What happened to the $2M a cruise ship company offered to Juneau?

A downtown building that's under construction.
The Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Arts Campus is under construction in downtown Juneau. Sealaska Heritage Institute was one of the local nonprofits that received part of a $2 million donation from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. It got $100,000 for the arts campus project. (Lyndsey Brollini/KTOO)

The $2 million in relief that Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings offered Juneau earlier this year is now reaching local nonprofits’ accounts.

This summer, Norwegian’s initial offer went to the City and Borough of Juneau government. The company said there were no strings attached, but most Juneau Assembly members didn’t like how that would look. Norwegian wants to build a new, downtown cruise ship dock and needs the city’s cooperation to do it.

So instead, Norwegian sent the money to a bunch of nonprofits in the community. Company officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story. But the organizations on the receiving end did. They said they were grateful. And, like the original offer to the city, they say there were no strings attached.

Here’s where the money went.

The Juneau Community Foundation got half of it, $1 million. The foundation broke that up into 14 grants to local social service organizations. Among other things, it’s going to help restock the Southeast Alaska Food Bank and fix up housing for people in crisis or experiencing homelessness.

The foundation’s biggest grant is for half a million dollars to the campaign to build the Teal Street Center, which will be a hub for several social service agencies located next to the new Glory Hall building.

Teal Street Center lot by new Glory Hall
Fireweed blooms around a sign marking a lot where the Teal Street Center will be built in Juneau on July 20, 2021. It’s intended to house social service agencies near the new Glory Hall emergency shelter and soup kitchen in the background so its patrons can connect to services easily. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Executive Director Amy Skilbred said the foundation prioritized organizations that serve basic needs: food, shelter and mental and physical health.

“They’re the ones that get the stuff done in our community,” she said.

Specifically:

  • $500,000 for construction of the Teal Street Center. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 2.
  • $150,000 to The Glory Hall emergency shelter and soup kitchen for operations.
  • $60,000 to the Tlingit & Haida Regional Housing Authority for repairs to the youth shelter Shéiyi X̱aat Hít, or Spruce Root House.
  • $60,000 to AWARE for building new apartments.
  • $50,000 to St. Vincent de Paul to repair its housing.
  • $45,000 to JAMHI Health & Wellness for workforce development and retention.
  • $30,000 to Capital City Fire & Rescue’s community health program for a vehicle.
  • $25,000 to Bartlett Regional Hospital’s Community Navigator program for a vehicle.
  • $25,000 to the Southeast Alaska Food Bank for food.
  • $12,000 to Bartlett Regional Hospital Foundation for program kits that help school-aged children learn to be safe while home alone or to babysit younger children.
  • $10,000 to the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska for its reentry program.
  • $10,000 to Juneau Carbon Offset program for home heating improvements.
  • $10,000 to SAIL for its home improvement program.
  • $8,000 to Juneau Housing First for maintenance and repairs.

Finally, the foundation is keeping $5,000 for administrative overhead.

Two of the foundation’s intended recipients are city government entities: Bartlett Regional Hospital and Capital City Fire/Rescue. In both cases, the money is intended to buy vehicles for programs each one runs that try to reach vulnerable community members physically where they are before unaddressed needs become emergencies.

The hospital’s grant manager said hospital administrators can usually sign off on grants like this without action from its board or the Juneau Assembly. The city’s finance director said the Assembly will likely need to take action to accept the fire department’s grant. So it’s possible the optics issue may come back up.

After those Juneau Community Foundation grants, there’s another million dollars of Norwegian’s donations to account for. The Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce and Juneau Economic Development Council got $800,000 for local business relief. Board members of the two organizations are working on the particulars of how that will be spent.

The last three donations go toward improving places cruise ship visitors are likely to visit.

Sealaska Heritage Institute got $100,000 for its downtown arts campus project. Chief Operating Officer Lee Kadinger said the main facility will be mostly finished by the beginning of December.

“They’ve just been a great partner in the community and have been wonderful in ensuring their clients come visit Sealaska Heritage,” Kadinger said. “So it’s been a great mutual relationship working with them.”

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Other elements, like a covered, outdoor performance area, were delayed because of fundraising concerns amid the pandemic.

Norwegian’s donation “helps complete the bigger vision that we initially had,” Kadinger said.

The Catholic cathedral on Fifth Street downtown is getting $50,000. Father Patrick Casey said it’s going into a campaign to renovate the building to make it wheelchair accessible. Casey also explained that some cruise ship passengers seek out Mass services while they’re in town. The church gives free rides from the docks to its services.

Finally, $50,000 is also going to the New JACC partnership, which wants to replace the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. The current facility was originally a National Guard armory.

Juneau was one of six Alaska port communities that Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ ships visit that it donated money to earlier this year. The company committed $10 million total. The other communities were Hoonah, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway and Seward.

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Jeremy Hsieh is the deputy managing editor of the KTOO newsroom in Juneau. He’s a podcast fiend who’s worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He ran Gavel Alaska for 360 North from 2011 to 2016, and is big on experimenting with novel tools and mediums (including the occasional animated gif) to tell stories and demystify the news. Jeremy’s an East Coast transplant who moved to Juneau in 2008.

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