WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) – Billionaire philanthropist and author Mackenzie Scott recently donated $15 million to the Mat-Su Health Foundation, the largest single donation ever received by the public health organization.
The Mat-Su Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Mat-Su Regional Medical Center and provides grant funding and strategic support to address health issues in the Matanuska-Susitna neighborhood, with five primary focus areas of healthy aging, healthy families, healthy minds, a healthy future and a solid foundation.
The organization’s chief communications officer, Robin Minard, said this is the first time Scott has given to MSHF. The foundation sent out a press release on October 3 announcing the gift.
“We are grateful for this generous gift from Mrs. Scott,” said MSHF Board Chair LeBron McPhail. “This is a significant recognition of the work we are doing to improve the way systems work for Mat-Su residents and to eliminate the root causes of health inequities.”
In 2021, the foundation awarded more than $13 million in health and human services grants and another $2 million in academic and scholarship grants. This isn’t the first time Scott has focused his giving in Alaska, having made a multi-million dollar donation to the Alaska Native Heritage Center last year.
“While it is too early to identify specific uses for the money, we are committed to reallocating these dollars in line with our theory of change, which calls for us to be data-driven, strategic and community-driven,” said MSHF President and Executive Principal Elizabeth Ripley.
The foundation produced a community health needs assessment in 2019 and has been working to implement the eight identified goals since the report was released. Ripley wrote in the release that the evaluation will help “inform future spending decisions supported by this major donation.”
The eight stated objectives of the evaluation completed in 2019 are:
- Economic stability of residents
- Safe and healthy relationships
- Strong social ties
- Freedom from discrimination/racial equality
- Excellent mental health
- An accessible and affordable healthy holiday
- Accessible and affordable preventive care
- A healthy environment
The 2021 assessment included an assessment of Mat-Su’s homelessness needs. Other reports of Mat-Su health issues can be found in the research section of their website. In December 2019, McDowell Group and Strategy Solutions, Inc. prepared an executive summary for a needs assessment with foundation staff members. In the summary, the highest ranked objective in terms of importance is “resident economic stability”.
“These funds were unsolicited, we didn’t ask for them,” Ripley said in an interview Tuesday. “Some people who worked for MacKenzie Scott got in touch in February and asked to meet with us. They said colleagues across the country had referred to our work and recommended they talk to us, and they got in touch and said they had a philanthropist who was interested in making a donation to support our work and wanted to learn more about her – specifically for our rural justice work.”
The evaluation report says that in 2021, the foundation provided more than $5 million in COVID-19 relief — 60 percent of which went to nonprofit organizations. Funding was used for free COVID-19 testing, a toll-free COVID-19 hotline, provision of thousands of rapid at-home COVID-19 tests, 100 HEPA air filters for community organizations and grants for homeless and people food insecure persons.
“We’re very excited,” Ripley said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s a holiday. These assets will be located in the fastest growing population in the state. These assets will be used to improve the health of our citizens, and it’s a celebration that we’re on the map, that people not just in Mat-Su, not just in the state of Alaska, but people across the nation are recognizing the good work and leadership that’s happening here in Mat-Su.’
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