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Vernon L. Odom Fund grants support diversity initiatives

Father holding his toddler son
Two of this year's grants supported mentoring programs that help at-risk fathers develop healthy relationships with their children.

AKRON, Ohio (March 5, 2019) – On Friday, March 1, the Vernon L. Odom Fund of Akron Community Foundation awarded $8,750 in grants to programs that promote diversity and enrich the quality of life within local minority communities. 

Two of this year’s grants will support mentoring programs that help at-risk fathers develop healthy relationships with their children. A $1,000 grant to Williams Challenge will support the Man2Man Fatherhood Initiative Program, which offers parenting classes and mentoring services for fathers who have been incarcerated or otherwise absent from their children’s lives. The grant will help fathers overcome barriers to parenting, including securing employment, gaining visitation rights and navigating the court system. 

“Man2Man addresses each father’s individual needs, such as housing, employment, mental health or being behind in child support,” said Frank Williams, president of Williams Challenge. “Our goal is to strengthen families and improve the life skills of fathers in our program.”

Similarly, a $1,000 grant was awarded to Embrace Clinic & Care Center in Barberton for its Steadfast Fathers classes. Led by trained male mentors, this series of classes equips fathers to connect with and care for their children. In addition to learning parenting and communication skills, fathers also receive help getting their driver’s license reinstated, applying for jobs and more.

“We believe these men deserve the support and guidance they need to be a successful father,” said Lisa Holl, director of community relations at Embrace Clinic & Care Center. “Our mentors have the training and life experience to help these men grow to their full potential and achieve their goals.”

Both organizations are partners of the Summit County Fatherhood Initiative, a collaboration spearheaded by Akron Community Foundation in 2013 to reduce father absenteeism in Greater Akron.

Other grants awarded this year will support year-round soccer programs for inner-city youth, introduce minority students to STEM careers, and build positive relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

The following is a full list of Vernon L. Odom Fund grants:

Akron Inner City Soccer Club, for a year-round, after-school soccer program for inner-city youth, $1,000

Centenary United Methodist Church, to support a drama camp for at-risk youth in Akron’s Lane-Wooster neighborhood, $750

Dancing Classrooms Northeast Ohio, to support a ballroom dancing program for fifth-grade students at Leggett Community Learning Center that teaches teamwork, self-confidence and respect, $1,000

Dreams Academy, to support a mentoring program for African-American male youth that builds problem solving, financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills, $1,000

Embrace Clinic & Care Center, for a fatherhood mentoring program that equips fathers to connect with and care for their children, $1,000

First Tee of Akron, for the 2019 Putting with the Police event, which aims to build trust between law enforcement officers and the southwest Akron community through an informal golf competition and outreach activities, $1,000 

University of Akron Foundation, to support a workshop that introduces African-American middle school students to STEM fields, $1,000 

Williams Challenge, for a fatherhood education and mentoring program that gives at-risk and absent fathers the support they need to develop positive relationships with their children, $1,000

World Relief Akron, to support an English as a Second Language tutoring program for refugees, $1,000

About the Vernon L. Odom Fund
The Vernon L. Odom Fund was established in 1993 in honor of the late Vernon L. Odom Sr., respected longtime leader of the Akron Urban League. Since its inception, the fund has grown to more than $200,000 and awarded more than $185,000 in grants to innovative programs that promote ethnic and racial harmony and improve the quality of life within Greater Akron’s minority communities. For more information about the Vernon L. Odom Fund or to contribute, visit www.akroncf.org/Odom or call 330-376-8522.

About Akron Community Foundation
Celebrating 63 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, 2018, it is a philanthropic endowment of nearly $205 million with a growing family of more than 630 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 $160 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.