Our History

It took the tragic death of a high school student in 2008 to bring about a movement for change in the small town of Gustavus. The memorial service was held in a drafty airplane hangar– the only place in town large enough to accommodate all the mourners. It was there that a few individuals began to reflect on what makes a healthy, resilient community, and whether something could be done to ensure Gustavus stays that way, even in the face of numerous challenges. The individuals began a dialogue with the community as a whole, and thus began the grassroots campaign to build a community center. With overwhelming support of residents, the Gustavus Community Center incorporated as a 501(c) (3) organization in 2009.

At about this time, eight acres of meadow in the very center of Gustavus came on the market. Each summer, more than 11,000 visitors pass by this property on their way to nearby Glacier Bay National Park. It’s an easy walk or bike ride from the property to the school, public library, post office, city hall, community garden and “downtown” businesses. There’s enough land for buildings and outdoor activities. The community believed so strongly that this would be the ideal location for the center that it came together and bought it. Donations from 150 individuals, 11 businesses, and overwhelming response to fund-raising events enabled the Gustavus Community Center to raise $254,507 within two years, with 94% of dollars generated locally.

Even without a building of its own, the Center quickly began organizing community activities, although they had to be held outdoors -always a risky proposition given Southeast Alaska’s notorious weather- or  in borrowed indoor spaces. The Center served over 500 participants in the past year offering year-round programming ranging from the annual harvest festival, planting an edible landscape, organizing jazz and blues music performances, art classes and exercise classes.

In 2012, the Gustavus Community Center was chosen to participate in the Foraker Group Pre-development Program. Foraker Group offers guidance and technical resources to help Alaskan non-profits determine the feasibility of their projects and develop the documentation needed for funding applications. After two intense years of meetings, planning and research, the Community Center finalized a realistic, sustainable budget, business plan, and, in collaboration with MRV Architects, a conceptual design for a multi-purpose building which will contribute to the long-term viability of the organization and the community it serves.

Fund raising for the new building has kicked in to high gear. The little community of 500 continues to rally for the center, donating an astonishing $441,885 in cash and in-kind contributions in 2015, bringing the total community investment to $707,055.  Thanks to a grant in 2016 from the City of Gustavus, a General Contractor has been hired to coordinate the materials and in-kind services donated by local professionals to finish preparing the site, designing and installing utility systems, and completing 80% architectural designs and cost estimates for a phased building approach. The General Contractor estimates the cost of Phase One construction at $662,000, for a total project cost of $1,428,378.

As of late 2016, our town has raised 50% of the project cost. No tax increase or rate increase for the services the City provides to its residents has gone to supporting the project to-date. Join us as one of our supporters and make a pledge today!

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