Foundation trying to bring more to Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Juneau Jazz & Classics knows about the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. So does Perseverance Theatre and Juneau Family Birth Center.

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Susan Coliton, senior director of the Seattle-based regional philanthropic organization, who was in Juneau last week, said the foundation is looking to do more.

"For years we did our work very quietly," she said. Now, the foundation believes it will get the strongest applications by letting people know what it does.

She urged groups working to make the community a better place to visit the Web site to see what the foundation does.

The foundation, headed by the co-founder of Microsoft and part-owner of the Seattle Seahawks, has given more than $5.8 million to Alaska groups in 76 grants since 1997. Coliton said the first Alaska grant was $5,000 to Perseverance Theatre. In the last cycle, the foundation donated $40,000 to the Douglas theater for its 2006 season. It also contributed $10,000 to support the recent 20th annual Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival.

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The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation can be found on the Web at

The mission of the foundation, according to its published statement, is "to transform lives and strengthen communities by fostering innovation, creating knowledge and promoting social progress." The foundation has programs focusing on arts and culture, community development and social change. It also looks to fund innovations in science and technology.

"We hope that through our funding, we can be a catalyst for change," said Jason J. Hunke, who also works for the foundation in Seattle.

Most of the $528,500 the foundation has given specifically to organizations in Juneau and Douglas has been in the area of arts - Perseverance Theatre and Juneau Jazz & Classics. A $100,000 grant this year for the Strength in Families project at the Juneau Family Birth Center falls under the category of social change, Coliton noted.

Other Alaska grants have gone to regional and statewide programs, such as the Sitka-based Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, and may also be noticed in Juneau.

She said the grant for the nonprofit birth center also shows how the foundation looks for fund programs that have local financial support, because the center had secured other grants and was getting money from the state.

Earlier this month, key lawmakers questioned the $300,000 line item for the center in the state's capital budget. The center's executive director, Kay Kanne, pointed out the state money was needed to secure much of the $2 million the center had raised, including a $1 million grant from the Denali Commission.

"We want to see the people have a fire in their bellies for what we're funding," Coliton said. That applies to the arts as well as social change. "For us, the most important thing is a quality production that is valued by the people of Juneau," she said of continued support of Perseverance Theatre.

The foundation' five-state region also includes Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho. Most of the giving - 59 percent - has gone to groups in Washington, the most populous of the states. But Alaska has received a lot of support, considering its smaller population.

In the last six-month cycle, 9 percent of the $7.52 million in grants went to Alaska. During that time, $665,000 went to Alaska. Coliton said that is high for the population - about a dollar per resident.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at

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