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Women's Endowment Fund celebrates $1 million grant milestone

Fund announces impact grants to address infant mortality crisis in Summit County

Impact grants totaling $50,000 were awarded to programs that help reduce Summit County’s infant mortality rate by addressing key issues identified during the fund’s 2017 Forum on Women and Girls.

AKRON, Ohio (March 6, 2018) – The Women’s Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation is celebrating $1 million in grants to programs that uplift and empower women and girls throughout Greater Akron.

The fund awarded $178,000 to 22 nonprofit organizations on Friday, bringing its cumulative grantmaking total to more than $1.1 million. This latest round of grants represents the largest amount awarded in a single year in the Women’s Endowment Fund’s 25-year history. Fund officials will announce the grants in front of an audience of 600 community leaders and philanthropists at the fund’s “For Women, Forever” annual dinner March 6.

Four impact grants totaling $50,000 were awarded this year to programs that help reduce Summit County’s infant mortality rate by addressing key issues identified during the fund’s 2017 Forum on Women and Girls. These issues – including access to care, maternal stress and poverty – contribute to pre-term birth and other leading causes of infant mortality.

“As a community, we’ve spent a lot of time and money talking about infant mortality and dealing with the challenges of this painful topic,” said Laurie Zuckerman, president of Zuckerman Consulting Group Inc. and moderator of the 2017 forum. “Much is happening, and despite that, there’s still a lot left to go. We are here to move the needle even a little bit.”

A $14,820 grant to Community Legal Aid Services will expand the agency’s advocacy services for low-income black mothers in West Akron, where infant mortality rates for black babies are double the rate of their white counterparts.

“Infant mortality rates for black mothers in West Akron are staggeringly high compared to national rates for all races and local rates for white women,” said Marie Curry, managing attorney of Community Legal Aid Services’ medical-legal partnership. “Specialized local initiatives are making positive progress, but rates are still high.”

Community Legal Aid Services will collaborate with Summit County’s Pathways Community HUB to reach women who need legal assistance with unsafe housing, loss of public assistance, victimization and institutional racism – all significant factors in infant mortality.

“These issues can cause chronic medical conditions and toxic stress levels, and their resolution improves health outcomes,” Curry said.

Other grants from the Women’s Endowment Fund this year will support mental health programs for homeless youth, job skills training for women recovering from addiction and more.

“How humbling it is to be able to serve the Women’s Endowment Fund and our grantees in this way,” said Jackie McDermott, co-chair of the fund’s Grants Committee. “These grantees all reflect our mission of supporting the health and wellness, safety from violence and economic empowerment of women and girls.”      

The following is a full list of organizations receiving grants in 2018:

ACCESS, to support arts-based mental health programs for homeless youth, $10,000

Battered Women’s Shelter, to support protective shelter services for victims of domestic violence and their children, $10,000

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Western Reserve, for the SMART Girls program, which equips girls to make healthy lifestyle choices and builds their self-esteem, $5,000

Building for Tomorrow, to support the Reach Opportunity Center, which helps families in the Summit Lake neighborhood rise above poverty by providing job readiness programs for women and preparing young children for kindergarten, $10,000

Cleveland Clinic Akron General, to provide neighborhood-based perinatal education to women at risk of premature birth, with a focus on progesterone treatment, smoking cessation and safe sleep practices, $20,180

Community Legal Aid Services, to reduce infant mortality rates in West Akron by providing critical legal services to women who are facing unsafe housing conditions, loss of public assistance, and institutional racism, $14,820

DAWN: Developing Alternatives for Women in New Communities, to support a leadership training program for refugee women living in Summit County, $8,300

Girl Scouts of North East Ohio, to support an after-school leadership and empowerment program for girls in Akron Public Schools, $5,000

H.M. Life Opportunity Services, to help previously homeless, single mothers overcome addiction through secure housing, recovery-based support groups and parenting education, $20,000

Info Line, to increase awareness of resources that support healthy babies through 2-1-1, and to develop a screening protocol for families at risk of infant mortality, $5,000

I Promise School, Akron Public Schools, to empower girls to pursue careers in STEM fields through after-school programs that foster innovation and creativity, $5,000

Kent State University Foundation, for the SUN Shine program, which teaches African-American girls healthy strategies for coping with stress and anxiety, $10,000

OPEN M, to help women in poverty become economically self-sufficient through a financial literacy and job mentoring program, $5,000

Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, to teach girls in Akron-area high schools about healthy relationships, birth control and sexually transmitted infections using an evidence-based, LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, $10,000

RAHAB Ministries, to provide safe housing and trauma counseling for victims of sex trafficking, $5,000

Rape Crisis Center, to prevent dating and sexual violence by educating middle and high school students about bullying, consent and healthy relationships, $8,000

South Street Ministries, to support Girls Studio, an arts-based mentoring program for teenage girls in the Summit Lake neighborhood, $3,000

Stewart’s Caring Place, to provide wigs and beauty services for women on a cancer journey, $1,700

Students With A Goal, for Girls Circle, a discussion group for adolescent girls in the Summit Lake neighborhood that promotes healthy lifestyle choices, pregnancy prevention, entrepreneurship and personal accountability, $2,000

Summit County Public Health, to support infant mortality education and awareness in high-risk areas of Summit County, $10,000

Victim Assistance Program, to provide 24-hour crisis response services for victims of crime and trauma in Summit County, $5,000

Women's Network, to support research on gender equity in leadership, $5,000

About the Women’s Endowment Fund
The Women’s Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation was established in 1993 as a permanent endowment committed to encouraging the advancement of women and girls in Summit County. To date, it has grown to more than $3.5 million and awarded more than $1.1 million in grants. Contributions of any amount are welcome and can be made online at www.akroncf.org/give/WEF or mailed to Women’s Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation, 345 W. Cedar St., Akron, OH 44307. For more information, call 330-376-8522 or visit www.womensendowmentfund.org.

About Akron Community Foundation
Celebrating 62 years of building community philanthropy, Akron Community Foundation embraces and enhances the work of charitable people who make a permanent commitment to the good of the community. In 1955, a $1 million bequest from the estate of Edwin Shaw established the community foundation. As of Dec. 31, 2017, it is a philanthropic endowment of more than $222 million with a growing family of more than 590 funds established by charitable people and organizations from all walks of life. The community foundation and its funds welcome gifts of all kinds, including cash, bequests, stock, real estate, life insurance and retirement assets, just to name a few. To date, the community foundation’s funds have awarded more than $150 million in grants to qualified nonprofit organizations. For more information about Akron Community Foundation or to learn more about creating your own charitable fund, call 330-376-8522 or visit www.akroncf.org.