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.

Artist Selected for The Giving Salmon

Anchorage artist Christina Demetro works on a maquette of The Giving Salmon, the Homer Foundation’s 25th anniversary gift to the community.

The Homer Foundation recently celebrated 25 years of creating community philanthropy. To commemorate this milestone the Foundation selected artist Christina Demetro to sculpt a six-foot bronze sculpture called The Giving Salmon. The Giving Salmon will be located in front of the new Boat House Pavilion. Created to be interactive, the public will be able to “feed” the Giving Salmon by making donations into the Chinook’s mouth. The donations will benefit the community through the Homer Foundation, bringing awareness to the cycle of giving.

Christina was selected through Call for Entry, an online call management system. According to Homer Foundation executive director Joy Steward, “Twenty-nine proposals were received from around the country; we were gratified by the number of strong Alaskan applicants. Christina rose to the top through her strong resume, design, and the desire to use her art to build community through the sculpture process.”

Like the Homer Foundation, Christina has a similar anniversary–25 years of sculpting.
She first apprenticed with her father, sculptor Jim Demetro, on a public sculpture called Mother Bathing Child when she was 19. After a decade as an assistant sculptor, Christina started creating her own bronze public pieces, as well as continuing co-creations with her father and local residents.

Among other projects, Christina and her father had over 1,300 citizens in Vancouver, WA, join in the creation of the city’s namesake statue. In Puerto Vallarta school children recently helped co-sculpt a burro statue, and in Anchorage a humpback whale peace symbol sculpture. In a bi-partisan effort, the father-daughter team also created four Spirit of America statues for a 9/11 memorial.

Christina says, “I delight in the viewer enjoying the discovery and interaction of a piece and, in a lot of cases, the exploration of co-creating the sculpture out of clay or wax before it’s cast in bronze.” Slated for a mid-September installation, keep a look out for locations around Homer where you and your family can join Christina to help sculpt The Giving Salmon in the coming months.

Her heart in Homer, Christina lives in Anchorage with her husband Eric, whose talent for making stringed instruments fills her work studio with live music. She says of Homer, “I’m excited to facilitate this sculpture’s creation with such an artistic community. No matter whether you call yourself an artist or not, I extend a warm welcome to come sculpt with us.”

Pick.Click. and Give Where You Live

With a new year upon us, we mark a new season of Pick.Click.Give., the charitable check off program that allows all Alaska Permanent Fund filers to give back to causes that they care most about. It is hard to find an easier way to pay it forward. Pick.Click.Give. also provides an unprecedented opportunity to raise the level of awareness throughout Alaska about the power of individual giving, to increase the number of new donors, and to expand giving options for existing donors.

Over 171 deserving nonprofits qualify for the Pick.Click.Give. program statewide. This year I would like to encourage you to consider giving where you live by narrowing your focus to the nonprofit organizations that work to make our communities here on the southern Kenai Peninsula stronger, healthier, more livable.

A quick search of organizations on the website indicates over two dozen organizations serving our area. Whether you feel most strongly about Arts & Culture (Anchor Point Library, Bunnell Street Arts Center, Friends of the Homer Public Library, Homer Council on the Arts, KBBI Public Radio, Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, Ninilchik Community Library, Pratt Museum, Seldovia Public Library), Education (University of Alaska, Kachemak Bay Branch), Health & Social Services (Big Brothers Big Sisters, Haven House, Homer Food Pantry, Homer Senior Citizens, Hospice of Homer, Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, Ninilchik Emergency Services, Ninilchik Senior Center, South Peninsula Hospital Foundation), Conservation & Environment (Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Cook Inletkeeper, Friends of Kachemak Bay State Park, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust), Animal Welfare (Homer Animal Friends, Sports & Recreation (Homer Hockey Association, HoWL), or Community Philanthropy (Homer Foundation), you will find an organization whose mission aligns with your interests. Or perhaps you have several interests you would like to support? The Pick.Click.Give. program makes it easy to give a little or give a lot to one, or to many, organizations.

As an executive director of one of the qualifying nonprofits I am so gratified to see the names of individuals who have chosen to share their PFD with us each year, and even more so when I recognize that some are using Pick.Click.Give. as a way to introduce their children to the idea of paying it forward. After nine years of the program I have seen some of those children grown and off to college, now choosing to give to the community that gave so much to them.

If you have not filed for your PFD and supported your favorite local nonprofit through Pick.Click.Give. you have until March 31st to do so. If you have already filed you can still add to or change your Pick.Click.Give. selections through August 31st.

The Pick.Click.Give. data indicates that most Alaskans file for their PFD in the first few weeks. Numbers of individuals choosing to Pick.Click.Give. are down for the same period in previous years. Participants are pointing to the State’s economic downturn and the uncertainty around changes to the PFD. The State’s economic woes are real, and the impact will hit hardest on the most vulnerable among us. This alone should galvanize our decision to dig a little deeper and give more where we can. If you need more incentive the Alaska Community Foundation is sponsoring the Double Your Dividend 2017 Sweepstakes that will award five lucky Alaskans who share part of their PFD through Pick.Click.Give. an extra dividend in addition to awarding a dividend to the nonprofit of their choice.
Whatever your reason, the chance to double your dividend, teach your children about giving, or supporting the causes you care most about, Alaska’s unique Pick.Click.Give. program is a safe, easy, fun way to achieve that goal.

Joy Steward
Joy is the executive director of the Homer Foundation and is excited by all of the ways we each find to build community.

2016 Homer Foundation Annual Meeting

Please Join Us!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bunnell Street Arts Center
106 West Bunnell St.
Meet & Greet, Refreshments:  5:30 pm
Meeting: 6:00 pm
Music by Homer Youth String Orchestra Trio

Annual Report, Board Appointments Investment, Grant and & YAC Reports People’s Choice Grant Awards

Enter your favorite Homer nonprofit for a

CHANCE TO WIN $250 People’s Choice Award

For more information:  907.235.0541