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.


Pay It Forward: Where there’s a will there’s a way

By Lindsay Wolter for the Homer News posted 1/25/18

I suspect that each of us have thought about how we can make our lives more meaningful. Do we find a greater purpose in serving others? Helping abused children? Getting involved in politics? Inspiring youth to play sports or get involved in art or theater? Saving salmon habitat? Building community? Often, the value we hope to impart on the world from our lives is focused on only our lifetime. But human lifetimes are but a blip on the radar. If you can effect change while you’re alive, imagine what you could do if you had more time.

I do a lot of estate planning. Often times, when people think about estate planning they consider leaving everything they’ve accumulated to their children, or if there are no children, to nieces, nephews, and other more distant relatives. But what about thinking a little bigger? A legacy isn’t only what you leave to the world during your time on it; it is also what you give to the world after you’re gone. A charitable bequest could be the most important gift you ever make — and one of the easiest.

There are a variety of ways to make a bequest. The most common I see (given my line of work) is through estate planning documents – think trusts or wills – wherein you leave a dollar figure, a percentage of your estate, or even include a charity or foundation as a primary or contingent beneficiary. An even simpler way is to name a charity or foundation as the beneficiary on a financial account (i.e., retirement, investment, personal checking or savings). Or you could get more sophisticated and set up a charitable remainder trust, which allows a donor to make a tax deductible contribution while still living, but the donor retains the income stream from that contribution during his/her lifetime. In my experience, though, people in Homer do not need to use the more sophisticated, tax-based planning tools simply because Alaska has no estate tax, and the federal estate tax will not affect you unless you plan to leave your heirs over $11.2 million (double that if you’re married).

Consider this. In addition to being easy, planned giving allows you to support your community without affecting your current lifestyle. While you may not be comfortable with the idea of giving a chunk of your wealth to charity now, with a little planning, you can put those assets to good use even when you no longer have any need for them. And in the meantime, your assets are available to you if you do need them.

The amount you give is of course entirely up to you, and you can specify how you would like your bequest to be handled. For example, you could leave $500 to the animal shelter for the care of dogs (or cats), $1,000 to Haven House for its operating costs, or 5% of your estate to Hospice of Homer for the purchase of new equipment. If you have the ability to bequest $10,000 or more of your estate to charity, you could create a scholarship or special interest fund through the Homer Foundation – the benefit of which would be to create a fund that would benefit your specified area of interest in perpetuity.

We are blessed with a thriving non-profit community in our area. While you consider making Pick.Click.Give. and other donations to those organizations while you’re alive, I hope you will also consider leaving a legacy. There are countless ways to do so, and any amount is always appreciated. If you can’t take it with you, why not put it to good use after you’re gone?

Lindsay Wolter is on the Homer Foundation Board of Trustees. She is an attorney in Homer, and soon-to-be mother of two.

As incentive for folks to more seriously consider planned giving, until she goes on maternity leave in March, Wolter offers a 10 percent discount on estate planning for anyone who gifts a charity at least $1,000.

The Homer Foundation is sponsoring a series of “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way” events. If you would like an opportunity to learn more about planned giving and have the opportunity to ask Lindsay questions, please call Joy Steward at the Homer Foundation to get on the list for the next event, 235-0541.

City of Homer Grant Application Form Available

The Homer Foundation announces that application forms for the 2018 City of Homer Grants Program are now available.  The grants program is funded through an annual allocation from the City of Homer in addition to the earnings from the City of Homer Fund and the Kachemak City Fund at the Homer Foundation.

The intent of the City of Homer Grants Program is to support locally-based non-profit organizations that provide services primarily within the City of Homer.  The applicants must be IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations, in existence in Homer a minimum of 3 years, with their primary facility and core programs, activities and services offered within the Homer City limits.  This is a competitive grants process.

The organization must be administered locally with a local policy-making board of directors.  The organization may have no other financial or in-kind support from the City of Homer in the prior calendar year.  The funding is for general operating support.

Application forms are available from the Homer Foundation’s website: or contact 235-0541 or

Application deadline is 5pm, Friday, February 16, 2018.

Pay it Forward: Homer’s Giving Heart

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., 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.

Grant Awarded to Support Blue Ice project

The Homer Foundation recently funded a grant to support the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s Youth String Orchestra Club for a wonderful project created by John Bushell, that included John’s original music score performed by members of HYSOC under the direction of Daniel Perry, and a very memorable hike to perform the piece in the presence of a glacier! The resulting video, “Blue Ice” will be aired at the Homer Foundation’s annual meeting on November 15th. The following is a letter of appreciation from Mr. Bushell:

I am so grateful for yours and the Homer Foundation’s support of our project, Blue Ice.  The funds were just right, the timeline worked well and, most importantly, the lives of some young people in Homer were moved. Blue Ice has turned out to be a wonderful community project involving young musicians, their families and a good number of local businesses and organizations.

The video’s credits thank The Homer Foundation, Pratt Museum, Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, Mako’s Water Taxi, Kachemak Bay State Park, Kenai Peninsula Orchestra and numerous individuals.

We begin promoting Blue Ice this week with thank yous to the papers, social media announcements and as much sharing of the link as possible.


John, Johnny B., Bushell

Enjoy….. here is link to “Blue Ice”

$21,550 Awarded to Area Students

The Homer Foundation has awarded eighteen scholarships totaling $21,550 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. Notably Homer High School counselor Lin Hampson who was on the front line, connecting students to scholarship applications. HF office volunteers Jane and Elaine processed packets for each of the review committees. The 30+ volunteers, who made up those committees, shared their time and expertise to read and rate applications, assuring a fair and equitable selection process.
Congratulations to the 2017 recipients(all students are Homer High School graduates except where notated):

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.
Annali Metz $750
Katie Shank $500
Alain and Daniel Rieser Scholarship:  established in memory of Alain and Daniel Rieser, it recognizes a HHS graduating senior with a flair for foreign language and an interest in foreign cultures.
Juan Sarmiento $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.
Megan Pitzman $1000
Sarah Fellows $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.
Katie Shank $1000
Annali Metz $1000
Aziza Shemet Pitcher $2000 (2016 HHS graduate)
Beluga Tail Non-Fiction Writing Scholarship: rewards graduating seniors that demonstrate exemplary skills in non-fiction writing.
Juan Sarmiento $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.
Katie Shank $2000
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.
Audrey Rosencrans $1500
Koby Etzwiler (11th grade) $250
Maggie Box (11th grade) $250
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 and hard-working nature, giving their best every time they step on the field whether at practice or for a game.
Mary Hana Bowe $1000
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.
Johanna Allen $800
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 willing 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.
Valerie Rios $1000
Remi Nagel $500

Because of the donors who had the vision to establish these scholarships as permanent endowments, and the community members that continue to support them, these funds will be here to support the education of our youth in perpetuity. Tax exempt donations to support scholarships, or any of the 56 funds managed by the Foundation, are appreciated and put to work in our community. Contact Joy Steward for more information:

International Pay It Forward Day

Friday, April 28th is International Pay It Forward Day, an annual day of giving celebrated around the world since 2007. It’s a global initiative to spread kindness through small acts of generosity. With more than eighty countries and millions of people participating, the goal is to change the world for the better – one person and one small act of kindness at a time.
I’m lucky to work at a place where I’m surrounded by small acts of kindness each and every day. With high-fives handed out between classes, and smiles offered to their teachers, the students at Homer Middle School have created a culture in which caring is cool.
One unforgettable act of kindness happened here this past Valentine’s Day. An anonymous family donated a red rose to each middle school girl. Attached to the rose was a beautiful card containing a thoughtful poem. With the help of our principal, the roses were quietly hidden inside each girl’s locker where they were discovered, amongst shrieks and gasps and tears, early Valentine’s Day morning.
Girls crowded together admiring one another’s flowers. Some girls clutched their roses throughout the entire day. Others tucked their cards into pockets to take out and read time and time again. They took such care of their gifts that when the hallways cleared at the end of the day, there wasn’t a single fallen petal. The joy that filled our school that day was palpable.
I’m often caught off guard by students’ spontaneous acts of kindness, such as one that occurred recently in my PE class. It was the first day of a rollerblading unit, and I was rapidly approaching my wit’s ends. As I frantically adjusted helmets, strapped up mismatched kneepads, and buckled skates, a boy seated on a nearby bench waved me over.
“I can’t get up,” he groaned. I lugged him onto his wobbly feet. But now what? I had twenty-four other students to supervise and didn’t dare turn my back to them while steadying this one unstable boy. I looked around in desperation and saw, tucked into the corner, several large cafeteria garbage cans on wheels.
“Just lean forward,” I instructed him as I transferred his shaking hands to the edge of a can, “and push out with your feet.”
It wasn’t until I rolled him away and watched him floundering over the garbage container that I stopped for a moment to think. Twenty-four students were flying in circles around the gym, and one unfortunate child was stuck in the middle awkwardly suspended over a giant, florescent yellow garbage can. I had unintentionally made a spectacle of him, and set him up for ridicule.
Nervously, I looked on as a rather impetuous and athletic boy zoomed past my garbage can-wielding friend. The boy looked over his shoulder and laughed, and then pulled an abrupt U-turn. As I warily approached, the boy latched onto the far side of the container. “Hey,” he said nonchalantly to the wide-eyed face balancing above the garbage, “do you think I could practice skating backwards while you push forwards?”
I watched with astonishment as the two wobbled away. Instantly, kids began pulling out the other garbage cans, and within moments, six gigantic yellow containers were paraded in laps around the gym. Kids laughed and called out turns as they paired up to practice skating together.
Stories about public school bullies make the headlines. But the real news is quieter and kinder, and it’s happening all around me at Homer Middle School. Every day I witness kids supporting and comforting each other. I see students offering forgiveness and friendship, smiles and encouragement.
Pay It Forward Day is every day at each of the schools in Homer. Our schools are filled with kids and adults who are working to make the world a better place. Sometimes, amongst all the noise and confusion, it’s hard to focus on the little acts of kindness. But they happen all around me.
So, tomorrow I’ll join the millions of people around the world who will participate in International Pay It Forward Day. I haven’t yet decided just how I’ll contribute, but it’s easy to imagine what a better world this would be if we all took a tip from the kids at Homer Middle School and simply handed out high-fives in the hallways.

Bonnie Jason is a teacher at Homer Middle School and a Homer Foundation trustee since 2003.