Mat-Su Health Foundation 09

Mat-Su Health Foundation Announces More Than $1.8 Million in Grant Awards


Wasilla, AK— Mat-Su Health Foundation (MSHF) recently awarded Healthy Impact grants totaling $1,850,800 to six local nonprofit organizations. Big Lake Lions Foundation, Inc., CCS Early Learning, Girl Scouts of Alaska, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Set Free Alaska, and Valley Performing Arts each received MSHF grants for projects to improve the health and wellness of people living in the Mat-Su Borough.

Big Lake Lions was awarded $800,000 for construction of Phase 2 of a 10,800 square foot recreational facility that will include heated locker rooms, restrooms, concessions, a heated viewing area, designated office/clinic space for a public health nurse, and offices for the Lions club. The organization will donate the space for a public health nurse who will offer health education and onsite individual and group services to community members. Phase I of the project was funded by MSHF for $300,000 in 2010 and involved construction of an unheated indoor hockey/skating rink.

CCS Early Learning received a grant of $500,000 for a capital project to build a facility to house both a Palmer Head Start Center and the organization’s administrative offices. CCS Early Learning has provided Head Start services to eligible three to five year olds throughout the Mat-Su Borough and Chugiak for the past 42 years. They recently added Early Head Start for children ages birth to two years. CCS has four locations: Wasilla, Meadow Lakes, Palmer, and Chugiak. Their comprehensive enrollment is 329 students, with 78.4% of their students from the Mat-Su Borough at locations in Wasilla, Meadow Lakes, Palmer and Chugiak. Head Start and Early Head Start prepare children and their families for success in school utilizing a comprehensive approach of working with both the child and the child’s family. At least 90% of the students must come from low income families based on federal and state income guidelines. In 2011-12, CCS exceeded this mandate with 95% of their students qualifying as low income.

A grant of $125,000 to Girl Scouts of Alaska will support two projects: Camp Togowoods and Camp Singing Hills. The Togowoods project, funded for $100,000, supports construction of a 484-square foot health clinic with running water, nurse’s quarters, a sleeping area with three cots, an examination room, and a bathroom. The new clinic will replace a very small dry building that is currently utilized as a clinic for campers. Camp Togowoods is located on 400 acres of land in the Mat-Su Borough and has been utilized the Girls Scouts since the 1950s. The site offers both overnight camp experiences and a summer day camp program. Fifty percent of the estimated 775 campers each year are girls from the Mat-Su Borough. The Camp Singing Hills project, located in Chugiak, was awarded $25,000. Girls Scouts of Alaska plans to construct a 6,500-square foot lodge, outdoor camp sites, an extensive trail system including an ADA accessible trail, an environmental science learning dock on Mirror Lake, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-focused indoor and outdoor activity stations. The new facilities will not only be utilized in the summer months, but construction of the new lodge will allow for year-round programming. Singing Hills anticipates serving 2,000 participants each year with 50% of them coming from the Mat-Su Borough.

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church was awarded $175,800 to remodel their kitchen facilities and bring them up to code as required by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church has been serving Valley residents since 1978. Their building and kitchen are used by a wide array of community groups. Some of these include the Next Step Program, which helps local students with special needs transitioning to adult living; the Lunchbox Kids Summer Program, which will utilize the newly renovated kitchen to process meals for Valley children during the summer months when they are unable to access free lunches at school; and the University of Alaska Co-op Extension, which will partner with the Food Pantry of Wasilla and other members of the newly-formed Mat-Su Food Coalition to offer cooking classes to food pantry recipients.

A grant of $115,000 will help Set Free Alaska continue to develop their newly-formed nonprofit outpatient treatment organization to help people gain freedom from addiction. Set Free will also receive $90,000 in 2014 and $65,000 in 2015 from MSHF. $15,000 of the grant each year is designated to help Set Free pilot a tele-health program to bring its services to rural areas. Set Free experiences a high degree of success with their faith-based outpatient treatment program; 72 percent of their clients complete treatment compared to the state’s average of 40 percent, and 100 percent of their graduated clients evidence a minimum of 90 days of sobriety. Set Free was awarded two years of operational funding at $100,000 per year in 2011 from MSHF and since that time they have successfully established a new office space, hired a clinical director, and increased the services offered by the organization.

Valley Performing Arts (VPA) received a grant of $100,000 to help the organization purchase, renovate and expand the old Mat-Su Cinema Building located on the Parks Highway. Total cost of the project is $8.5 million and VPA will work to raise the remaining funds needed. Once completed, it will house two theaters for use by both VPA and other community partners. Capacity of the main theater will increase to 300 from its current maximum of 172 guests, and the secondary theater will seat 100 people. About 40 percent of VPA’s performances sell out and they have surpassed their 2010 11,000-season guest record two years in a row with just over 13,400 tickets sold each year, a 21.8% gain. Each season they host seven plays with 85 shows utilizing a staff of only 3.5 full-time equivalents and more than 500 dedicated community volunteers. In addition to their regular season, VPA hosts three summer theater arts programs for more than 150 students.