According to the law of conservation of energy, energy can’t be created or destroyed, only changed from one form into another. Less scientifically, it could be argued that this rule of physics also applies to individual human lives and their influence.
Take former Juneau residents Brian Douglas and Wythe Dornan. The couple lived in Juneau for only three years before they were killed in a car accident on Thane Road at age 27 in 1993, but in those three years they became very involved in their community. Brian, a brewer with Alaskan Brewing Co., and Wythe, a preschool teacher, served as foster parents and volunteered at the Glory Hole, among many other activities. When they died, a foundation was set up in their name, the Douglas-Dornan Foundation, through which the couple has continued to have a positive impact on the community they loved.
Headed up by Brian’s father, Paul Douglas, the fund focuses on making grants that enhance “the health, education and welfare of individuals living in Southeast Alaska,” with a particular focus on youth.
“Our focus is as much on youth and young people as on anything else,” Paul said.
This week, the fund announced 11 grants for the year, totaling $26,620, and carried out through the Juneau Community Foundation. Recipients include the Canvas, Discovery Southeast, Juneau Alaska Music Matters, Juneau Dance Theatre, Lynn Canal Running Camp, SAIL and the Zach Gordon Youth Center, among others, with grants typically ranging from $1,000 to $3,000.
Paul said it has been very rewarding to watch the fund grow since 1994, allowing the trustees to make more grants as time has gone on.
“The first year the grant total was $500,” he said. “The last few years we’ve been able to make grants in the neighborhood of $20,000-25,000. It’s not a huge amount of money but we manage to spread the wealth, if you will, over typically 12 to 16 different grantees.”
Paul’s investment in the Juneau community, spurred by his son, was also emotional, and after his first wife passed away in 1999, he and his son Jeff decided to move here from Chicago, where they had lived for decades.
“Jeff and I came up here three times in (1999),” he said. “We’d already established some extended family type relationships when we came up to visit when the kids were still living. And even after they died we’d come up here for a couple weeks in the summertime for vacation and get together with people we had met previously .... I’m from a small, small town myself and it just felt right to me.”
Paul said he was also pleased with the resources Juneau offered Jeff, who experiences disabilities. And since Brian and Wythe had owned their own home, Paul and Jeff had a safe place to land.
Since his arrival in 2000, Paul has continued to expand his philanthropic role in the community. As well as continuing to head the Douglas-Dornan Foundation, he serves on the board of the Zach Gordon Youth Center, and formerly served for 10 years on the SAIL board, as well as briefly on the REACH board. He was also instrumental, through the Douglas-Dornan Foundation, in getting the Juneau Community Foundation’s Youth Action Committee off the ground, a project that allows high school students to pursue their own philanthropic goals.
“Our foundation gave them seed money to get started with the clear understanding that we expected them, once they got up and running and learned a little about the whole process, to go out and do their own fundraising,” Paul said. “Our objective was to expose young people to the whole realm of philanthropy and what it’s all about and try to get a few of them excited about it, so that maybe they’d carry that forward as they go through life.”
In November, Paul was named the Juneau Community Foundation’s Philanthropist of the Year. JCF executive director Amy Skibred said he is a great example of someone who contributes the three T’s of charitable giving: time, talent and treasure.
“Paul was Philanthropist of the Year because he puts his everything into philanthropy — his time as a volunteer, his talent of accumulated knowledge, and his treasure — through the Douglas-Dornan Fund, he has provided more than $300,000 in grants to organizations throughout Southeast Alaska.”
Since 2002, Paul has shared his interest in philanthropy with his wife, Sioux Douglas. Sioux is very involved with the Juneau Community Foundation, on whose board she has served since the JCF began, and with the issue of assisted living in Juneau, a topic Paul has now become involved in as well. The couple, who run a busy household over the bridge in West Juneau, tease each other about eventually slowing down -- but it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Paul said he really “gets a kick” out of the whole grant process, and volunteer work in general.
In fact, the only part he doesn’t appear to find enjoyable is being asked to talk about it.
“I think people who get excited about philanthropy in general are not the type who will go out and make a lot of noise and break their arm patting themselves on the back,” he said. “They do it because they want to, not because they feel they need to get recognition and praise .... So to me it’s almost embarrassing. I just prefer to keep doing my thing.”
Applications for the Douglas Dornan Fund are accepted after April 1 each year, and may be found online or by contacting Paul D. Douglas, advisor, 3014 Foster Avenue, Juneau, Alaska 99801. Completed applications must be mailed to this address and postmarked no later than June 1. Grants are usually awarded by September 1, and typically range in amounts from $200 to $3000 per award, and do not exceed $5000. For more information, visit http://www.juneaucf.org/affiliatesfunds/descriptions/douglasdornan.htm