Halibut Cove Live 2020 has been cancelled

We regret to announce we have chosen to cancel Halibut Cove Live for the 2020 season. We were so looking forward to seeing all of you in July, but without a crystal ball to see into the future, we have had to make the decision based on the current outlook and health standards. We were hoping the COVID-19 pandemic would not affect our summers here in Alaska, but with health standards of maintaining a 6 ft distance from non-household members, Halibut Cove Live is not feasible; our event location just does not have the capacity to allow this to occur. At this time, there is no indication these standards will change by the time of the event.  We have decided to cancel this event in order to keep you and our communities healthy and safe. It is our intent to resume Halibut Cove Live next year, in the summer of 2021.

The Homer Foundation staff are here for you to answer any questions you might have about this event. Reach them at info@homerfoundation.org or 907-235-0541.

Sincerely,

Mike Miller, Executive Director

COVID-19 Response and Other Recent Grants

Homer Community Food Pantry Volunteers preparing food boxes

The Homer Foundation COVID-19 Response Committee has made the following grants as of April 28th, 2020.

  • Anchor Point Senior Center, $2,200
  • Homer Senior Center, $2,500
  • Anchor Point Community Food Pantry, $2,500
  • South Peninsula Haven House, $2,500
  • Homer Farmers Market, $2,500
  • Cook Inlet Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, $2,500
  • Homer Community Food Pantry, $600

Agencies can apply more than once for grants from the COVID-19 Response Fund. The award amount of up to $2,500 was designed to allow for flexibility from the Foundation to meet changing community needs. This is a pass-through fund and all donations will be awarded to community non-profits. Click here for more information on this fund.

In addition, the foundation has made the following Quick Response grants, from our other funds, to answer to organizations with other needs heightened by the pandemic

  • Bunnell Street Arts Center, $2,500
  • Pratt Museum, $3,750
  • Friends of the Homer Public Library, $2,100
  • Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, $500

Our Quick Response Grant program is our main grant program with no deadline for applications and has not been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have an active committee, comprised of board and community members, who meet as needed to respond to grant requests.

If you are a nonprofit organization, you may find more information here to read the guidelines and apply for either of these grant programs. Or please feel free to contact the Homer Foundation here.

Homer community reports for duty in COVID-19 crisis

The cars and trucks were lined up at the Homer United Methodist Church parking lot through the lunch hour Monday, and they kept coming into the afternoon. Some drivers wore masks and gloves, and so did most of the volunteers, bundled against a cold wind as they offered a quick greeting. The new drive-through line provides scant interaction. But a surprising number of drivers were first-timers, offering to show their identification to prove they live in Homer.

All we need to know is how many are in your household, the volunteers said.

Each vehicle got a paper bag of produce, and a box with peanut butter and canned vegetables and baked goods. Two boxes, for the biggest families. And this week, something extra in each box: a handful of chocolate Easter eggs.

Amid retail closures, economic uncertainty, and pandemic anxiety, weekly traffic to the Homer Community Food Pantry is on the rise. Nearly 220 food boxes were given out this week. Food kept in storage is going fast. The pantry depends entirely on local donations. Monthly spending for food is expected soon to double.

Likewise, at the Anchor Point Food Pantry, recipients are now limited to one bag of food each. Weekly household clients have tripled because of lost jobs. That number is expected to increase each week. Instead of serving a warm meal, clients get bag meals along with their drive-through pick up.

The Anchor Point Senior Center, meanwhile, has shut down, eliminating its weekly revenue stream, even as the kitchen continues to make free lunches for pickup and delivery. In similar fashion, the Homer Senior Center has closed its doors and eliminated congregate lunches, a source of income, while incurring new costs for to-go plates, hand sanitizer and stepped-up cleaning of the Friendship Terrace assisted living facility.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are only starting to be felt in Homer. But managers of Homer-area nonprofits tell us hard times are coming for their organizations and their clients — many of whom live paycheck-to-paycheck, without savings to carry them through six months of economic lockdown.

Fortunately, something else is happening on the South Kenai Peninsula. You won’t be surprised to hear that Homer has already started showing compassion in this time of need.

Donations of money and volunteer time are flowing to the nonprofit service providers, to the Salvation Army, to the I Love Homer relief fund established by the Church on the Rock, and to the Homer Foundation’s new COVID-19 Response Fund.

Thanks to the town’s quick generosity, our community foundation has already been able to grant money to the two senior centers, shoring up their efforts in a time of falling income. We continue to work with the food pantries, in part through the Homer Foundation’s Community Chest, which every year sends thousands of dollars to the Homer pantry’s emergency non-food assistance program, to pay for things like medicine, transportation and rent for families facing unexpected bills.

As donations come in, we will be able to pivot through this crisis as new needs arise. We are working with South Peninsula Haven House, which takes on homelessness in our area through the state-funded housing assistance program. Like other agencies, Haven House is looking at lost revenues and increased costs due to the pandemic. Their thrift store is closed, but the rent doesn’t stop. The need for their shelter may rise as well, to judge from a United Nations report out this week documenting dreadful increases in domestic violence and abuse in a world under lockdown.

Hard times ahead. In addition to the economic relief funds mentioned here, we have been urging donors to continue supporting the other worthy nonprofits in the area, whose annual fund-raising efforts have been shut down. We’re looking at a year of belt-tightening all around, even for those who regularly reach into their pockets to give to others.

In the next week or two, congressional stimulus checks start showing up in local bank accounts. For many in our area, this $1,200 will provide vital assistance to help cover immediate bills. Thank goodness for that money. Some may choose to share their windfall with others in the community who need it more.

These are the times a community foundation was made for. We believe this worst of years will also end up showing Homer at its best.

By Mike Miller and Tom Kizzia

Mike Miller is the Executive Director of the Homer Foundation. Tom Kizzia is the Board of Directors Secretary.

Homer Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund Serving the Southern Kenai Peninsula

Wondering how you can help respond to community needs in the coming weeks of health and economic crisis? The Homer Foundation has set up a new COVID-19 Response Fund to channel local donations toward non-profit organizations serving the most vulnerable families and individuals on the southern Kenai Peninsula.

One hundred percent of donations to this new fund will go to agencies providing support for food, housing and other needs of those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve surveyed our community partners and heard their needs,” said Mike Miller, Executive Director of the Homer Foundation. “We’re only seeing the beginning of these effects. Local providers are already straining to deal with the new realities of the COVID-19 virus. Having access to this fund will make their jobs easier.”

Specific priorities in this first phase of the Homer Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund will be:

* to provide grants to nonprofits providing human services and emergency assistance (food, shelter, transportation, living expenses, rent/utility assistance, etc.)

* to provide grants to non-profits serving vulnerable populations, including children who are out of school, families without childcare, people who have lost a source of income due to the pandemic, people who are high risk medically, seniors, veterans, people who are homeless, and individuals who lack paid sick leave or health insurance.

This new grant fund comes with a shorter application and quick response. The maximum amount per grant is $2,500 per request, and the Foundation plans to turn requests around quickly to help agencies meet their missions.

The success of this effort will depend on local donations from our community. Anyone wishing to donate can follow the COVID-19 Response Fund link here. The Foundation can also be reached via info@homerfoundation.org or call the office at 907-235-0541.

Some of the money raised from community contributions will augment the Foundation’s Community Chest, which supports emergency non-food assistance in the Homer area.  Other likely recipients of the funds include other regional food pantries, senior centers and domestic violence shelters, which provide housing assistance in the area. The foundation board also expressed an eagerness to work with local churches through this crisis.  Those agencies are encourages to contact the Homer Foundation.

With many unknowns ahead, including loss of jobs and impacts on tourism and commercial fishing, the Foundation expects difficulties may continue at least into summer. The COVID-19 Response Fund will give the Foundation the ability to pivot as unforeseen needs arise. The Homer Foundation also encourages local residents to give directly to community non-profits.

Miller said the organization’s board met this week and felt an urgent close to home aid campaign would find strong support and fit the Foundation’s mission: “Connecting generosity to community need.”

To support other area non-profit groups not directly involved in this social response, the foundation plans to accelerate its turnaround for quick-response grant requests from its existing funds. Many non-profits on the south peninsula are hurting from the cancellation of public fundraising events and money-making programs. 

The Homer Foundation is a 501c3 not for profit corporation serving the communities of the southern Kenai Peninsula. Incorporated in 1991, it was the first community foundation established in Alaska. Born out of the combined vision of several community leaders, the Foundation began with $75,000 in pledges from three founding donors and has grown to have 65 different funds with total assets of over $2.5 million. Since inception, the Homer Foundation has distributed over $3.1 million in community grants and scholarships.

2020 Scholarship Updates

Notice: Due to the extenuating circumstance affecting all KPBSD students, the Homer Foundation has made a few changes to this years scholarship application. We have first extended the deadline by 5 days to accommodate the transition many students have had to make away from the school buildings. All scholarships are now due:

Monday April 13th, 2020 by 4 pm

Secondly, we are welcoming all electronic submissions. Please email all submissions to assistant@homerfoundation.org. Also, feel free to contact Lauren Seaton at this email address with any questions.

For your letters of recommendations, they may be sent directly via email to Lauren Seaton at assistant@homerfoundation.org by the adult writing the recommendation. Please give the adults the directions to include the student name applying and which scholarships the student is applying for in the subject line, (i.e. Letter of Rec for Joe Mariner for the Nursing Studies Scholarship). 

We have also created a new Google Form to use if needed as an alternative to the fillable pdf for your Cover Letter. Note, that you will still need to submit one complete cover letter, either through the google form or the pdf for each scholarship you are applying. You can find that cover letter google form here: https://forms.gle/6jgmTiPyGgSyc6Fa8

We have also created an alternative estimated needs assessment: https://forms.gle/HZBuq44ppr8E4pQX9

Your personal statements and resumes will need to be attachments in an email to Lauren Seaton at assistant@homerfoundation.org. Be sure to note that it is still recommended for you to write a separate personal statement for each scholarship for which you are applying.

Your counselors still have access to your transcripts so be in contact with them to have those available before the deadline as well.

Applications can still be found here: https://www.homerfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Homer-Foundation-2020-Scholarship-Application-final-v.12.31.19.pdf

We know this can be a very stressful time adjusting to differences in life but we want to provide some stability for the future going forward. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

(Wishing for) Spring Newsletter

Update from the Executive Director

Happy March Everyone! 

Match Campaign: Big news from the Homer Foundation. We have an amazing generous donor who has provided an anonymous match of $25,000 for operating funds for the Homer Foundation. That means you can be part of this great gift. Between now and June 30, 2020 for every dollar donated to the Homer Foundation Opportunity Fund, our donor will match up to $25,000. Your donations to the Opportunity Fund allow the Foundation to direct money to where the need is greatest. Let’s have a great match campaign and help us meet this challenge! You can pitch in right now by clicking here.

City of Homer Grants: A committee of Homer Foundation Board members and community members is considering 13 City Of Homer Grant applications. The City Grants Program is the foundation’s way of helping the city council sort through local needs, and of course helping the non-profits, who rely on these funds not only to fund ongoing operations, but to use as local matching dollars to attract more funds from other foundations, state and federal governments. Funds for these grants come from the City of Homer and City of Kachemak field of interest funds and from the City of Homer budget. Awards should be announced in April.

Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) Grants: Application season for these youth centric grants are still open. If you’re interested applications are due 4:00pm March 11, 2020. For more information, go here.

Scholarships: We are still accepting scholarship applications through 4:00 pm April 9, 2020. For more information or the application, go here. 

Sincerely,

Mike


Nonprofit Fundraising Workshops

The Homer Foundation is sponsoring two workshops for our area non-profits presented by Ken Miller, CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) with Denali Fundraising Consultants. These workshops are happening on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020. 

First Workshop:

Fundraising 101 Best Practices- 8:15 am- 12 noon

Topics covered include fundraising calendars, annual campaigns, digital and online fundraising, Pick.Click.Give., direct mail campaigns, effective event marketing & promotion and making the in-person “ask” to major donors. 

Second Workshop:

Digital/Online & Social Media for Fundraising Success- 1:15-4:40 pm

Topics covered include websites, Facebook, Google, email marketing and promotion, and much more to increase your online, end of year and Pick.Click.Give donations. We will also look at how to effectively promote and market your events both offline and online. 

$15 for one workshop, $25 for both

Lunch is provided if you are attending all day. 

Workshops will be held at the Kachemak Bay Campus of KPC. Room is determined by size of group and you will be notified before the event where it will be held. Follow the signs posted on campus day of event.

Purchase tickets here.


Community Grants So Far This Year…

Homer OPUS: Nest Egg Campaign. This is the first multi-year grant from the Homer Foundation! OPUS is looking to expanding their impact on the community with their youth string orchestra programs and hiring a full-time educator. With the support of the Homer Foundation, this group has raised over $180,000 in their campaign and we are proud to be among their supporters. 

Homer Animal Friends: Spay and Neuter Support. This grant supported the year-long efforts of Homer Animal Friends and Alaska Mindful Paws, the local animal shelter, to spay and neuter 425 animals with a total cost of $43,942. This project improves over population in our area and continues to see fewer unwanted or abandoned pets surrendered to the shelter.

Paul Banks Elementary: Library Upgrades. Our local elementary school, Paul Banks, has received a grant to do necessary library upgrades. The library was able to purchase a new, bigger reading rug, create a reading corner, and purchase hundreds of fiction and non-fiction books. 


How you can help…

One of the easiest ways to support the Foundation is through the Pick.Click.Give campaign and your PFD through March 31st. We receive contributions from dozens of Alaskans for more than $7,000 each year. Join these like-minded individuals and give back to the Homer Foundation. All donations through this program go towards our Opportunity Fund unless we are contacted by a donor. The Opportunity Fund, formally the Unrestricted Fund, allows the Homer Foundation the greatest flexibility to meet our changing community needs and put the money where it is needed the most. PFD Applications are due by March 31st, make your pledges today!

Other options to help the Homer Foundation

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

Fund Highlight Friday

Introducing a fun new series on our Social Media Pages, Fund Highlight Friday. This is a way for us to shine a light on just one fund at a time, sharing when or how the fund started, its impact, or some of the projects associated with the fund. We know we have many funds and want to keep our community informed on all of their giving options. We do have at least weekly updates on the Foundation, be sure to stay informed by liking us on Facebook, or following us on Instagram 


Have you considered your Legacy?

When is the right time for a legacy gift?

To our donors and partners, we would like to thank you for your ongoing support of the Homer Foundation. Donors like you allow us to support nonprofits and provide scholarships in our community. With your help, in 2019 we distributed over $187,000 in the Homer area in 68 grants and 24 scholarships. The hungry were fed, deserving young people went on to higher education, the environment was protected and the arts flourished. Your generous gifts made that possible. Thank you.

You can protect the gifts you made in your life with a bequest gift to the Homer Foundation.  When do most people plan a legacy gift?  Anytime.  A marriage, a graduation, a milestone birthday can all be the event that says “it’s time to make a plan.”  Just make a note that the next time you review your estate plans you’ll consider doing what many others have done and join our Legacy Society by making a bequest gift to the Homer Foundation in your estate plan. A bequest gift is an expression of you and your life. It’s about protecting what you care about. It is about giving back to our local communities. It’s a way to payback for all we have received from this beautiful place we get to call home. It is a forever gift. It’s your legacy.

A legacy gift can be narrowly focused to support a specific nonprofit or broad to support a cause you care about like youth, fighting hunger or the arts.  You can even start your own family fund.

Leaving a bequest gift to your community is easier than you may think. If you’re interested in learning more about the ways to start your legacy, contact the Homer Foundation and we can provide you with the appropriate language to add to your estate documents. You can also connect with us here or call us at the office at 907.235.0541.

Pay It Forward: Graceful Aging

They were teenagers when they walked through Ellis Island into a new life. She with her sewing machine and he with his masonry tools. They emigrated from Norway after WWI. Their parents believed each would have a better life in the United States.

Both of them boarded a train headed west to the Dakotas where other Norwegians had settled. Many opportunities for work awaited and into their new life they rocked and rolled to South Dakota relatives. They met in school and later married young. They birthed five girls, one later died as a child. Their mother sewed clothes on her beloved sewing machine and their father examined each of them before they left for school. He wanted his girls to speak English and dress appropriately to increase their chances of success in this new country. Their mother took in sewing to add extra money and their father became a mason in demand. His patios and masonry work for homes was a thing to behold, so lovingly crafted.

The girls married husbands who led successful, respectful lives, while they were stay at home mothers. The four remaining girls became accomplished seamstresses who could sew and make all manner of beautiful things needed in a home. Their parents wanted the girls to speak English and didn’t teach their children Norwegian. The parents retired in Pacific Grove, CA, both living into their late nineties.

Last week, I attended my mother-in-law’s 100th birthday celebration. She outlived her siblings and parents, a daughter and her husband, a son, my late husband, and often introduced herself as “Pearl Larson, they say I’m a real gem.” My late husband and she shared the same birthday and same dry sense of humor. It was fun to watch them banter back and forth finding humor in each other’s stories when they were together.

Pearl has degenerative eye disease, but other than that, when she has her annual physical, the doctor shakes her head and remarks, “You’re healthier than most people I see on a regular basis.” The last time I asked her about her health, she chuckled and said, “I guess I’m healthy so I’m told. There’s still juice left in this old gal!” She walks the halls daily holding on to the railing in order to get “my steps in,” lives alone in a senior apartment, makes her own bed, dresses herself and makes her breakfast. She has help buying groceries and preparing food. She walks alone unaided and when I’ve intended to assist her with her seat belt, she comments as she bats my hand away, “Now I can still do this. Just guide me to the belt fastener.”

In her earlier years, she made hundreds of newborn hats for the hospital. For years she helped make quilts to ship to refugee camps. She made 565 stuffed dolls, named each one, and they can be found the world over where she shipped them. She sewed for movie stars when they lived in California, her own curtains and clothes, most everything in her house.

During WWII, her husband on the beaches of Normandy, she and three children under the age of five lived in Boston with her sister. Both mothers took in sewing to earn money and serve the war effort. She speaks solemnly of that worrisome time today.

At her birthday celebration, all manner of her famous Norwegian cookies were served, baked by her granddaughters. Regal in her chair, she welcomed guests who spoke lovingly and admiringly of her quiet, steady inspiration. In her 101st year, she’s still paying it forward.

Flo Larson

Homer Foundation trustee

Workshops

Ken Miller

Fundraising for Nonprofits

SOLD OUT! If you are still interested, contact the Homer Foundation to be added to the waitlist. 

Workshop Series

The Homer Foundation is sponsoring two workshops presented by Ken Miller, CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) with Denali Fundraising Consultants. These workshops are happening on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020. 

First Workshop:

Fundraising 101 Best Practices- 8:15 am- 12 noon

Topics covered include fundraising calendars, annual campaigns, digital and online fundraising, Pick.Click.Give., direct mail campaigns, effective event marketing & promotion and making the in-person “ask” to major donors. 

Second Workshop:

Digital/Online & Social Media for Fundraising Success- 1:15-4:40 pm

Topics covered include websites, Facebook, Google, email marketing and promotion, and much more to increase your online, end of year and Pick.Click.Give donations. We will also look at how to effectively promote and market your events both offline and online. 

$15 for one workshop, $25 for both

Lunch is provided if you are attending all day. 

Workshops will be held at the Kachemak Bay Campus of KPC. Room is determined by size of group and you will be notified before the event where it will be held. Follow the signs posted on campus day of event.

Purchase tickets here:

YAC Grants now open!

2019 Youth Advisory Committee

Homer Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee

YAC Letter of Intent Deadline: Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at 4pm

            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. In the past, there was a priority for summer activities, but this is not a priority for this grant cycle. 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 Lauren Seaton at 235-0541, or e-mail at assistant@homerfoundation.org.

2019 Winners: Wrestle Like a Girl Camp

Receipt Deadline:  Wednesday, March 11by 4pm. 

Email:  assistant@homerfoundation.org

Pay It Forward: Charity doesn’t always have to be so conventional

Written by Dina Al-Shibeeb

In a fast-paced world, one’s goals, needs and responsibility to pay bills take a central theme and charity somehow takes a backseat at least for some of us.

Sometimes we remember how we need to be more charitable when Christmas is around the corner. This is something I have noticed as a journalist working for the Torstar community newspapers here in the Greater Toronto Area as we prepare for our Christmas editions every year.

At times, it isn’t some special occasion that reminds us of how we need to give from our limited, precious time but it’s a requirement to get into some highly-coveted university or fulfill some community hours criteria to graduate from high school such as the case we have in Ontario.

Sometimes we volunteer to wash some guilt or find some solace within as if it’s a move for self-atonement.

But there is a bigger picture out there and it requires some discipline and attention to be woven into our daily habits and lifestyle. Charity doesn’t have to be so conventional but it can be opportunities found everywhere and anywhere. And it can be an act of self discipline.

Personally, I might not have the passion to volunteer in a food drive for example, but currently I am disciplining myself step-by-step to reuse my plastics and forever forbid myself from getting my cup of Joe in these coffee cups that usually come with plastic lids.

I don’t want to participate in the global plastic littering that’s making up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This swirling vortex of garbage between Hawaii and California is estimated to be three times the size of France as I have learned in one of the stories I covered.

Not tossing plastic around might not be a conventional way of being charitable, but it’s definitely seeping into the long-term perspective of our planet’s well being.

How about mental health?

It has been widely criticized that mental health services even in countries like Canada, where we have universal health coverage, is only for the privileged who have money. Sometimes, mental health initiatives are not fully funded. 

On top of that, the lack of proper awareness and stigma on mental health and the rise of social media require more societal bonding and talking among each other.

But research has “consistently found that favourable exchange with one’s proximal social environment has positive effects on both mental health and wellbeing,” one study published in 2017  reads.

So maybe saying more hellos is like pitching in more money for a noble cause. 

Also, becoming more attuned with what’s happening around us is a big huge charitable drive on its own.

Josh, a friend of mine told me of a story of how he helped a fellow homeless young woman when he was 24 by chance!

After finishing dinner with his family in downtown Toronto, Josh, who is now 29, couldn’t finish his meal after some stomach pain. So he packed his dinner to take it home but he noticed an issue as he was leaving. 

“I looked at her, she looked like she was my age,” Josh, who is now 29, described the homeless young lady.

Long story short, Josh, who has an outstanding social media following, used his social media platforms to connect this young promising lady, who escaped an opined-addicted mother from northern Ontario, to be a teacher. She is now married with a home to go back to.

So maybe speak with the homeless and not judge them!

I – myself – writing these words is a testament of how charitable acts might be an opportunity looking at you directly.

I come from an Iraqi family, who fled Saddam’s dictatorial rule in 1995 to Jordan. After Jordan,  Malaysia, a growing and a booming country at the time, was our next destination and was one of the few countries that gave Iraqis a visa to work, make a living and save up to immigrate to Canada, New Zealand or Australia.

Both of my parents worked in Kuantan a small town facing the South China Sea but didn’t have the money to send me to an English-language school.

My mother approached the late Dr. Peter Larson, former KPBSD employee and the husband of Flo Larson, Homer Foundation trustee, the principal at the time of International School of Kuantan asking him to enroll me and urged him to think from his “heart.”

I was enrolled almost for free.

It’s not only that gesture that bonded my family with the Larson’s until this day. But it’s the attention that Flo gave me that helped me so much…talk about mental health for a teen! 

Flo might be in Alaska and I am in Canada, but our bond has transcended barriers especially divisive politics between Baghdad and Washington. Knowing her was not only important for my education, but for my overall growth as an adult.


With more than a decade of experience as a journalist, the Iraqi-Canadian Dina Al-Shibeeb covered a variety of stories from business to Syria bomb blasts to human interest features on Iraq while living abroad in Dubai. After her return to Canada, she started covering education news and municipal affairs for York Region in the Greater Toronto Area.