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Ketchikan-based nonprofit organization forms endowment fund

Daily News Staff Writer

Community Connections, the Ketchikan-based nonprofit organization that has provided a range of human services since 1985, has formed an endowment fund to help it continue to provide services on into the future.

The Community Connections sustainability fund was announced March 1 during an event at the First Brank Totem Branch.

“This new fund will strengthen our mission and create lifelong support for the most vulnerable members of our community,” Community Connections Executive  Director Bess Clark said in a prepared statement.

The seed money to start the endowment is $1 million that the organization has saved up over time, Clark told the Daily News in a later interview .

“Through the years, we’ve been, I would say, real good stewards of the money that we have received,” Clark said. “... We look at every expense, and, you know, we’re just very careful with how we spend money.”

Clark said the organization has been discussing sustainability, especially in light of funders’ budget cuts and reduced services to seniors and people with disabilities.

The board, which also was considering using the saved money to help pay down the mortgage on the Community Connections building, choose the sustainability fund.

“We’ve been talking abut sustainability and that's when the board decided to put money aside ... to form an endowment,” Clark said. “And our plan is just to, with the interest from the endowment as it builds, help fund some of the services that we provide, to self-fund some of these services.”

Another factor in favor of an endowment fund is that it provides a secure way for people to donate funds in support of the agency, said Clark.

“It ensures for them, if they leave us in their will or they write us a check, this money will be spent on services or on supporting services that we provide,” she said.

Community Connections has partnered with the Alaska Community Foundation to manage the endowment fund. The public nonprofit has been working with entities around Alaska for 23 years now, and currently manages almost $90 million in assets on behalf of more than 490 funds, according to Community Connections information.

Only the annual earnings of the Community Connections funds will be used by the organization, and the fund’s principal will remain intact, according to Community Connections information.

The agency anticipates the endowment fund will generate between $40,000 and $50,000 annually for Community Connections services.

“We’re excited for this opportunity to self-fund some of our services,” Clark said in the prepared statement. “We still rely heavily on state support, of course. This endowment will only provide for a small portion of our services. The goal is really to enhance our services, and fill in the gaps for programs that have experienced state cuts.”

Community Connections Board President Alonso Escalante said the board members are proud to be part of establishing the endowment.

“This fund is here because we’ve been strong and conservative stewards of our money over the years,” Escalante said in the prepared statement, citing the work of Clark and past and current program managers in that regard.

“They have been able to carefully save funds, while at the same time, deliver amazing programs,” Escalante said.

Community Connections was founded in 1985 by Joanna DeSanto to respond to the needs of individuals with disabilities, according to agency information.

At present, Community Connections provides services for about 600 people of all ages annually in Ketchikan, Metlakatla and Prince of Wales Island. According to agency information, it serves “individuals with developmental disabilities, adults with physical disabilities, elders, very young children who experience or are at risk for developmental delays, and children with mental health and behavioral health needs.”

Clark said further information about the Community Connections endowment fund is available on the websites of Community Connections and the Alaska Community Foundation.