Schools, nonprofit groups could put dividend gift to use Editorial

Posted: Friday, October 10, 2003

Thoughts of how best to use their permanent fund dividend checks are dancing in Alaskans' heads like so many visions of sugar plums at Christmas time.

There are plenty of places vying for the money. It seems like every business is having some kind of tempting dividend special. Plus, there are bills to pay, college to save for, winter clothes to buy, home repairs that are calling and car work that needs to be done before the snow flies.

That $1,107.56 can disappear quickly on necessities, as well as general "stuff."

A reader recently called the Peninsula Clarion urging another use of the dividends: Giving it to schools.

This particular reader has divided her dividend check among her grandchildren's schools for several years.

While her initial thought was the money could be used for special things for example, a hand-crafted, wooden puppet theater that could be a permanent addition to the classroom she learned there was more of a need for it to go to some classroom basics.

Last year, one school used it to buy art supplies for students.

A school principal has suggested the money could be used to help send students on field trips who otherwise would not be able to participate because families could not afford the expense.

Those wishing to help the cause of education are encouraged to talk to the principal at the school where they would like to donate. Donations, which are tax deductible, should not come with strings attached.

While the school district and board encourage and appreciate any and all donations, there is a policy that guides acceptance of gifts. Among the criteria:

A gift must not begin a program which the board would be unwilling to continue when the donated funds are exhausted.

A gift must not place restrictions on the school program.

A gift must not be inappropriate or harmful to the best education of students.

A gift must not imply endorsement of any business or product.

A gift must not conflict with any provision of board policy or public law.

A gift must have a purpose consistent with those of the district.

It's easy to think the financially strapped school district is someone else's problem. But if we really believe Kenai Peninsula kids are "our future," as well as "our greatest natural resource," then it quickly becomes evident that helping the cause of education benefits the entire community not just those families with children in school.

Of course, just as there are needs and wants vying for the use of dividends, there also are lots of good causes besides education that could put the money to use in these difficult economic times.

If Alaskans cannot afford to give all of their dividend away, we would encourage them to try giving one-tenth or whatever amount they believe they can afford to the charitable organizations of their choice.

The power of 598,813 Alaskans giving $110 should not be underestimated. In fact, it comes to a total of $65,869,430. That's the kind of money that can do some real good throughout the state and still leave Alaskans the bulk of their dividends to save and spend as they would like.

On the peninsula, there are scores of nonprofit agencies that are deserving of your help and support. The 27 member agencies of the Kenai Peninsula United Way are a good place to start. Those agencies do everything from providing basic food and shelter services to offering quality youth programs. They include: the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, The Salvation Army, the American Red Cross - Kenai Peninsula, Kenai Senior Services, Ninilchik Senior Center, Seward Senior Citizens, Soldotna Senior Center, Sterling Senior Citizens, Homer Senior Citizens Friendship Center, Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts, Kenai Civil Air Patrol, Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, Hospice of the Central Peninsula, Hospice of Homer, Frontier Community Services, Homer Children's Services, South Peninsula Mental Health Association, Forget-Me-Not Care Center, SeaView Community Services, South Peninsula Women's Services, Women's Resource and Crisis Center, Cook Inlet Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Kenai Peninsula Community Care Center, Kenai Peninsula Youth Court and the Homer-based Choices for Teens.

The list of helping agencies doesn't stop there. There's Love INC, area churches, public radio, the Kenai River Watershed Forum and Bridges Community Resource Network to name just a few others.

Plus, area libraries could use your help. For example, the Kenai Community Library is seeking sponsors for subscriptions, because of this year's budget cuts.

Just as dividend season sparks a season of buying, we hope it also will fuel a new tradition of giving. There's no end to the need.

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