GCI Suicide Prevention Fund: Making a Difference

As a statewide organization, GCI has donated to community causes across the state. This past year, GCI decided to focus its charitable dollars on one of Alaska’s most critical issues: suicide prevention. In October 2016, GCI made a donation of $100,000 to create the GCI Suicide Prevention Fund at The Alaska Community Foundation. The results of those grants are starting to be felt in local communities.

“The GCI leadership chose to focus on suicide prevention because of the staggering statistics of suicide in Alaska and the ways that it devastates communities,” said Kate Slyker, GCI Chief Marketing Officer. “Unfortunately, the GCI corporate family itself is not immune. We felt that GCI Suicide Prevention Fund would allow us to support local responses to suicide prevention.”

GCI decided to partner with The Alaska Community Foundation because of ACF’s expertise in grantmaking, including in the area of teen suicide prevention. Together, ACF and GCI created the GCI Suicide Prevention Fund to fund projects and organizations that focus on reducing the rates of suicide in Alaska and promoting mental wellness through strengthened community and personal connections.

Slyker noted that The Alaska Community Foundation reached out to suicide prevention experts who assisted in the process, and provided a grantmaking structure that helped making the decision making much easier.

More than 40 organizations submitted applications, and GCI, with the help of ACF, awarded grants to nine Alaska organizations. One of the organizations was the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, which used their grant to launch an initiative to raise student awareness about suicide prevention strategies through “Sources of Strength,”a nationally-recognized youth suicide prevention program.

“This is the first really solid thing I’ve seen that really can have a district-wide, positive impact,” said Pegge Erkeneff, communications liaison with KPBSD, whose family has been impacted by suicide. “As I see this program spread into more of the high schools and do more of these trainings for students, it’s going to save lives.”

Last school year, KPBSD introduced Sources of Strength in Kenai Alternative High School, Homer Flex High School, Seward Middle School and Seward High School, which included training for more than 50 peer leaders and over 20 adult mentors. KPBSD plans to expand the program to the rest of the district’s middle and high schools.

Eight other programs received funding through the GCI Suicide Prevention Grant, including: Covenant House Alaska, Alaska Child & Family, Perseverance Theatre, Wellspring Revival Ministries, Juneau Youth Services, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Native Village of Paimiut and the Native Village of Tununak.

Are you interested in supporting a statewide efforts that support suicide prevention? Consider partnering with GCI and the Alaska Community Foundation to increase the impact and reach of your gift.

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If you need help

For those experiencing or know someone experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org or by texting 741741.