My Turn: Giving back

As noted in a recent front page Juneau Empire article, the week of Nov. 11 is National Community Foundation Week. The Juneau Community Foundation celebrated early by recognizing donors and presenting our annual Philanthropist of the Year award. The Juneau Community Foundation, one of the 700 community foundations described in the Empire article, is a partner of the Alaska Community Foundation. Based in Juneau, we are directly accountable to the community we serve. We draw our strength from the efforts of your neighbors and friends here in Southeast Alaska. We are responsive to local needs and provide several ways to set up and plan charitable gifts right in our own back yard. We are able to provide these things, in part, through the previous efforts by the Rasmuson Foundation and the Alaska Community Foundation, which helped establish a permanent endowment for Juneau.


The effects of our local community foundation work were evident at the dinner last week, where William A. Corbus, a former Juneau Foundation board member was named the 2011 Philanthropist of the Year. Bill Corbus is a well-known supporter of Juneau and Southeast Alaska. As the head of AEL&P, he has helped to keep the lights on. As a tireless advocate of Juneau, he has helped to keep the capital here. And as an earnest jogger, he has tried to keep up with the runners in town.

Three other foundation supporters gave their perspectives on what they have been able to accomplish through the Juneau Community Foundation. Rebecca Braun, the publisher and editor of the Alaska Budget Report, told us how the Caouette Memorial Fund she established at the Juneau Community Foundation in honor of her late husband, John Caouette, has enabled her to carry out a project that honors the memory of her husband and at the same time benefits the skaters of Juneau. The Caouette Memorial Fund is presently funding the construction of a warming cabin for skaters at Twin Lakes. This project was made possible because of Rebecca Braun’s generosity and because of the mechanisms for giving afforded by the community foundation.

John Symons also spoke at our dinner. He explained that he had been to many places in the world, but that Juneau was special to both him and his wife. The Symons have ensured that their support for this special town will continue after they are gone by making a gift in their will. By putting the Juneau Community Foundation in their will, the projects and programs that have made Juneau a wonderful place for their family can continue for others long after they have passed on.

The third speaker was Merry Ellefson, who described the impact of gifts from the Juneau Community Foundation on the Lynn Canal Running Camp, a group that has received foundation grants. Community foundations are intended not just to accumulate money – they are designed to distribute it as well. The Lynn Canal Runners Camp has used their grants to teach and inspire young athletes.

The people who live in Southeast Alaska love their home and the people who live here. These presentations provided a reminder of how to turn that care and concern into concrete action. In our small towns, “giving back to the community” can have an immediate and literal meaning. Random acts of kindness are one way to give back, but there are also more structured ways to benefit your community. The Juneau Community Foundation exists to support local charitable causes now and over the long haul, by providing a return on charitable investment far into the future.

As National Community Foundation week ends and the season of giving comes into full swing, we will all be giving to organizations we believe in and that support immediate needs. For longer term planning, there is the Juneau Community Foundation. We are proud to say that we now manage over $2 million of donated funds, and over the course of the last year we have made a total of over $200,000 in grants to charities and nonprofits in Southeast Alaska. Gifts to the foundation are pooled and then invested in the hope of generating a better return. The funds earned by that investment leverage can help support any number of worthwhile goals. If you want to give something back to the community over the long term, your local community foundation provides a variety of ways to do so.

• Kueffner is the president of the Juneau Community Foundation ( He has been an attorney with Faulkner Banfield in Juneau for the past 28 years.


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