proud of the rigorous level of due diligence we employ both in our grant-making and our investment management. By noting theses impacts we are not entering the political conversation. That is for others.  Some would argue that a large PFD will help all Alaskans.  We’re not debating the merits of that argument either. This conversation is about what sort of community we want to have.  Our role here is to inform the community of the very real local adverse consequences resulting from this budget. Whatever your position on the issue, be informed.

-Mike Miller, Executive Director

Homer Foundation

Pay It Forward, May 2019

Pulling together in tough budget times

by Bonnie Jason and Tom Kizzia,
Homer Foundation trustees

With anxiety rising these days about future state and municipal budgets, we all wonder how much our community will be thrown back on its own resources. This seems like an important time to let our neighbors know that the Homer Foundation has been busy making changes to strengthen the future of private giving in the community.

Our town has always been special for the generosity and support neighbors show one another: whether giving time and money at church and school, digging deep at fundraisers for families in hard times, or writing checks to support our many non-profit groups.

It’s no surprise that Homer was the first town in Alaska to set up its own community foundation. For nearly three decades, the Homer Foundation has served as an independent non-profit vessel for home-grown philanthropy, directing local contributions to everything from the food pantry to youth groups to hospice.

Several big transitions have been underway at the foundation for the past year. Those changes now seem timelier than ever.

First, the foundation has launched a major effort to grow our endowment. After humming along for years with a few million dollars in assets, we are pushing to expand to $20 million in the next decade. An endowment that size would mean a stable permanent funding source for a town like Homer.

We know we can do it, because we’ve seen other small towns raise those kinds of funds. A big part of their success has depended on bequests — essentially, people putting the whole community in their wills.

Loyal foundation donors have helped to launch our new Legacy Society, but we’re reaching beyond them, talking to everyone from old homesteading families to the newly arrived and newly smitten. For people who want to pitch in, we have a way.

Second, last year we made a major change in how we handle those funds entrusted to us. All our money is now invested in conservative Vanguard funds that follow the stock and bond markets.

A cautious four-percent draw will safeguard the investments but generate less cash than we’ve had in the past for operations and distribution grants. To sustain the foundation as the total endowment grows, we have undertaken a new initiative with the goal of raising $50,000 for our unrestricted fund in fiscal year 2020. We have received a $25,000 challenge grant from community members, which means we’re halfway there if other folks come through — every contribution counts double.

There’s been a transition in the people at the foundation, too, as one by one our founding board members have been stepping down, giving way to new trustees and new ideas.

The board’s biggest job this winter was to replace our longtime executive director, Joy Steward, who is retiring in June. After a national search, we were lucky to find Mike Miller, a retired Air Force veteran whose extensive municipal and non-profit experience includes leadership of the Food Bank of Alaska.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the foundation’s commitment to channeling donations to good causes on the southern Kenai Peninsula. Our distributions committee has recently contributed to youth in the Anchor Point area with funds for their wrestling team, and helped the Pratt Museum bring ethnic dancers and drummers to villages across the bay. Grants have gone to the arts, science education, seniors, nordic ski trails, HOWL, Pier One, and Haven House, among many others.

As an independent tax-exempt non-profit, the Homer Foundation occasionally plays a sponsorship role for big community projects, such as rebuilding Karen Hornaday Park and erecting the new Boathouse Pavilion on the Spit. The foundation also manages the City of Homer’s annual grants to non-profits and high school scholarships — things we do without charging fees, so that all the money reaches its intended targets.

And if you’ve read this far, you’re probably aware that the foundation, under the leadership of retired teacher (and recently honored “lifelong learner”) Flo Larson, has been providing regular “Pay It Forward” columns for this space in the Homer News.

Like others in the community, board members of the Homer Foundation are concerned about the future of government funding for our many local needs. We are redoubling our efforts to reach out to neighbors and expand our role in helping Homer’s non-profit groups do their good work for many decades to come.

Bonnie Jason is President of the Homer Foundation board of trustees. Tom Kizzia is the Board Secretary.

Bear Creek Winery Music Festival

Annoucing the 3rd annual Bear Creek Winery Music Festival and Pig Roast. This is the largest donor-driven fundraiser for the Homer Foundation, with all proceeds from this event benefiting the Homer Mariner Fastpitch Softball Fund and the Nikki Geragotelis (Fry) Memorial Scholarship Fund, both benefiting athletes of Homer High School. It is a very unique event full of food, music, and fun. Hope to see you all there!

Click for more information and tickets.

2019 Scholarship Press Release

$31,000 Awarded to Area Students

The Homer Foundation has awarded twenty-one scholarships totaling $31,000 to Homer area students. These scholarships are supported by permanent endowments administered by the Homer Foundation and would not be possible without the vision and generosity of community donors.

“These scholarships have value well beyond the monetary. It is the message we send to each recipient: ‘We believe in you,’ ” explains Homer Foundation Executive Director Joy Steward.

The success of the Foundation’s scholarship program depends on volunteers like our school counselors, notably Homer High School counselor Lin Hampson and her staff who are on the front line, connecting students to scholarship applications, volunteers Jane Miles and Lolita Brache who processed packets for the review committees, and the dozens of volunteers who made up these committees, sharing their time and expertise to read and rate applications, assuring a fair and equitable selection process.

Because of the donors who had the vision to establish these scholarships, and the community members that continue to support them, these funds will be here to support the education of our youth far into the future. Tax exempt donations to support these scholarships, or any of the 69 funds managed by the Foundation, are appreciated and put to work in our community. Contact Joy Steward for more information:

Congratulations to the 2019 recipients:

Homer Community Science Scholarship: for post-secondary education in the life sciences.  The fund was established by retired Homer High School Science teacher, Stan Eller, and is supported by community donations.

Homer High School students: Luciano Fasulo, $750, Anna Brock, $750, Meadow Beckett-Cook, $500

Alain and Daniel Rieser Scholarship:  established in memory of Alain and Daniel Rieser, it provides for a travel award or college tuition to a graduating senior with a flair for foreign language and/or interest in foreign cultures/travel. 

Brenna McCarron, Homer High School, $3000

Drew Scalzi Memorial Maritime Scholarship:  established in memory of Drew Scalzi. The underlying philosophy of the scholarship is to nurture young adults pursuing their careers in the maritime field or who are from local fishing or maritime families.

Avram Salzmann, Homer High School, $1000 and Michael Trail, Nikoleavsk School, $1000

Health Care Providers Scholarship:  established by local health care providers to support local students committed to pursuing a career in a health care field. May be awarded upon high school graduation, or later in their educational career.

Homer High School students: Luciano Fasulo, $1000, Kelsea Scott, $1000, Emilia Halstead, $500, and Mackenzie Callis, Class of ’08, $3000

Beluga Tail Non-Fiction Writing Scholarship: rewards graduating seniors that demonstrate exemplary skills in non-fiction writing. 

Avram Salzmann, Homer High School, $3000

Beluga Tail Fiction Writing Scholarship: rewards graduating seniors that demonstrate exemplary skills in non-fiction writing. 

Meadow Beckett-Cook, Homer High School, $3000

Kachemak Bay Medical Clinic Scholarship:  established by Dr. Paul Raymond to provide financial assistance to a public high school graduating senior in the greater Homer area who has best exemplified academic excellence, community and/or school service, and a strong work ethic. 

Luciano Fasulo, Homer High School, $2000 ($500/yrX4)

Ptarmigan Arts Visual Arts Scholarship:  Established by the member artists of Ptarmigan Arts Gallery to support aspiring young artists, either with college tuition support or purchase of art supplies or classes. 

Anna Brock, Homer High School, $1000

Nikki Geragotelis (Fry) Memorial Scholarship:  This scholarship was established by the family and friends of Nikki in honor of the life she lived. The goal of the scholarship is to keep Nikki’s memory alive by helping students continue their education. Throughout her life Nikki had a “walk-on” spirit. A recipient is selected that exemplifies her sportsmanship, athleticism, integrity, friendliness, and hard-working nature, giving their best every time they step on the field whether at practice or for a game.

Homer High School students Cora Parish, $2500, Rylyn Todd, $2500

Bill and Liz Johnson Teacher Education Scholarship:  Bill and Liz Johnson both served as teachers and mentors to many students in the community. They were always willing to help give a leg up to any student willing to work hard. The Bill and Liz Johnson Teacher Education Scholarship Fund celebrates their memories, and their love of teaching by providing support to students choosing education as a career.

Cora Parish, Homer High School, $1000

Diane Wambach “Shoot for the Stars” Scholarship:  This scholarship was established in memory of Diane Wambach by her family to encourage and support young adults who have overcome adversity and want to pursue their educational and career goals. Diane Wambach believed in people’s dreams and always encouraged her own children to shoot for the stars.   The fund provides for an annual award to support college or technical training program.

Samantha Martin, Homer Flex School, $1000

Heather Pancratz Memorial Scholarship:  The communities of the Southern Kenai

Peninsula lost a valuable educator in 2017. This scholarship was established to keep alive Heather’s commitment to her students and home community

of Nikolaevsk. Heather is remembered for her belief in a loving God from which flowed compassion, love and a faithful devotion to family, friends, students and community. The Fund will continue her legacy through its support to students who exemplify Heather’s critical thinking, respectful questioning, and lifelong learning approach to life.

Michael Trail, Nikoleavsk School, $500

Fish & Wildlife Scholarship:  This scholarship was created by Steve Albert who is a resident of Homer. Steve dedicated his life to Fish and Wildlife management for the State of Alaska. The intent is to support Homer area students in pursuit of higher education in wildlife or fisheries biology or management, with a preference for students planning on working in Alaska.

Dexter Lowe, Homer High School, $1500

Pay It Forward: April 2019

Submitted by Billy Day

I often prefer to tackle jobs during the winter months. The snow pack can be much easier to travel upon than the veggie covered terrain one encounters during other seasons. Today I made a new friend while on the job.

I drove to the end of the road and found a trooper vehicle parked in the turn around, engine running but no one in sight. I negotiated a tight turn and backed my truck to the snow berm to unload my snow machine. A few minutes later a trooper appeared, post holing up the driveway. It turned out he was coming to the aid of an elderly woman whom he was going to give a lift into town.

Several minutes later she appeared in the distance, ski poles supporting her while she made the long journey up her driveway to the trooper’s car. She was obviously laboring in the deep snow and I hurried to try to make my machine available to assist her. By the time I had it ready she was crawling into the backseat of the trooper’s car and off they went. I figured all was taken care of.

I continued with my business of digging up existing survey monuments and setting new ones. A couple of hours later I looked up and once again, there she was, ski poles in hand, bags draped over her arms, standing where I had last seen her loading into the trooper’s car. She was gazing down her quarter mile long, snow covered driveway and contemplating the journey. I hollered at her to stay put, that I would come give her a ride home. I quickly kicked off my snow shoes, disconnected my sled full of gear, and fired up my machine. I pulled up next to her as she stood unsteady in the deep snow.

“Can I offer you a ride home?” I asked.

“That would be swell.” she responded.

“Are you familiar with riding on these machines?” I inquired.

“Never been on one in my life,” she answered “but I’m ready to give it a try”.

With some effort I had her loaded on the machine with a little room left for me to climb on and drive. I gave her a few last minute instructions and off we went. On the way down the hill to her little cabin we passed her car, stuck in the deep drifts from Saturday’s storm. We unloaded she and her bags at her front door. She thanked me over and over for saving her the walk and for the exhilarating ride. I offered to dig her car out and park it back in front of her cabin. She had done her best with a small snow blower to clear a parking space there. She dug her keys out of her bag and handed them over.

“That would be swell.” she said.

She had buried her old beat up Blazer pretty good, but in 30 minutes I had it dug out and parked in front of her cabin. I gave her my phone number as I handed her the keys.

We finally introduced ourselves as we said our goodbyes. She offered to pay me with a fist full of a five and a few ones. I declined the offer and reminded her to call me the next time she got herself into a pickle. With tears in her eyes she thanked me again.

Before going back to work, I called a friend who has a plow business and told him the story. He said he would be right over. An hour later he pulled in and began the task. A few minutes after his arrival my phone rang. It was my new friend Carmen, “Like the opera”.

“Someone is plowing my driveway!” she exclaimed. “I’m not sure I can afford that.”

“That’s my friend and he was in the neighborhood and there will be no charge for his services.” I replied. “And be sure to call me the next time you find yourself in a pickle.”

Tonight I suspect Carmen is nestled into her little cabin with a fire burning in the stove and counting her blessings. It was a big day for her. I hope she feels she has made a new friend, someone she can call upon in a time of need. She has my number, in her new smart phone (we learned how to add a new number to her contacts), and written on the inside of her door, and again on a piece of plywood on her entry.

And for myself, I feel blessed for the new friend. I suspect I will be seeing more of Carmen.

Billy Day is a life long Alaskan who lives a happy life on Diamond Ridge and prefers to spend his time in the mountains with a pair of boards strapped to his feet.

Grant Updates: Winter 2019

Below are Highlights from Six Recent Quick Response Grants

The most recent recipient of our Quick Response Grant program is the Anchor Kings Wrestling Club. They will use these funds to support their team in upcoming tournaments. In 2017, they were the State Champions for Small Teams. To us, the 30-40 youth who participate each year are no small team, and this program provides a great outlet for this community.

Seen here, a happy Hospice of Homer volunteer, ready to deliver Thanksgiving meals to their home-bound clients. This is a great example of a small grant that had a large impact on these clients who otherwise might not see anyone on the Thanksgiving Holiday.

MAPP’s Resilience Coalition, together with Bunnell Arts Center, presented Dr. Michael Yellow Bird, a leading visionary on the subject of decolonization, and a citizen of the Sioux Nation. He is a leading expert on Indigenous Peoples’ health, leadership, and cultural rights; the effects of colonization and methods of decolonization; decolonizing social work approaches; neurodecolonization and mind body approaches; neuroscience and Indigenous Peoples; and traditional mindfulness and contemplative practices.

Another recent grant was awarded to the Girl Scouts Troop 1935 to help these girls achieve a life changing experience at the Scout World Center in Pune India – volunteering in the local community, meeting girls from all over the world, and immersing themselves in a very different culture.

We were one of many organizations that collaborated with the Friends of the Homer Public Library to put forward their Big Read 2019. This campaign had a total of 18 different events this winter, surrounding the graphic novel Can’t we talk about something more Pleasant? by Roz Chast.

One recent grant from our Unrestricted Fund was to support Razdolna School in updating their emergency supplies. This allows the school to respond effectively to emergency events, particularly given their unique location. They were able to use these funds to supplement the given supplies and continue to provide a safe, learning environment for all their students.

Pay It Forward: How to Live Forever

A few years ago, Roman Blum died at age 97 in New York State. His body moldered in the morgue for four days before Roman’s lawyer was found. It turned out that Roman had died without a will. As a childless Holocaust survivor, his 40 million dollar estate ended up being paid to New York State, which is ironic. As a passionate supporter of nonprofits, he could have directed that his money go to his favorite charities upon his death. A close friend and fellow Holocaust survivor said of him, “He was a very smart man, but he died like an idiot.”

As attorneys, we have seen less dramatic, but equally tragic stories pass through our town.  We have also witnessed the unexpected joys of planned giving to nonprofits. With a thoughtful estate plan, you can live forever through your legacy of planned giving.  You can make a plan to give back to the community that has given much to your family, while still sharing your hard earned wealth with your children or other heirs.  Fortunately, Homer is home to many nonprofits that will outlive us, and that steward local arts, music, youth programs, marine and environmental conservation, land conservation, public radio, and many other facets of our community that we cherish. 

The Homer area is also very fortunate to have a community foundation, the Homer Foundation, that is tasked with a mission to receive, invest and distribute estate gifts for the benefit of the Homer area communities, forever. Whom did I love and whose love do I still see around me in Homer through charitable giving? Among many others, Drew Scalzi, with his wry sense of humor; Mary Epperson, my favorite little leprechaun; the gentle giant that was Peter Larson; Nikki Fry Geragotelis, the young athlete with a can-do attitude; and of course, Renda Horn, who patiently tried to teach me accordion.  They will live forever in our hearts, and beyond our lives.

To help promote estate planning and charitable giving in our community, the Friends of the Homer Library will be presenting three free seminars on estate plans. The first presentation will be on March 19th from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. entitled Estate Planning For Blended Families (second marriages and/or families with step-children). If you or your partner have a child from a previous relationship, the rules for dying without a will are surprising.

A second free seminar will be presented on April 16th from 6 p.m.- 7 p.m. entitled Estate Planning For Couples And Families With Minor Children.  Among other important goals, your will can designate who will raise your children in your absence.

The final seminar will be presented on May 16th from 6 p.m.- 7 p.m. with a focus on How to Avoid Probate.  All seminars will be held at the Homer Public Library.

If you attend a presentation and decide to draft a will or trust with one of the three attorney presenters, that attorney will donate 10% of their fee for the estate plan to a Homer nonprofit of the attorney’s choice. If your estate plan provides a significant gift to a local nonprofit (of your choice), the attorney-presenter will reduce your cost for the estate plan by ten percent.

As a friend recently said, by planned giving we plant a robust tree under whose shade we will never sit. That is perhaps our greatest gift to a very special community.  Andy Haas, husband, father, nonprofit activist, and attorney.

2019 Scholarships Now Available

Are you a graduating senior or do you know a graduating senior looking to pursue post-high school education? We have 11 scholarships that are awarded through the Homer Foundation in 2019. We love the opportunity to support education of our area youth. Application deadline is Thursday April 11th, 2019.

Go here for a link to the application. This application is for all 11 scholarships, with eligibility requirements, award amounts, as well application requirements.

Contact the Homer Foundation at or call 235-0541 for more information.

Announcing YAC Grant Applications for 2019 now open

The Homer Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) announces their new grant application process. YAC is a committee of the Homer Foundation, and is comprised of the members of the National Junior Honor Society at Homer Middle School.  YAC’s mission is to promote philanthropy and improve the quality of life for the youth of our community.

            YAC is soliciting letters of intent from non-profit organizations that promote fun, healthy, and educational activities for youth in Homer. This year the funding priority will be for programs taking place in summer 2019. If your organization would like to apply for a grant, we invite you to submit a letter of intent not to exceed 2 pages.  The letter should include the following:

  • The name of your organization
  • Tax exempt status
  • The name, phone number, and e-mail address of the contact person
  • A description of how your organization would use the YAC grant
  • The project’s total cost and how much you are asking from YAC
  • How your project is intended to benefit youth in Homer
  • The beginning and ending dates of your summer program/project

            All applicants will receive a response letter.  Only selected organizations will be contacted by YAC representatives to complete the review process which may include a scheduled site visit.  Final determinations will be made by April 30thAwards shall range from $200 -$2,000.  For more information, contact Joy Steward at 235-0541, or e-mail at

Receipt Deadline:  Wednesday, March 6 by 5pm. 

Homer Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee


Mail:   Homer Foundation              Deliver:  lower level, Kachemak Bay Title

            PO Box 2600                           3733 Ben Walters Lane

            Homer, AK  99603                   Homer, AK  99603