Living ‘Pay It Forward’

Flo Larson.

Flo Larson.

Learning to ride a horse takes time and patience. Years ago to earn money to pay for college, I worked as a female counselor at a trail ride camp for middle and high school age students in the Badlands of North Dakota. A roan mare was assigned to me for the summer by Herman Urban, a German cowboy of immigrant parents. He knew horses and how to care for them “like the back of his hand.” He was the wrangler, the one who gathered horses and gear from local ranchers as donation to the cause. He assigned horses with gear to campers, taught them how to feed and care, how to curry and groom their assigned horse, and how to take care of the saddlery and harness.

Herman instructed campers and me before they arrived the first time on how to mount a horse that didn’t know the rider. As my mare moved sideways or twirled her rear end the minute my foot hit the stirrup, Herman used to say, “Hold the reins. Hold the stirrup leather and speak in a calm voice. She’s looking at you to see if you have patience and will not give up. She’s checking to see if she can trust you.”

After a few weeks of everyday following his calm instructions and encouragement, she let me mount her easily. She would stop completely if one of the reins fell to the ground and wait until I retrieved it. We developed a trust, an unspoken communication of good will and confidence in each other. Staying the course made a difference in our relationship. To this day, I feel fondly toward that spirited horse and learned how to trust an animal’s wisdom and appreciate its personality.

About 30 years ago, Homer Foundation was established for long-term benefit of this community by a few visionaries. Joy Steward was hired as the first Executive Director of the first community foundation in Alaska. Others were to follow, but Homer had the first community foundation and Joy was the first director of one in Alaska. Last Sunday at the annual Homer Foundation picnic, Joy was honored for all her work.

She may not like me highlighting her dedication and effort over all these years in the paper in this column, but here goes. She prefers background support. Perhaps due to that quality about her, the foundation has flourished through ups and downs as Homer and the state, borough and national economies have fluctuated.

Like Herman instructed, she remained calm. She was patient. She watched and listened carefully to donors. She encouraged and made friends with people as they inquired how to support Homer over the long haul. People came to trust her and her council. She helped others leave legacy and give memory to a loved one through scholarships and invested funds. She developed communication and confidence with community members and the board.

Joy gently encouraged distribution of funds with a grasp of the needs of the lower Kenai Peninsula while she continued contact with larger foundations in the state. She opened herself to learning all she could to enhance Homer Foundation. She stayed the course. She made a difference. She’s still here and will continue to give to this community, no doubt. Her wisdom is broad and deep and will benefit all of us going forward.

She enabled the board and gently guided us in the hiring of a new director and worked tirelessly for the past three years to make this transition seamless. Bravo, Joy for a job well done.

Flo Larson is a trustee for the Homer Foundation.

Nonprofit Needs for August 2019

Hospice of Homer is looking for donations of well maintained medical equipment (i.e. wheelchairs, canes, lift chairs). They are also accepting opened or unopened bags of disposable bed pads (Chux or other brand). If you have other items you would like to donate, please call Hospice of Homer at 235-6899 to verify what equipment is needed. Contact Jessica Golden at

Flo Larson.

Flo Larson.

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