Joanne Kagan

Native American Challenges

Native American
Photo Credit: Lauren Lee/Stocksy


Jack Kagan valued being a contributing member of his local community. Supporting economically challenged groups in the community was part of his philanthropic mission.

The cultural significance of indigenous communities throughout the United States is substantial. The native peoples in this country have rich and diverse histories and customs that we continue to learn from today. Our understanding of the native cultures and the struggles they face can be used to deepen the way we think about history, art, geography, civics, engineering, and many other areas.  Unfortunately, the Native American communities in the United States have faced extreme hardships in the last few centuries. More recently, these important communities have been experiencing high levels of social and economic inequity. These communities have been disproportionately affected by climate change, and experience higher rates of poverty and unemployment than other racial groups.

For example, according to the US Government Accountability Office, “tens of thousands of American Indians and Alaska Natives do not have safe drinking water or wastewater disposal in their homes.” Additionally, they have found that about 35% of Americans living on tribal lands lack access to broadband services, which can limit economic opportunity, education, and even public safety.

Challenges that Native people face are experienced socially, economically, culturally, and on many other fronts, and include but aren’t limited to:

  • Impoverishment and Unemployment
  • COVID-19 Pandemic After Effects
  • Violence against Women and Children
  • The Climate Crisis
  • Less Educational Opportunities
  • Inadequate Health and Mental Health Care
  • Continued Issues with Voting Rights
  • Native Languages are Being Threatened

There are currently 574 tribes recognized by the federal government, which are faced with these ongoing issues. The Native Americans, a diverse race of people, are subjected to racial abuse, societal discrimination, incorrect and inappropriate depictions in the media and arts, mental, spiritual, and physical violence, and much more. These historical and social hurdles have resulted in many Native Americans succumbing to physical and mental health challenges, as well as not being seen or heard by the rest of society. Many of these challenges are faced by the indigenous regardless of whether or not they live on a reservation. You can find much more information on these issues on sites including the Indian Law Resource Center, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  There are many ways to support our indigenous neighbors. Many local charities work to help provide clean water, medical services for the elderly and those in need, support fee-free spay and neuter clinics to curb the excess in stray pets, and a myriad of other innovative ways to help them thrive on often unforgiving land. In helping our neighbors, we help ourselves through reducing poverty, disease, and crime, and by buoying the health of all.

Our Foundation does not single out minorities, including Native Americans, for a specific mission.

We do, however, focus on all who are disadvantaged or disabled. Native Americans often fall into our areas of support because of the inherent challenges they face in today’s world. We support struggling Native American artists through our grants to the Southwestern Indian Arts Association, Native American children through the New Mexico Children’s Foundation, the ill through local medical charities, pets and animals through veterinary and shelter non-profits, and indirectly through our missions that focus on all children, improved medicine and medical services, veterans, and all in our communities.

You can support them in innumerable ways by talking to your local community representatives. You can also help by supporting our efforts. Please consider joining our team by donating here.



Thoughts from the Foundation

3 Ways to Help Orphans & Children in Foster Care


Currently in the United States, there are approximately 400,000 children in the foster care system.

While there are a variety of reasons for a child to be placed in foster care, many of these children are orphans. Jack Kagan was one of these orphaned children soon after his birth, and as such he became an avid supporter of orphans and children in foster care throughout his life.

Individual agencies and the families that adopt or foster children are doing vital work, but they require a support system to ensure the best possible outcome for each child. While not everyone is able to adopt or foster a child, there are a variety of things we can all do to help children in the foster care system. We offer three ideas in case you are interested in supporting these children in your community:

1.  Volunteer with local group homes for children. 

Because there are no longer orphanages in the United States, many children waiting to be adopted or reunified with their families stay in group homes, residential treatment centers, or modern boarding schools. These facilities are often in need of volunteers to help with food preparation, cleaning, and childcare. These types of facilities are typically run by the state, so you would need to contact your local government to get in touch with a volunteer coordinator.

2.  Donate new or gently used clothing, toys, and school supplies.

State-run facilities, charities, and individual families are always in need of clothing and supplies. To find out what items are needed most, contact local organizations in your area. You can even work with their volunteers to collect even more items from members of your community.

3.  Become a respite care provider.

Respite care providers are individuals that can take care of a foster child for a few days at a time in emergency situations. To become a respite care provider, you need to begin the certification process by reaching out to your local government or foster care agency. You will also submit an application to an individual foster care agency and go through a formal interview process before being accepted.

Here at the Jack Kagan Foundation we are dedicated to assisting organizations that help orphans, support children in foster care, and advocate for families in need.

We review, vet, then provide grants to organizations like the New Mexico Children’s Foundation, The YES Institute, The Birthday Party Project, Dreamplex, and others. To learn more about these organizations, see our Children page To support these and all of our vetted non-profit organizations, donate here.


What is a Family Foundation?

Image of Family in Clip Art

Here at the Jack Kagan Foundation we are proud to operate as a family foundation.

To honor the life of our father, our family wanted to ensure that the causes he was most passionate about are supported financially. To achieve this goal, we established a family foundation to provide grants to proven, effective charitable organizations that focus on our core mission areas.

Establishing a family foundation has enabled us to preserve and extend the legacy of Jack Kagan for years to come. But we also understand that our donors and supporters may have some trouble understanding what a family foundation does and how we operate. Here’s a breakdown to help answer some of your questions about family foundations, and information about how you can start your own foundation.

What is a family foundation?

A family foundation is a type of private foundation. ‘Private foundation’ is an umbrella term that includes corporate, independent, and some other foundations. These independent legal entities can then create grants from their various charitable endowments or trusts – essentially pools of donated money that provide a stream of income for long-term charitable purposes.

Family foundations are generally non-operational, meaning they do not themselves run programs or provide services. Instead, they govern the established pool of money and make disbursements or grants based on their own specific by-laws. Operational foundations, whether private or public, work to meet their mission through running active programs and services, employing people and volunteers to deliver and manage the organization.

A family foundation, specifically, is funded with the family’s assets and often run by family members who participate in its charitable grantmaking. In our case, Jack Kagan specified that his remaining assets be used to establish a charitable trust foundation in his name, to be governed by his children as the Trustees. A family governance system is needed to manage priorities, grant recommendations, and foundation goals.

What does a family foundation do?

Private family foundations achieve family giving goals and jumpstart multi-generational giving. At JKF, our main goal is to promote specific philanthropic causes including children, medicine, veterans, and the community. We conduct rigorous stewardship of all grants, donations, and gifts.

How do you start a family foundation?

It is relatively simple to establish the entity of a family foundation. The IRS has a complete set of steps and rules to follow, including the required rates of giving each year. We filed the necessary documents with the IRS to establish The Jack Kagan Foundation with Jack’s estate and assets forming the trust. His surviving children serve as Trustees – governing the mission, priorities, and making grant decisions. We retain an attorney to ensure our legal compliance, a CPA as necessary for tax purposes, with all other time spent on foundation business volunteered by the family.


The Jack Kagan Foundation was established as a private family foundation to continue and expand the philanthropic work that Jack Kagan himself conducted during his lifetime. He focused on helping others in need through organizations that had proven success.

To learn more about the Jack Kagan Foundation and to support our family foundation’s efforts, click here.


Service Dogs vs. Companion Dogs: What’s the Difference?

Dog paw resting on human hand

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole” – Roger Caras

This quote resonates with our team here at the Jack Kagan Foundation. As animal lovers and advocates, we understand the many ways dogs can have a positive impact on people’s lives. Not only can dogs be used for emotional support and stress relief, but dogs are also capable of detecting serious medical issues. They have been providing much-needed assistance to individuals with disabilities since at least the early 1700s.

But it wasn’t until World War I that the modern guide dog movement began. Mustard gas left many young veterans permanently blind and in need of trained guide dogs to navigate their new world. Since then, dogs have been used for a variety of support purposes and types. For example, there are therapy dogs who visit or work in a healthcare or educational setting, The majority however are service dogs and companion dogs. These terms are often confused and erroneously considered to mean the same, but there are important distinctions between service dogs and companion dogs. These distinctions have been written into law through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


Disabled veteran with his service dog
Pictured above: Charlie Linville, disabled Marine Corps veteran injured on duty in Afghanistan, and his service dog Devon. Devon was specially trained and provided to Devon by Canine Companions for Independence.

Service Dogs/Assistance Dogs

The ADA defines a service dog as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” This can include a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or any other mental disability. The term service dog is used interchangeably with assistance dog.

Service dogs, then, are specially trained to perform one or many specific tasks for their assigned individual. Tasks performed by a service dog include but are not limited to:

  • Guiding people who are blind
  • Alerting people who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Pulling a wheelchair and/or assisting the individual in a wheelchair
  • Alerting and protecting a person who is having, or are about to have, a seizure
  • Assisting those with balance and stability issues
  • Reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications
  • Interrupting impulsive or destructive behavior of those with neurological disabilities or other psychiatric issues
  • Helping veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome by turning on lights, creating a buffer in public, and interrupting anxiety attacks or nightmares.

Companion Dogs/Emotional Support Dogs

Companion dogs, on the other hand, may not be specially trained to perform any specific task. While their designation must be supported by a qualified physician, psychiatrist, or other mental health profession, they are NOT considered service dogs under the ADA and do not have access into public places. The principal service that these animals perform is emotional support to those suffering from anxiety disorders and to provide basic companionship. The Fair Housing Act does permit them to live in non-pet housing.

Service dogs are trained to behave impeccably in public. Companion dogs may or may not be as well-behaved in a crowd, and can be virtually indistinguishable from pets.

Our Foundation

Whether they are service or companion dogs, our Foundation recognizes the positive impact these animals have on people’s lives. Jack Kagan personally witnessed dogs improving the lives of many he served with during WWII. We support organizations that train and provide service animals to people in need, including Canine Companions For Independence, and Assistance Dogs Of The West.

If you’re interested in supporting a variety of organizations that help provide service dogs to veterans and other individuals in need, consider donating to the Jack Kagan Foundation today.

Assistance Dogs of the West
Pictured above: disabled woman is handed a leash by her service dog. This dog was specially trained and provided to the owner by Assistance Dogs of the West.