GVEA Good¢ents Program Makes Good Sense for Communities

Nathan Minnema, GVEA’s Director of Operations, works to pack food boxes for those in need during Thanksgiving time. Photo courtesy fairbanks community food bank.

The good¢ents program is an opportunity for GVEA members to support programs and projects of local charitable organizations, rounding up a monthly bill to the nearest dollar adds up to an average of $6 per year per participating member. The donations are added to the good¢ents fund. The cumulative total of member donations contributes significant dividends to the people who live in the communities GVEA serves.

Since the inception of Good¢ents in early 2011 to February 2023, the generosity of GVEA members has funded grants totaling $1,585,211 to charities in the region.

Over the years, Good¢ents has helped a range of nonprofits’ activities. Recently distributed quarterly grants have benefited shelters, educational facilities, fire and rescue operations, health care, events and museums, to name just a few of the worthy causes that Good¢ents supports.

Good¢ents Boosts Food Security

Samantha Kirstein now serves as community development director for the Fairbanks Community Food Bank.

One beneficiary of Good¢ents is the Fairbanks Community Food Bank (FCFB). During a 7-year period, the organization has received four Good¢ents grants for ongoing projects and programs.

“We have not applied every year because there is a great need in the community,” says Samantha “Sam” Kirstein, community development director for the food bank. “We wait until there is a particular project that would be a good investment for Good¢ents which would be community-wide.”

Sam estimates 50 to 100 nonprofits address food insecurity in the area.

Founded in 1982 amid a recession, the FCFB has continually provided locally collected, salvageable food to people in need. Having outgrown their original facility, Dennis and Mary Wise donated the food bank’s headquarters building, which opened in 1998 on 26th Avenue in Fairbanks.

While relying heavily on nearly 25,000 hours from volunteers each year, the FCFB has operational costs to sustain programs that have expanded in depth and breadth.

Now serving food in 3 locations, the operation has experienced a surge in collections from 400,000 to 4 million pounds of food during Sam’s 33 years of involvement with the organization. Only 5% of the organization’s operating funds come from government sources. Donations and grants—like those through the Good¢ents program provide most of the necessary monetary support.

A recent Good¢ents grant of $5,000 supported the Food Is Medicine program to help FCFB remodel its space on South Cushman Street in Fairbanks. The program works to improve the health of people in the Tanana Valley by providing fresh foods. Thirty different clinics medically refer eligible patients into the program.

Sam says an example of one of the food recipients is a diabetic patient who was advised to make dietary changes but can’t afford the cost of fresh produce.

“We are now able to provide 6 pounds of food per person for three days a week, all produce,” says Sam. “From 2020 to present, we’ve served 900 different patients.”

Every 6 months, a doctor must update the referral.

The food bank has also been awarded Good¢ents grants to increase freezer capacity, improve building safety and security, and install head bolt heaters for use by daily volunteers.

The food bank operates six days per week, 52 weeks a year. To help operational efficiency, Sam remarks that FCFB has been granted two solar installations through funding from the state of Alaska and the Rasmuson Foundation. Employees from GVEA and other organizations, such as Solarize Fairbanks and Mt. McKinley Bank, have freely provided consultation through the process.

GVEA employees also have done other volunteer work at
FCFB, such as packing food boxes for distribution before the Thanksgiving holiday.

“GVEA has been wonderful to work with in so many ways,” Sam says. “They are a trusted source for us. When I pick up the phone and ask questions about solar power, there is a human being to talk to. I just feel supported by GVEA all the time.”

Good¢ents Raises Up Women’s Health

BCDC Executive Director Jacyn DeBaun.

The Breast Cancer Detection Center of Alaska is another beneficiary of Good¢ents. The organization has received four grants over an 8-year period starting in 2015, according to Jacyn DeBaun, BCDC executive director.

“We are a local nonprofit started by Alaskan women for Alaskan women,” says Jacyn.

Founded in Fairbanks in 1976, the center’s mission is to increase awareness of the survivability of breast cancer and the benefits of early detection.

The nonprofit delivers mammogram screening services and educational programs in the Fairbanks region as well as throughout the state of Alaska.

“Our goal is to provide breast cancer screenings regardless of geographical or economic barriers,” she says.

A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray examination that produces images of the breast. Research has shown that annual mammograms lead to early detection of breast cancer when it’s most treatable.

Jacyn herself was a beneficiary of BCDC services before she worked for the organization. She was diagnosed with breast cancer after a mammogram at its center in Fairbanks. She is now 2 years cancer-free.

“One in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in their lifetime,” explains Jacyn. “With early detection,
breast cancer can be 99% survivable.”

Occurrence is more common in rural areas, where there is also a higher mortality, primarily due to limited resources for detection and treatment.

2 Good¢ents grants have supported the organization’s Mammography Assistance Program—known as “Mammo- assist.” Money raised through the donor-funded program helps cover the charge for BCDC patients to have a mammogram regardless of income level or insurance coverage. For clients who are insured, a portion of their fees help women in need with the cost of their screenings.

In March of this year, a $15,000 Good¢ents grant helped purchase a new 34-foot Freightliner Mobile Mammography Unit. The truck will replace an older one that Good¢ents also funded. Jacyn says the already-existing, top-of-the-line mammography technology will be transferred from the current vehicle to the new one.

The Breast Cancer Detection Center of Alaska sports its new logo at its headquarters in Fairbanks.

The unit will feature all-wheel drive and a motor better suited to handle Alaska terrain, an alternative power supply that is more reliable for running the mammogram equipment, as well as a more accommodating layout for patients and staff.

The BCDC mobile unit serves 21 rural communities that would not otherwise have access to screening mammograms.
The organization reaches women in the Interior, southcentral, southeast and in southwest as far as Dutch Harbor. The truck can travel on the Alaska Marine Highway System.

“With 15 minute appointments, we have seen up to 80 women a day,” says Jacyn.

As long as there are women who want the screening, BCDC staff will stay as late as necessary to provide them.

Featuring an exterior design by an Alaskan artist, the new truck will debut at the organization’s 18th Annual Gala, a fundraiser scheduled for December 2 at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

“We are so blessed to have a partnership with GVEA and Good¢ents,” says Jacyn. “We can give back to our community because our community gives back to us. We are so thankful to be a part of it.”

Thank you to the GVEA members who voluntarily round up their monthly billing statements to the next dollar. Your Good¢ents contribution is greatly appreciated. You are making a difference for the people who live in the communities that GVEA serves.

Visit our Good¢ents Program page to learn more.

How Good¢ents Works for Members and Nonprofits

Julia Meany, marketing and development specialist at Breast Cancer Detection Center.

In the spring of 2010 during the annual election process, 70% of all GVEA members voted to approve the Good¢ents round-up program.

The program rounds up a member’s monthly electric bill to the next highest dollar. For example, a monthly bill of $97.65 would be rounded up to $98, with the additional 35 cents going toward the Good¢ents fund.

GVEA’s Member Advisory Committee and Board of Directors considered the benefit of automatically enrolling all members versus an opt-in enrollment. Research showed that there would be better involvement with automatic enrollment because it is easier for most people than for GVEA members to initiate the process to sign up.

The program is voluntary. A member can choose not to participate at any time. Within the first 3 years of the start of enrollment, a member may request a refund of the entire amount contributed, which can be applied to the member’s account.