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

Pay It Forward: A Christmas Homecoming

During her busy and too-brief life, my wife helped in many non-profit organizations. I never did. As a working journalist, I kept my distance from good causes. Clear-thinking journalism (always of value, always in short supply) was my way of pitching in.

When I left full-time newspaper work, and agreed to start helping the Homer Foundation, it was not the memory of Sally’s good works that inspired me. Nor was it because I had exceptional amounts of money and time to give. It was because I remembered what it was like to receive.

Some time ago, when our two children were still young, we left our cabin in the woods out East Road for a year-long journalism fellowship at Stanford University. It was a good year, but just as it ended, Sally fell ill and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her disease was advanced and the treatment was awful. Paid vacation turned into homesick exile, as we spent six additional months in California.

We all were nervous on the flight back to Alaska, Sally especially. It was just before Christmas, the middle of winter, the dark season. Our cabin was a half-mile off the road, buried in snowdrifts. Skiing back and forth, as we did when the snow got deep, would be exhausting. We had to unpack and set up the house after a long absence, and I had to get back to work. Cabin life was rigorous enough when healthy.

But Sally was eager to get our kids back to their proper home, in time for the holiday. Her prognosis was not good, and this might be the last time she unpacked and hung the familiar ornaments.

We landed in Homer on a mid-morning flight —  sun up, no wind, the first blue sky in weeks. A few friends were there to meet us. They brought our car and told us they’d stocked the refrigerator. We drove straight out east, just the four of us, and parked in our familiar snowbank. I loaded a sled with suitcases and we hiked the half-mile through deep snow, following a path that somebody trudged open for us. I missed the clue. We climbed the steps and opened the door.

The cabin had been cleaned spotlessly and buffed, the newly refinished pine floor gleaming in the low sunlight, white lights blinking around all the windows, flower arrangements of white daisies and red poppies, jars of Christmas cookies, meals in the freezer, and new blue tiles covering the wall behind the woodstove. The Monitor stove hummed complacently.

Hanging from a beam in the center of the house was a brightly colored throng of birds, strings of folded paper cranes in the shape of a Christmas tree. I set aside the accompanying card when I heard Emily and Ethan squealing from the back rooms.

I expected to encounter a skyline of stacked shipping boxes, but the boxes were gone, everything put away, the rooms decorated and cozy, their little beds made up. We walked around, kids exclaiming over each new discovery, Sally weeping softly.

We climbed the ladder to our room and there across the bed lay a friendship quilt with twenty patches, each hand-sewn by someone different.

That night, as I cleaned up after dinner, wood stove crackling, we heard voices out in the darkness. From the window we saw lanterns rising over the snowy hill. Soon there were maybe thirty carolers in the snow before our house. They carried a big golden star, made of waxed paper and wire and lit from within by a candle.

We put on heavy coats and went out on the porch while they sang. Ethan, six years old, bounced happily from one bare foot to the other, and Sally smiled at him helplessly. In the candlelight were faces of our McNeil Canyon neighbors, families from the kids’ schools, friends from town. They sang and welcomed us home and then left us at peace, trekking off through the snow into the night.

We carried the paper star into our warm, bright cabin and set it by the hanging paper cranes. I picked up the unopened card, from a Homer friend, and handed it to Sally. She opened it and read aloud:

“Dear Sally, The Japanese say, if you fold a thousand cranes, you get one wish. I give my wish to you.”


Homer author Tom Kizzia serves on the Homer Foundation board.



Tom Kizzia 235-4060 / 299-3662

Announcing Executive Director Search

The Homer Foundation is seeking applicants for its Executive Director position. This is a 4 day/week, 32 hour exempt position. Salary $50,000 DOE.

Homer Foundation Executive Director Job Description

To Apply:

Please submit a resume, three references and a signed cover letter that includes this statement:
“I hereby authorize the Homer Foundation to contact the professional references provided with this application and, at its discretion, to conduct a confidential background check. I further understand and agree that this application will be disqualified for any material misrepresentation or omission.”


Application reviews begins Jan 22nd, 2019.  Position is open until filled. Position to start June 3, 2019

Applications should be submitted via email to: The email should include in the subject line, “Attention: Search Committee.”

Inspirational Planned Giving…close to home

“The idea is not to live forever, but to create something that will” -Andy Warhol

This gentleman, Dorian “Pete” Cordes, passed away last year. He made the Mandan Public Schools the primary beneficiary of his retirement savings, totaling $345,000. The gift established the Arnold E. Larson Memorial fund, which provides for a yearly $10,000 instrumental music scholarship. Arnold E. Larson was the Mandan High School music instructor. Creating the scholarship fund through his legacy gift was a way memorialize an inspirational teacher, friend and mentor.

You may be asking yourself, how does this relate to the Homer Foundation? Arnold Larson was the father of Peter Larson, late husband of our very own board member, Flo Larson. Flo, also from North Dakota, can attest to the large impact this scholarship will have on the students of Mandan.

Here at the Homer Foundation, we hear stories like these and want to share them with the world. We know that our philanthropic work could not happen without donors who have a mind for the future. This story is a reminder that a planned gift is a simple way to provide a lasting legacy to your community. The Homer Foundation stands ready to help you fulfill your philanthropic goals and invite you to join our Legacy Society so we can highlight your generosity and hopefully inspire others to leave a lasting legacy to their community through the Homer Foundation to ensure a healthy and vibrant community for future generations.

Our pursuit at the foundation is to generate donors with similar interests to sustain the funds endowed to us which we then strive to connect to community needs. Through the legacy society, we are providing security for our future needs. We look forward to working with donors inspired by Dorian Cordes and including philanthropic ideals into their estate planning.

Welcome our newest Board of Trustee Members!

The Homer Foundation Board of Trustees want to send our warmest congratulations to our newest board members, Liz Downing and Van Hawkins.

Liz Downing has a strong background in education, both as an employee and a board member. She moved to Homer in 1987, working at the Kachemak Bay Campus as the Student and Enrollment Services Manager. She currently works for the Kenai Peninsula College as the Title III Project Director, which strengthens institutions grant focusing on distance education access and success. She was also a predominant member and Vice President of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education, where she received the recognition of the Outstanding Board Member Award from the National School Board Association. We are already benefiting from her extensive board experience, her love for community service and hope she continues to bring in her advocacy skills for the grant recipients to the Homer Foundation.

Van Hawkins is a born and raised Homerite, who moved away to gain extensive financial experience outside, and is back to make Homer is home once again. He is a financial advisor for Raymond James as well as a current member of the Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club. In addition, he has been on the finance council for St. John’s Catholic Church for the past two years. Van is probably most known in the community as a performing member of the Pier One Theatre group and is a large supporter of the arts in the community. In addition to all of these roles, he has also recently accepted the position as the Rotary Health Fair Co-Coordinator. We are very thankful that Van has accepted the additional responsibilities associated with becoming a trustee of the Homer Foundation. We look forward to his youthful energy to guide the foundation in maintaining and improving the communities of the Southern Peninsula.

If you see these two around town, congratulate them on this honor and feel free to ask them any questions you might have about the Homer Foundation.

There’s Still Time to Pay It Forward

Did you know that you can add or adjust your charitable giving through Pick.Click.Give Alaska through August 31st? This means if you happened to forget to give to the Homer Foundation when you filed for your PFD, you can go into your application and make this change. Here at the Homer Foundation, we know how important your financial decisions are to your families, but we hope that you find a way to give back to your community. We feel like we are a great option to help you help support the community.

We are currently working on expanding our base to be able to aide more people in the community in larger ways. We have made changes at our administrative level with the addition of our newest employee, which is a first for the Foundation, and we are now ready to pursue our goals of a $20 million base from which we can draw funds to give back to the community. We want to reach more members of Homer but we need your help in order to do that.

If you have already given to the Foundation through Pic.Click.Give, we urge you to consider a larger donation. If you haven’t included the Homer Foundation in your charitable giving through Pick.Click.Give. Remember all donations are tax deductible and you will receive tax documentation from the State once your donations have been processed. These changes can be made at

Remember to do this by next Friday, August 31st!

Wildheart Inspires Unselfish Wishes

Look a gift fish in the mouth! In fact, take a photo with it, climb on it, and feed it cash or check! The act of giving doesn’t just feel good. It is also fun! And now giving has become even more fun with the arrival of a six-foot bronze king salmon named Wildheart.

Wildheart the Giving Salmon is the Homer Foundation’s 25th anniversary gift to the community of Homer. It reflects the Foundation’s core values: solid, enduring, and giving back. Besides being a beautiful sculpture, it acts as a community chest where both residents and visitors can donate money to help meet community needs. It is a vision of philanthropy that is so real one can touch it, feed it, and see the gleam of the sun on its bronze scales!

If you know a student of Paul Banks, Fireweed, or West Homer Elementary, or a participant at last year’s Winter King Salmon Tournament, then you most likely know someone who had a hand in this new philanthropic work of art on the Homer Spit. In addition to sculpting assistance from the community and students, the artist also solicited name ideas. We could tell by the suggestions that these 300+ ad hoc sculptors fully understood what the spirit of the Giving Salmon was all about! Suggestions like Jeff, Philip, and Mark embody the idea that giving is for everyone. Bubba, Bubbles, Fluffy Scales and Shark Bait illustrate that the salmon bank is meant to be fun and enjoyed by all. Names such as Compassion and Dreamer represent the ideals that our community embraces and that make our town a wonderful place to live! But perhaps the child who suggested the name Mommy understood best what this is all about. It is about caring for one another, investing in each other, and a never-ending dedication to growing our community. Mommy always looks out for her children.

Of many great suggestions, the name Wildheart rose to the top for its perfect fit! Wild salmon represent the health of our ecosystem as they return each year and give endlessly to our community. They are a sustainable, beautiful resource, as is philanthropy. Our community has heart! Homer is where the Wildheart is!

At the center of it all is sculptor Christina Demetro. Christina is a unique combination of artistic talent, collaborative energy, intuitive communication, engineering, and good business sense. She pulled a committee’s ideas together into one vision, she invited the community in to be a part of the creative process, and she guided the project through to the installation, overseeing the smallest details.

A little-known secret about Wildheart is that while working with the children, Christina collected many of the children’s unselfish wishes.  She created a beautiful enameled box to contain them and the box is hidden inside. Christina breathed life into the sculpture and she is the spirit of Wildheart!

If you haven’t already, head to the Spit by the new Boat House to meet Wildheart. Perhaps Wildheart will inspire you to make your own unselfish wish when you feed the fish!

Kids greet Wildheart at the unveiling ceremony May 12th.

Denise Pitzman

Denise is a former Homer Foundation board member and former chair of the Foundation’s Development Committee where she put the FUN in fundraising.