Juneau Community Foundation Executive Director Amy Skilbred said she was shocked when she read the news Tuesday morning and found that the small organization — made up of just two part-time staff members — would be the recipient of $40 million.
Alaska Electric Light and Power Company announced Monday its parent company, Alaska Energy and Resources Company, will merge with Spokane, Wash.-based Avista Utilities. Longtime AEL&P owner and former President Bill Corbus said during the announcement he will donate 90 percent of his shares — about $40 million — to the Juneau Community Foundation once the sale closes July 1, 2014.
“All I could think about was, ‘This is extraordinary,’” Skilbred said of reading Corbus’ plans. “It’s been a whirlwind of a day and an extraordinary gift to the Juneau community.”
The foundation provides support to Juneau and Southeast Alaska charitable organizations — more than 60 in 2012 — by collecting donations and giving grants. Since the organization started up in 2005, it has given a little more than $1 million to local organizations. Skilbred called Corbus’ $40 million “a game changer.”
“We have very limited discretionary funding,” she said. “This would be the first donation of that size for the Juneau Community Foundation.”
Once the sale of AEL&P is finalized, the foundation will develop an agreement with Corbus on how the donation will be used, according to a statement from the Juneau Community Foundation.
Corbus said he’d planned to donate most of his shares “for a long, long time.” He served as president of AEL&P from 1987 to 2002, when he retired.
“The proceeds from the sale of the company were generated by the community and I thought it should stay in the community,” he said.
Having lived in Juneau since 1970, Corbus, 76, has served on the foundation’s board and has long supported its efforts, he said.
“I know what they’re about, I know most of their board members, I was one once,” he said. “I think that they are established to further the philanthropic interest of Juneau, so it seemed like a good organization to do business with.”
The Juneau Community Foundation will hold its annual Philanthropy Awards dinner Wednesday evening at the Westmark Baranof Hotel. Skilbred said the organization will celebrate passing its $1 million donation mark and Corbus’ gift, as well as name its Philanthropist of the Year, at the event.
Corbus said he doesn’t need “publicity” for giving back to the city he loves.
“I’ve lived here most of my business life,” he said. “I happen to like it here. This is my home, this is where I’m going to live as long as I’m on this earth.”
• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.