About five years ago, I moved back to my hometown. I wasn’t exactly sure why, or how it was going to work. I hadn’t quite reconciled my adolescent memories of leaving Homer with the persistent and growing feeling that I needed to go back, needed Kachemak Bay and its beaches and its people. I just went.
What was a tentative step toward home in my mid-twenties has led me to inhabit a place and a person that is thriving. There are a lot of reasons I can say that today, but some of the key experiences and relationships that make that true are linked directly to the generosity found here in Homer. It takes shape in kind gestures and friendships, but also in the many nonprofit organizations and community programs that foster the vitality of this incredible place.
The news team at KBBI taught me how to tell stories on the radio. Pier One Theater and Homer Council On the Arts continue to allow me on stage during their productions, thrilling experiences I cannot believe I have access to. On the board of the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust I have found a way to help conserve the natural landscape that raised me — the wild places responsible for some of my core beliefs and joys. I celebrate coastal culture with the Wooden Boat Society and I watch budding musicians and writers find their passions through Alaska Youth on Record, Homer Council on the Arts and Colors of Homer, among others.
This is nowhere near the sum total of the community programs and nonprofits that have affected my life in a positive way. These organizations encourage and support me as a writer, as a singer, an activist, a friend and a neighbor. I am an ever-evolving product of the climate of giving in a small community. Just one person, among many.
I hope what I am able to give back during my life here in Homer is above and beyond that which I have received, but that’s a tall order. The people and generosity of Homer, and the larger philanthropic community in Alaska, have been integral in my ability to build a happy, healthy life in the beautiful place that I grew up. I want that reality to be available to everyone, and to future generations.
My personal story is only one small example of how diverse, long-term generosity can infuse a community with vitality. We have nonprofits that feed, shelter and counsel people in need, and those that feed the mind and spirit through arts, adventure, culture, knowledge, conservation, and community.
But so much of the important work that these organizations do — to keep evolving, to plan, to build, to create — happens outside of the spotlight, and it requires support. Time, and money.
The best way to see evidence that philanthropic giving is working to make positive change in the community is by participating and observing it for yourself. Seek out the programs and organizations that support the things that you enjoy about Homer, and Alaska as a whole. You probably already do. Visit galleries and museums, attend performing arts events, take a class, join a club, attend a lecture, turn on the radio, go to a community meal or a concert, walk the Calvin and Coyle Trail, take your kids to Karen Hornaday Park, go to a hockey game — we have all of this and so much more.
Consider how these things affect your quality of life, and that of your friends and neighbors. Consider how they add up to a place we are proud to call our home. Then consider ways that you might be able to show your support of those things, knowing that when you do, you intentionally change your community for the better.
Hannah Heimbuch was born and raised in Homer, Alaska. She is a writer, commercial fisherman and a community fisheries organizer for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.