Viewpoint: Nonprofits provide essential services not provided by cities

I moved from Arizona to Homer 11 years ago. I was fresh out of college and living alone for the first time in my life. I was immediately drawn to this town for the beautiful setting, but stayed here because of the community. I grew up in the suburbs of Tucson, Arizona, which was wonderful, but I always knew I wanted to live in a small town. I think I found the best around.

My family was not specifically philanthropic, or let me say, it was never instilled in me to get involved in nonprofit organizations. I don’t know if that wasn’t a goal for my family or if we lived in the suburbs so there weren’t many people there. We had all the sports and summer camps, which I now know were probably funded by non-profit organizations. My thoughts changed dramatically because of Homer, our thriving nonprofit community, and the love I found in my work at the Homer Foundation.

Even though we’re a small town at the end of the road, and I love our city, our borough, and our state government and all the basic services it can provide, but we all know that municipalities, and more particularly their dollars, are strained thin. Enter non-profit organizations. Let’s think about winter, do you like skiing? We have two non-profit organizations that focus on skiing. Or is it hockey or other indoor recreational activities? I can think of three who support these passions. Or are you an adrenaline junkie with a need for speed? Yes, we also have non-profit organizations for those. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and I feel like everyone I talk to has a different web of nonprofits to build their own blanket of support, with so many opportunities here for a vibrant, resilient and fulfilled life.

While working for the Homer Foundation, I became aware of so many different programs, services, opportunities, and holes that nonprofit organizations provide to go beyond the basic services provided by municipalities. They may take care of the roads, but the nonprofits help fill the roads with buildings and conservation land. They also offer activities for families and help those in need.

By our calculations, nonprofits provide over 100 jobs to our communities. These jobs provide a $4 million payroll by leveraging money from outside donors, state governments, and the federal government. They also bring in over $7.2 million in revenue to our communities.

You may not even realize that something you love so much – like a trail you walk all the time, or a playground your family uses daily, the library with all their services, or your favorite annual event – ​​is probably provided by a non-profit organization. I certainly didn’t, but I am now very grateful to each of the over 90 registered nonprofits in the area.

Some of these organizations are all volunteers with the biggest hearts while others have paid staff. I consider the whole spectrum to be valuable. I encourage you, the next time you go out on the town or go somewhere, ask if a non-profit organization is involved. Look for a sign. Then I also encourage you to think about how you might want to support them with your time, talent, or treasure. Help Homer remain the best community possible through our amazing nonprofits.

Lauren Seaton is the Homer Foundation’s Executive Assistant. She lives in Homer with her husband and daughter and you can often find them on the water or on the trails.

Michelle J. Kelley