For nearly a decade the Alaska Children's Trust amounted to little more than a paper promise of unspecified future goodwill.
Legislation creating the trust was signed into law in 1988, but another eight years passed before Gov. Tony Knowles and the Legislature joined to endow the trust with an initial $6 million appropriation.
The trust has now grown to $9.6 million, reflecting generous corporate contributions, earnings from the state's sale of commemorative license plates and birth certificates and fund-raisers put on by supportive groups. To cite but one example: Mush for kids staged by the dog mushers PRIDE organization earlier this spring raised $30,000 through business sponsorships. As is the case with other trust fund-raisers, every dollar generated through the Mush for Kids event went toward building the fund's endowment.
Only the earnings of the Children's Trust are tapped for grants to qualifying agencies and groups. Since the trust began making annual awards in 1998, approximately $862,000 has been distributed throughout the state. Grants are used promoting community-based programs aimed at preventing child abuse or neglect.
In keeping with the fund's goal of seeding new programs, first-year recipients are required to provide a 25 percent funding match. That agency contribution rises to 50 percent in the third and fourth years an agency receives funding.
To date, three non profit agencies in the Fairbanks area have received Trust grants worth a total of $134,000. Last year awards were made to a pair of Interior social agencies: Resource Center for Parents and Children received $23,000; the Fairbanks Resource Agency, $14,570. Both nonprofits have reapplied for funding in 2001. If approved, those awards will require higher levels of matching contributions.
The trust's evaluation committee is tackles an annual challenge weighing applications for grants.
Stock profits are expected to yield record-setting earnings for the trust this year. Drawing upon those earnings, trust directors will be handing out somewhere between $300,000 and $325,000 in awards -- an all-time high.
Unfortunately, that is less than half the total sum requested by participating nonprofit agencies.
Trust directors undoubtedly face tough choices between now and June 1, when the awards for 2001 are to be announced.
Those decisions can be compared to growing pains, attesting to the increasing profile of the Alaska Children's Trust.
In four short years, this vague statutory promise has developed into a solid financial tool nurturing programs benefiting the state's smallest citizens.
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