Pay It Forward

Homer Foundation pays it forward by giving $2.5 million in 25 years

Posted in the Homer News: April 28, 2016

By Shannon McBride–Morin

Walking with 25 kids over to the Pratt Museum the other day in the sun, I was feeling grateful that I got to go along as a parent chaperone.

Fifth-graders with spring fever were skipping ahead of me along the dusty sidewalk, 10- and 11-year-olds without any coats on an Alaska spring day. I was reminded of how amazing it is that we can walk from school to our great museum for a fun, easy and totally educational field trip.  Lucky kids! Our community supports this, and it adds to our kids’ sense of place and quality of life.

A friend new to Homer recently said, “Kids here have the best field trips ever.” My girls, along with thousands of local youth over the years, get to participate in outings to the beach for tide-pooling and beach cleanups, walk to Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center for Discovery Labs and explorations. Volunteers, teachers and educators make this happen. A giving community makes this happen.

There are field trips to the Pratt Museum and the Homer Public Library, the Wynn Nature Center and Beluga Slough.  Our kids go “up the road” and learn about the salmon life cycle on the Anchor River. They go to the pool to learn to swim. They visit the Fire Hall and Karen Hornaday Park.

For the past 30-plus years groups of fourth grade kids boat across Kachemak Bay for three days of outdoor education camps at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and at our family’s Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge.

We have a community that gives back. We are a place that cares about our kids, about education and the outdoors, about art and about each other. We are part of a town that cares for our neighbors and those in need. I am thankful that many before me, and so many now, are giving back to our community.

I recently learned more about the Homer Foundation and how they connect generosity to community need. I was blown away to find out how much it supports great local programs. Did you know it has given more than $2.5 million in the last 25 years? That’s a lot for small town Alaska.

It helps not only with amazing field trips to educate our youth, but with everything from the Homer Community Food Pantry to Cook Inletkeeper; from supporting Haven House to dozens of local sports and athletics; from Public Radio to Share the Spirit; from Head Start to Hospice of Homer; from the Homer Playground Project to Artists in the Schools. This all represents a community that cares, and cares for those in need.

Did you know that its first year the Homer Foundation gave away a handful of tiny grants totaling $1,000? Now, in its 25th year, the Homer Foundation has given away $140,000 in local grants. Pretty cool. That money directly supports our quality of life.

The Homer Foundation makes it easy for people to give back. Over the years, about 150 different organizations and programs that many of us benefit from have been funded. And it’s given over 150 scholarships to area youth. Giving back to the community is at the heart of the Homer Foundation.

It says a lot about our little town that the very first community foundation in Alaska was created right here 25 years ago. It says a lot about our community’s ability to pull together and build for our future “for good, forever.” I like that concept.

And I see the impact every day right here in town of paying if forward. In this time of harsh budget cuts, local giving and volunteering goes such a long way and has a huge positive impact. It feels good to give back.

I am grateful for the 25 or so kiddos, skipping back to school from yet another awesome field trip. And I am thankful for 25 years of giving by the Homer Foundation, and for the $2.5 million that it has given right here to support our kids and our entire community.

Shannon McBride-Morin was born and raised in China Poot Bay and Homer. After living Outside for college and career, she moved home to raise her family with her husband Chris. She is a wilderness guide and captain, and manages the Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge — in addition to volunteering with the coolest kids on the best ever field trips. 


Pick.Click.Give. For Alaska

By Nina Kemppel, CEO & President, Alaska Community Foundation

This article was originally published by the Alaska Dispatch News on March 18th, 2016.

The next several days are critical for hundreds of nonprofits across Alaska.

Why? As we approach to the March 31st deadline to file for your Permanent Fund Dividend, we move closer to the time most Alaskans will Pick.Click.Give to organizations that serve critical needs here in Alaska.

Whether your interests are in the performing arts, education, outdoor recreation, health, or animal welfare, Pick.Click.Give. has a cause you care about. Time is running out to support a worthy nonprofit of your choosing. Many Alaskans choose to donate a portion of their Alaska Permanent Fund to help a cause they care about and help support these nonprofit organizations that serve our local communities. In a time of economic uncertainty in Alaska, what may seem like a small donation to you, adds up to make a big difference. When we partner together, all the gifts made through Pick.Click.Give. go a long way to help strengthen our communities and the nonprofits who serve them.

Since Pick.Click.Give. began in 2009, the program has grown steadily, breaking records each year for the total amount raised.

Last year, Alaskans showed their kindness and donated $3.3 million through Pick.Click.Give. to support nonprofits across the state. And since its inception, Alaskans have pledged more than $13.7 million to Alaska’s nonprofits through Pick.Click.Give. In the eight years of the Pick.Click.Give. program, Alaskans have seen the need and responded in a big way and with a big heart. We thank you for the overwhelming support and generosity.

This year, we’ve seen the participation rate dip slightly from the record high of 2015. Perhaps uncertainty surrounding the future of the Permanent Fund Dividend or the ongoing discussions regarding how to bridge our state’s budget deficit have made some people hesitant to commit a part of our annual check.

But as we head towards the deadline we can change that trend and show that we’re a caring community even when times get tough. The final two weeks of March are the most critical to the nonprofit participants of the Pick.Click.Give. campaign. The last few years have shown us that many pledges are received in the last half of March.

Haven’t filed for your PFD yet? You’re not alone! Last year, 18% of total giving occurred during the last two weeks of March. If you have already filed this year but forgot to Pick.Click.Give., you can still log back in and make a donation to a cause you care about. In fact, your gift could go even further this year. The Alaska Community Foundation and the Rasmuson Foundation are offering three $5,000 bonuses to the top participating nonprofits who increase their donations from the previous year as well as providing a $1,000 bonus to the new nonprofit that raises the most donations in this year’s Pick.Click.Give. program.

If you look through the 2016 list of the 640 Alaskan nonprofits involved with Pick.Click.Give., you’ll see food banks, soup kitchens, shelters and rescue missions. These groups work with the most vulnerable of our populations: those with basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing. But Pick.Click.Give. is more than that. Some participating nonprofits encourage involvement in the arts; others, outdoor recreation. Some connect our cities and villages through the public radio network. Others have missions to rescue and find homes for our beloved pets. Some groups support education for our children.

These nonprofit groups make our Alaskan communities more vibrant, engaging, and caring places for residents. Our winters would seem longer and our summers less dynamic without these nonprofits and their efforts to improve where we live.

While there is uncertainty around the future of the PFD, one thing is certain, even in difficult times Alaskans can be counted on to be good neighbors. If you have a favorite local nonprofit group, there’s a good chance you can donate to them as one of the 640 nonprofits in the Pick.Click.Give. program. We urge you to look at the list of participating organizations listed on and personally invest in enhancing the nonprofits across our state. Please join us and the tens of thousands of Alaskans who donate a part of their PFD through Pick.Click.Give. to make a meaningful and lasting difference in our communities.


Alaska Governor Cements Council Majority with Peterson and Laukitis Recommendations for NPFMC Seats

SEAFOODNEWS.COM By Peggy Parker – March 10, 2016

Governor Walker announced his nominees for two seats on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council yesterday, putting Theresa Peterson of Kodiak and Buck Laukitis of Homer at the top of his list as “preferred nominees” with two alternates for each.

If the Secretary of Commerce approves his nominees, Peterson and Laukitis will replace Duncan Fields and David Long, whose terms end this summer.

Peterson has been a commercial and subsistence fisherman for over thirty years. She currently serves as an Advisory Panel Member of the Council. She is also a member of the Alaska Jig Associaiton, the Community Fish Network, and is the outreach Coordinator for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

Michael “Buck” Laukitis is a commercial fisherman and the owner of Magic Fish Company and Compass Rose Properties. He helped to develop the Alaska Maritime Workforce Developmet Plan in 2014. Laukitis has a USCG 100-ton Masters License, and is a longstanding member of the Board of Trustees for the Homer Foundation, whose mission is to promote philanthropic and charitable activities.

Apointments to the council are always the focus of attention from the fishing industry, but with a Gulf of Alaska rationalization plan on the Council agenda, who will represent Alaskan interests is of critical importance.

The Council is considering two alternative plans, one backed by most of the Gulf trawl fleets and another introduced and backed by the Alaska members on the Council. Peterson and Laukitis are considered supporters of the latter plan, which is still in development.

Julie Bonney of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank in Kodiak is in the other camp. She and others worked for two years to craft a plan that the trawl industry supported. The new recommendations from the Governor concern her.

“I am extremely concerned that there is no one on the Alaska side of the eleven voting members that understand trawl fisheries,” she said. “How they function, tools needed to meet the bycatch objectives – the contributions these harvests make to processors and communities like Kodiak, Sand Point and King Cove.

“The new Alaska voting six are aligned with small boat, fixed gear interests that don’t understand the overall seafood economy that include the benefit of trawling and how all the different sectors contribute to the health of the overall industry and the benefits to Alaska’s economy,” Bonney said.

Jeff Stephan, director of the United Fishermen’s Marketing Association, also in Kodiak, disagrees.

“I have observed, known and worked with both Theresa and Buck for many years with respect to a broad array of complex and difficult fisheries management issues,” Stephan said. “I have confidence in their dedication, fairness and motives, and in their knowledge and understanding of the serious task that they will face as Council members. Theresa Peterson and Buck Laukitis are the right people, at the right time to engage in the multi-dimensional challenges that face fisheries management in the North Pacific.”

Bob Alverson, executive director of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association, has a different take. “Our interest isn’t in how the allocation of fish will go, it’s in the accountability of bycatch and how we can that can be verified better.

“From the standpoint of coming up with a final option for what the new Gulf rationalization will look like, it’s too early to say no or yes to this. We’re in a ten-month negotiating process and everyone on the Council needs to come up with something that works.

“Both [Peterson and Laukitis] fully understand the importance of juvenile and adult halibut bycatch. Both are well versed in these debates and will make sure that issue is covered,” Alverson said.

Alternates for Peterson are Eric Olson and Paul Gronholt. Gronholt is a member of the Oagan Tayagungin Tribe and has been a commercial fisherman for over thirty-five years.

Olson, who has previously served on the Council, is a member of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and a former manager of the Yukon Delta Fisehreis Development Association. He has fished commercially for nearly forty years.

Alternates for Laukitis are Linda Behnken and Art Nelson. Behnken is executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. She also served on the Council and is currently a member of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust and the Halibut Coalition.

Nelson is executive director of the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association. He has fished commercially in Prince William Sound and worked for Kawerek Native Association managing projects that counted salmon escapement. Nelson has been a member of the Advisory Panel to the North Pacific Anadromous Fisheries Commission and the Alaska Board of Fisheries Kuskokwim Subsistence Salmon Panels, and is chair of the Steering Committee for A-Y-K Sustainable Salmon Initiative.

The Council is made up of 11 voting members, six of whom represent Alaska. Those members are preliminarily appointed by the governor of Alaska, with final approval coming from the Secretary of Commerce. Washington State has two members on the Council, and Oregon has one.


Flo Larson 2012
Love First

February, the shortest month of the year follows January, and has 95 holidays, some bizarre and others we hold dear. Ground Hog Day (in Alaska marmots are the substitute), President’s Day, Valentine’s Day when love gets honored with everything from flowers to far away trips. Super Bowl Sunday ended
February 7, Mardi Gras/ Fat Tuesday the 9th, Ash Wednesday and Chinese New Year dates vary. These are the more common holidays. February is Black History Month and American Heart Month, along with Great American Pie Month and even a Cherry Pie Day.

If you Google February holidays, the noticeable thing is most of the days are positive holidays like Thank
a Mailman Day, Kite Flying Day, Make a Friend Day, National Organ Donor Day, Love Your Pet Day, Be
Humble Day, National Chocolate Mint Day (I’m not making these up.), Oscar Night, Do a Grouch a Favor
Day, Random Acts of Kindness Day, Polar Bear Day, No Brainer Day, and this year Leap Day. It occurs in 2016, every four years. All those Leap Year babies can really truly celebrate this year! What’s the point?

Grey winter, rainy days at the End of The Road are monotonous and darker without usual snow this time of year, and give us the opportunity to look at life through the lens of these numerous positive holidays.
What can we do regardless of life circumstances and life difficulties?

January has not been the most positive month for me lately with the death of my husband two years ago, a dear friend’s death this year, friends suffering with cancer and long term illness. My husband’s oncologist at Vanderbilt Carcinoid Institute said, “The greatest gift we give to our family and friends is a good death.” The longer I live without loved ones, the more true his words. I’ve decided to take his advice.
These grey days allow time to clean out and get rid of, put paperwork in order, downsize everything, make plans how I want to leave this earthly life and put those wishes on record so loved ones and friends are guided and do not have to guess. It gives me time to go through photos and give thanks for friends and family, reread favorite books and magazine articles, decide what clothes bring joy and give the rest away for someone else to use or not, set aside collected items to auction at the annual Hospice fund raiser, give things away and experience the recipient’s joy. I say this not to dwell on death, but rather the opposite, to live fully now.

Hospice has several book discussions about compassion and death. After recent death experiences and attending discussions, it’s good for us to share. In the death phobic society of the US where living the good life and looking one’s best is emphasized, it’s important to remember none of us get out of here alive. We honor birth and give prizes to the New Year’s Baby, as well we should. What if we honored our death by preparing for it? We don’t know surrounding circumstances of our death, but we can plan practical things now. What if we were able to talk about death openly and honestly? About how it hurts and confuses? How it can be awesome and full of spirit and love beyond our wildest imagination? And how it can sting deeply with a sudden death? Or how memories eventually become gratitude? This type of conversation is authentic and real. We can help each other prepare for the most important milestone of our life and not be afraid. In this month of love, it can be the greatest gift we give to each other.

Perhaps in light of reality that we have only one life to live, one life to give, our state and city economic conditions pale. We can become more gentle in our thoughts and approach. We can quiet political rhetoric and hostility, angst and tension toward each other. We can actually come to consensus and make wise decisions for the people of this beautiful state and this Hamlet by the Sea. Let us put love and understanding first and give kindness. In the end, it’s What Matters!

Flo Larson, retired teacher, mother, grandmother, gardener Homer Foundation Board member and volunteer.

City of Homer Grants Program


The Homer Foundation announces that application forms for the 2016 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 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.  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.  The funding is for general operating support. This is a competitive grants process.  Application forms are available from the Homer Foundation.  Contact Joy at 235-0541 or

Homer Foundation Educators Fund Takes Off

Several years ago, Homer experienced the death of several well-loved teachers prompting some community members to look for a way for people to make a meaningful contribution to a fund in their honor. This started the seed of what is becoming The Educators Professional Development Fund, an endowment to benefit local K-12 teachers with opportunities for professional development.

Working with a group of teachers and administrators, and initially guided by the Homer Foundation’s Development Committee, brainstorming meetings took place over the last couple of years. Valuable insight was given by a cross section of teachers from Homer and the surrounding area. The need for support for teachers was made very clear. A smaller steering committee developed the criteria for applying for a grant through the fund and the fundraising began.

Providing several lunches for donors and teachers, more great conversations were started and to date 17 people have contributed over $5000.00. We need to reach the goal of $10,000.00 by 2017 to complete the fund. Our fundraising efforts have concentrated on suggesting donors give $250.00 each. We have had several very generous donations above that amount and welcome any contribution to get this endeavor off the ground. We are more than halfway there!

We are posting this information here on our website and Facebook page to help spread the word. As we talk to community members, many still do not know about this exciting opportunity to contribute to such a worthwhile fund and help a local teacher each year. If you are currently a teacher, are a retired teacher or know and love a teacher, we would like to ask for your help specifically and ask you help us let the community know about this valuable project.

If you would like to make a contribution, please call Joy at the Homer Foundation office 235-0541 or send an email to and she can facilitate your donation.


Polly Prindle-Hess, Homer Foundation board member and supporter of the new Educator’s Fund for Professional Development



Ode to Philanthropy

On a recent trip to Seattle, WA Homer Foundation board member Denise Pitzman happened upon a street vendor selling poetry, “your topic, your price”. He goes by William the Poet and you can learn more about him here:

William the PoetDenise selected PHILANTHROPY as her topic and told him she lived in a small, town in Alaska. William typed the poem up on an old typewriter right then and there.  Denise shared her poem with me, and I would like to share it here with you because philanthropy in all its many forms is so very worth celebrating!



to her beauty

growing through the seasons.


exhibited in

falls great leaves

product of giving tree.


in winter

as the snow does fall

give the gift

that warms them all.


tiny town

of gracious life,

bestow the magic

in summers light.


spring right up

the magnanimous change

of weather dry

or in the rain.


giving heart

that knows no end,

contribute wealth

to the community at hand.


WC  Seattle, WA  November 2015




“It takes a village to raise a child”

By Megan Murphy
Posted in the Homer News December 2015

I thought I had my ducks somewhat in a row before I became a mother. Apparently, I don’t even have ducks but a menagerie of birds that can be erratic in their behavior, to say the least. I recall hearing, “Having children is both the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done,” from many people before I became a parent. Now that I have a two and half year old, I’m starting to relate to the depths of this simple statement. I don’t know that anybody ever knows what they’re diving into when they become responsible for a child, but I think I’ve signed on to a very big opportunity for self growth.

While my partner and I are only a couple years into this adventure and don’t know what lies ahead, thus far the most challenging part for me about being a parent is managing my own thoughts, expectations, emotions, and self care. Making time to take care of my self always gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Additionally, it can feel uncomfortable to hold the mirror up to myself and look at what’s there. “Wow, did those words really just come out of my mouth?! How can I do that better?”

Never before have I leaned on, needed, and appreciated the supportive relationships in my life to this degree. “It takes a village to raise a child” has taken on a new meaning… not just the direct benefits the village provides to the child, but also how the village supports the caregivers, teachers, and role models so that they can be their best for the youth in their lives. Paying love forward to the village and the next generation benefits everyone.

My experience as a mom has been complemented by my professional role as the MAPP coordinator. It’s been helpful to learn more about healthy child development and validating to see the scientific research behind mindfulness, compassion, and self care. Folks, this stuff about love is not just ‘fluff’ but can legitimately improve our health and well-being. What an exciting paradigm shift we’re helping to shape in this community!

MAPP’s present focus for collective action, selected by the community, is to ‘Increase Family Well-being’. The most impactful way to do this involves building positive relationships within families and growing their positive social networks. In theory, building relationships doesn’t cost a dime. So why hasn’t this ‘strategy’ gotten more traction?

I had an epiphany about this question after learning about the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program from Paul Rourke in November. In short, through weekly contact with youth in your neighborhood, the goal of this program is to support young people in their development of purpose and self-worth while also building relationships in your neighborhood.

I had some discomfort in thinking about knocking on my neighbors’ doors and engaging them. Simultaneously, I feel grateful for the support I receive as being a part of this community and want to return or ‘pay forward’ the gift. It hit me that the answers for the most effective strategies to improve family well-being do not lie in some faraway place, but are right here underneath our noses. Developing relationships with our neighbors pushes against our cultural norms of ‘minding our own business’ and instead rather loudly articulates ‘I care enough to step out of my comfort zone and acknowledge you’. To boot, this program does not just require reaching out to neighbors, but to foster your own self growth. Who’s up for this rewarding and life-supporting challenge? If interested in joining the training in the new year, call Paul at 299-4142. While one does not need to join a program to support youth and neighborhood relationships, it is nice to have guidance and a network for sharing.

There are many ways to pass on the gift of love, many of which cost nothing. Building and feeding relationships – even your relationship with yourself – could be your gift that keeps on giving into the new year and beyond.

Megan Murphy is grateful for the four chickens in her menagerie that occasionally sit in a row on their perch. She aspires to be a Junior Youth neighborhood mentor in the new year while also moving self care higher on her to do list.

Vision, hard work, money create great place to live

Posted in the Homer News, November 25, 2015
By Mercedes O’Leary Harness

I was 5 the first time I flew to Alaska by myself to visit my dad. We drove the impossibly long road to Homer, and when we arrived I was sure we were in the wrong place.
In my absence a real grocery store had been built, roads were paved, and everything seemed somehow bigger. Every summer thereafter I would hold my breath coming into Homer and scan for the changes winter brought: homes blooming across the hillside, new businesses along Pioneer, landmark businesses like Proctors and Uminskies retired, and more fresh pavement.
In junior high I settled into Homer for the winters, after school trudging up Pioneer with friends to the library. Do you remember what the old library smelled like? Sweat, rain, backpacks, bodies too close together. On Saturdays you had to get there early or there would be no place to sit. Often, I would stay until closing, Sue Gibson locking the door behind me.
Back then, we were always on our way to becoming something. None of my friends talked about growing up and living in Homer. We were going to leave town, go to Anchorage or Portland or New York City, some place that had opportunities.
Meanwhile, Homer continued to grow: both the city’s infrastructure, the businesses providing services, and the non-profits meeting the needs of the community. After high school I was in and out of Homer: college happened, mapping out a life happened, and suddenly I had a family of my own, and found myself back at the library for storytime.
Someone asked me recently what it was like to grow up in Homer. “Not much different than now,” I replied. But I was wrong. Our capacity, our abundance has flourished.
My daughters benefit from a remodeled hospital, an awesome park, a thriving library, the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, a hockey rink, dynamic art programs, several very good options for school, and more. Some of this existed when I was a kid, but not nearly as well developed. Homer grew up. I grew up.
These days you can find me in the back of the library coordinating events for the Friends of the Homer Library, promoting services, writing grants, scheming on the next big project. I look around me, and so many of us intent to get “somewhere else” are here, reaching down to pick up our young kids. Recently a visiting author gave a reading at the library, and on hearing that 10,000 people a month visit the library, and that more than 130,000 items were circulated in 2014, she announced, “This is the kind of place I want to live. A place with a library like this.”
Me, too. From my little corner in the library, I parse out the busy calendar and try to squeeze in one more program requested by a community member. To take a break, I stretch my legs and walk into the main library area and this is what I see: kids with backpacks still trudging in after school, grad students using our Internet to stay connected with professors, business owners asking for help using GrantStation, a home mechanic asking where our Chilton collection is, tots reaching up to get their hands stamped.
Then I stop to say hi to my friend and her 6-year-old son in the kids’ room. She is picking out books for his homeschooling. This is one of the same friends, all those years ago, I walked up Pioneer with. We didn’t come back to Homer by accident.
We choose to be here, because community matters, because while we were busy trying to figure out what to do with our lives, people were making serious investments of
time, grit, passion, and, yes, money, to make Homer a place where young people wanted to come back and raise their families.
This Thanksgiving I celebrate all the sweat and effort community members have made to make this town great, a place to be proud of, not only for its beauty, but for its sense of community and tenacity. How many times in Homer has the impossible been made possible? The very library I’m writing in is evidence of just that.
I celebrate all the volunteers making the impossible happen, all the board members, council members, and people doing the sometimes thankless tasks of making a small town remarkable.
For me, “pay it forward” means giving back to the community that has given me so much. It means, in times of fiscal instability, to believe in abundance, the spirit of giving, and to carry on the legacy of community involvement. After all, I may wake up tomorrow and find my daughters grown, and what kind of community do I wish for them to have?

Mercedes O’Leary Harness is the coordinator for the Friends of the Homer Library, a non-profit whose mission is to provide volunteer support for library programs and services, to raise funds that enrich the library experience, and to promote the use and enjoyment of the library. She holds a master’s of fine arts degree in creative writing and is finishing her first collection of poetry.

Homer Foundation fund will help honor teachers

Posted:  June 25, 2015 – Homer News

Years ago I remember being at the chalkboard in mathematics class, my back to a class of students, and saying, “If you are going to write notes (this before cell phones and texting), you best do that between classes.”

Later a student asked how I knew and I remember saying, “A teacher and mother has eyes in the back of her head.” Another way to say this is a teacher sees with his/her heart, the way all of us see truth.

You have all had a teacher who knows the truth about who you are and supported you in your endeavor to become human, a teacher who saw into your heart and through you to imagine you whole and a citizen who contributed to society and taught you life lessons whether that teacher was a parent, aunt/uncle or teacher in public or private school, friend or foe.

As teachers, we often never know the difference we make until years later, yet teachers continue this most noble of professions in faith our efforts make a difference in the lives of children who grow up to become adults in a community.

The other day I received an email from a former student I taught in the International School of Kuantan located in Malaysia when I lived in Southeast Asia and want to share it. She now teaches mathematics at the University of South Carolina after receiving her Ph.D. at age 27. She was a sponge for learning and excelled. She loved a challenge.

Hi Flo,

I left a meeting at my college recently and it resulted in much reflection on my own educational experiences that I wanted to share with you.

The college is moving forward on a “distance learning” initiative and the meeting was about standardization of online courses. Most of the work is to bring consistency in formatting online courses so that students will have a similar experience regardless of the subject and not become frustrated with online education (which I support). For example, we will all take attendance through a discussion board. However, some of the conversation turned to managing content of the course and this becomes a slippery slope as the next step is to bring this to traditional classes (which I do not support).

I left the meeting understanding what was expected of me, but feeling saddened by the movement to standardization of education. And this caused me to reflect on my most memorable and beneficial educational experiences. Many of these involved Peter and Flo Larson and the two years I spent in International school overseas.

I recall very little “lecture” during my time under your guidance. I remember examples of math problems being worked on the board and then the opportunity to actively practice those solutions at my own pace. I remember engaging science labs and designing our own experiments. I remember field trips to Taman Negara and the Cameron Tea Plantation. I remember lively discussions in English, painting on the sets of our theater productions, and our make-shift Olympics for PE. I remember watching videos, playing with models, using technology, and thinking about what I was learning.

My fear is that we are being asked to create “cookie cutter” courses with no imagination, creativity or inspiration of the individual faculty involved. That we will be expected to stand in front of a class for two hours and lecture instead of create lesson plans our students will thrive on.

Did you ever struggle with this? What are your thoughts?

I guess what I’m really trying to say is thank you! Thank you for teaching in a manner that inspired me to become the person I am today. Thank you for leading by example and reaching many different students across learning styles and cultural boundaries. Thank you for teaching me the soft skills of respect, critical thinking, and compassion for those around me. Thank you for being such a beautiful person that I wanted to model my life around you.

Love, Courtney

Like Courtney, many of us have had a teacher that has made a difference, and thanks to a community effort, a new endowment fund is being established at the Homer Foundation that will be a repository for gifts in memory of teachers who have passed, or in honor of a favorite teacher — a way to give back in gratitude for what he/she gave to you or your children.

The fund’s purpose will be to recognize and provide support to local educators for continuing education, inspiration, health and well-being.

You could help this effort by joining the steering committee, making a contribution to the fund and/or telling a friend. Contact the Homer Foundation for more information. This is one way to pay it forward.

It takes a community, a global community, to educate a child.

Flo Larson is a retired teacher, mother, grandmother, gardener, Homer Foundation board member and volunteer.