Mat-Su Health Foundation thanked for grants to Willow library, Hatcher Alpine Xperience

The current Willow Library. Photo courtesy of Julie Mitchell.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Mat-Su Borough Assembly, assembly members thanked the Mat-Su Health Foundation for grants headed to large projects in the Susitna Valley.

Last month, the Mat-Su Health Foundation announced its largest grant ever to help build a new library in Willow and renovate the Willow Community Center. The grant is for nearly one-point-seven million dollars. The Willow community has been trying to upgrade its library for years, but the lack of state grants following the crash in oil prices has slowed progress. At Tuesday’s meeting, Assembly Member Randall Kowalke offered thanks to the Mat-Su Health Foundation board of directors and Executive Director Elizabeth Ripley.

“Never has your commitment you operate in… ever been more apparent than in this grant. This is huge. It’s a life changer for our community, and I wanted to formally thank you.”

The total projected budget for the library and community center project is about five-and-a-half million dollars. Willow Librarian Julie Mitchell says the willingness of the Mat-Su Health Foundation to be the first major donor gives the project a big boost.

“This gets us thirty percent [of the total budget], which is a real good step in the right direction. It was nice, because they were willing to step in as a first-funder, so it will make it easier for some of the other grantors, and will hopefully put some more impetus for the borough and the state to step in and help fund, also.”

Bill Mailer, Vice-Chair of the Willow Library Association, believes the Mat-Su Health

Artist’s rendering of the proposed new Willow Public Library. Photo courtesy of Julie Mitchell.

Foundation grant came through due to the long-term benefits for Willow.

“I think that this project received funding because it’s a doggone important project for the community of Willow…This is going to allow Willow to have a modern, up-to-date library and a refurbished, updated community center that’s going to make an impact on this community for thirty or forty years.”

The Willow Library Association still has a lot more fundraising to do. Mitchell and Mailer say, in addition to borough and state funds, the project is seeking grants from other sources, including the Rasmusen Foundation and the Murdock Charitable Trust.

In addition to library funding, the Mat-Su Health Foundation agreed to grant half-a-million dollars toward a chair lift for downhill skiing to Hatcher Alpine Xperience. Assembly Member Dr. Barbara Doty says she has seen the goal of alpine skiing go through a series of ups and downs over the years.

“I think a lot of us said, ‘Hmm…I’m not sure that’s going to go anywhere,’ but a diligent, hard-working group of people, and some foresight from previous Assembly members…raised that number where we could really see the possibility.”

The chair lift is the latest development in the project, which has already produced a maintenance building and a warming facility in Hatcher Pass.

Mat-Su Health Foundation Executive Director Elizabeth Ripley says the two large projects are part of a larger vision for a healthier community.

“It’s really a privilege for the Mat-Su Health Foundation to come alongside and offer some funding, but the real work is what’s being done by all of you folks. That’s not lost on us, and I want to make sure that you know that. We are incredibly grateful; none of these would happen if you weren’t doing the work.”

A link to the complete list of the nearly five million dollars in grants approved by the Mat-Su Health Foundation is available at KTNA.org.

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