Juneau resident leaves one last gift for local nonprofits

Diane Hunsbedt lived a quiet life in Juneau, enjoying the company of her dogs and walking the many trails in town.

So it’s unsurprising that when she died, she left one final gift for nonprofits in town who look out for those interests, Trail Mix Inc. and Juneau Animal Rescue.

“She loved her pets and walking on the trails with her dogs. She wanted to support those in a community she loved,” said Ryan O’Shaughnessy, executive director of Trail Mix, in a phone interview. “Diane’s family was thrilled to learn about her generosity. They were thrilled she chose two organizations that directly reflect her values as a person.”

Hunsbedt left that end-of-life or estate gift to both organizations as part of her will, helping the organizations to fulfill the missions they were created for, said Samantha Blankenship, executive director of JAR. The size of the donation was withheld to respect the wishes of Hunsbedt, O’Shaughnessy said.

[Wheelin’ and mealin’: Army of volunteers distributes food to hundreds]

“Planned gifts ― through wills, trusts, or directed beneficiaries provide critical and often game-changing income for local nonprofits,” said Amy Skilbred, executive director of the Juneau Community Foundation, in a news release.

For Trail Mix, the bequest will help them move into a new space- a huge leap in capability, said O’Shaughnessy, for an organization that’s come far in his time there. Until this new building, Trail Mix had been operating out of a 4-foot-by-8-foot space in a city building, storing all their gear there.

Lady, a pit bull mix, is one of many animals currently residing at Juneau Animal Rescue, which recently received a large legacy gift from a Juneau resident. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Lady, a pit bull mix, is one of many animals currently residing at Juneau Animal Rescue, which recently received a large legacy gift from a Juneau resident. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

“We purchased the building over the summer. We were waiting for this opportunity at the end of the season to move into the new building,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Over the summer this last year we had three trails crews, five to six members on each crew. When I started in 2015 I was one of two. These kinds of gifts allow us to keep up with the needs of Juneau’s trail system.”

The new space will allow Trail Mix to care for its equipment more efficiently, O’Shaughnessy said, which translates directly to being able to take better care of Juneau’s miles and miles of scenic trails.

Lady, a pit bull mix, is one of many animals currently residing at Juneau Animal Rescue, which recently received a large legacy gift from a Juneau resident. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Lady, a pit bull mix, is one of many animals currently residing at Juneau Animal Rescue, which recently received a large legacy gift from a Juneau resident. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

For JAR, the legacy gift means the shelter can keep on operating, even as shelters worldwide are dealing with the return to office work for many people, Blankenship said. For two years, JAR has been unable to hold its major fundraising event, a beer and wine tasting, Blankenship said.

“Fundraising is difficult if you can’t have in-person events,” Blankenship said. “We’ve had a wave in the last six months of a lot of relinquished pets that have been coming in with behavior issues.”

Many animals adopted in the pandemic as shelters worldwide weren’t able to interact with other humans or animals as their people hunkered down, Blankenship said, leading to some socialization issues that take more time for staff to help ease.

A cat stares imperiously while residing at Juneau Animal Rescue, which recently received a large legacy gift from a Juneau resident. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

A cat stares imperiously while residing at Juneau Animal Rescue, which recently received a large legacy gift from a Juneau resident. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

“We’re seeing owner relinquishments of what we’re calling COVID pets,” Blankenship said. “They’re great in a family environment but maybe not on the trails or with other people.”

While Hunsbedt’s bequest was a way for her to support the Juneau she believed in, Blankenship said, Hunsbedt wouldn’t want a fuss made out of it.

“She was very private and very humble. She wouldn’t want us to make a big deal out of it, even though it’s a big deal for us,” Blankenship said. “She trusted in Juneau Animal Rescue and our mission. In turn, we hope to honor her legacy by giving back to the community.”

It was hoped that the legacy gift would inspire others to do the same, Skilbred said in the news release; Hunsbedt herself hoped to avoid becoming a focus of attention.

“We get occasional legacy gifts. I think that she hoped that this might encourage further generosity from other donors,” Blankenship said. “We really want to thank her in some small way for the amazing large impact that she’s gonna have on these two organizations.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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