PUBLISHED: 11:58 AM on Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Eldemar artfully directs SEARHC Foundation

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Cheryl Eldemar serves as executive director of the SEARHC Foundation.
Whether it is through art or work, Cheryl Eldemar has a gift for giving of herself.

The SEARHC Foundation executive director said she enjoys serving the Southeast Alaska community.

The purpose of the foundation, which formed in 2001, is to provide charitable awards for durable medical equipment, such as walkers, dentures and oxygen tanks, patient escort travel and pharmaceuticals.

Eldemar became the executive director in 2003 and said the foundation picks up helping with Native healthcare where SEARHC cannot.

"We believe health affects quality of life," Eldemar said. "It's very rewarding to be contributing to the good health of our friends and families. Helping customers is the really rewarding part of my work."

Eldemar said she juggles a variety of fund-raising priorities during the day. She said that while many local people have made donations, the foundation has received donations from people across the country, some who have needed medical assistance while visiting Southeast Alaska.

"Southeast is a community where people go out of their way to help. We're so thankful for the support," Eldemar said. "The health of the community is the responsibility of the entire community. It's exciting to get people in our circle."

Eldemar is not new community service. A 1977 graduate of Juneau Douglas High School, she attended Washington State University for three years, where she went back to receive a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1992.

She has served on several boards and clubs since her return to Juneau in 1993, including Juneau Glacier Valley Rotary club, Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, Sealaska Heritage Foundation, Friends of the Alaska State Museum and being a big sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Juneau.

She also served on the 1% Art Committee, which implemented the Capital School Art Project and is currently on the 1% Art Committee for the new Juneau Douglas High School.

"It's exciting, but I admit to being slightly envious because the artists get to create, and I'm on the committee for guiding the process," Eldemar said with a laugh.

Dabbling in art since childhood, Eldemar said she enjoys a variety of venues for her artistic expression, including painting and traditional arts.

Eldemar said she plans to travel to Spain in 2007 to see the premier bullfighters, a tradition she witnessed while traveling in Mexico.

"I just loved it. I want to understand it more from a cultural point of view," Eldemar said.

"It's a dance between man and beast. I love the idea of women more recently participating in bull fights, too."

In college, she was involved in a variety of activities, including the WSU Native American Women's Association.

"The best experiences were not in the classroom," Eldemar said.

"In talking with potential college students, the one thing I always emphasize is that when you go to school, get involved in something voluntarily. Education is such a gift and it's important to give back to community."