In 1955, Edwin Shaw’s bequest of $1,033,533 established Akron Community Trusts, now Akron Community Foundation, a place where charitable people from all walks of life join together to improve their community forever.
According to Shaw’s will, the community foundation would "meet the changes in the community needs brought about by the passage of time and the variance in circumstances." This included grants for the health, educational, cultural and welfare needs primarily, but not exclusively, of Summit County, Ohio.
May 21, 1955
Papers of incorporation establish Akron Community Trusts with the estate of former B.F. Goodrich Vice President Edwin Shaw. Shaw’s goal was to create a way for residents to help meet the changing needs of the Greater Akron community.
June 8, 1955 – total assets $1.04 million
Founding trustees gathered for the first board meeting at Shaw’s former residence on North Portage Path. Those trustees were:
- John L. Collyer, board chairman of B.F. Goodrich Co.
- Bert A. Polsky, board chairman of Polsky’s department store
- J.P. Seiberling, president and board chairman of Seiberling Rubber Co.
- Harvey S. Firestone Jr., chairman of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.
- Paul A. Frank, president of National Rubber Machinery Co.
- John S. Knight, president and editor of the Akron Beacon Journal and publisher of Knight Newspapers Inc.
- P.W. Litchfield, board chairman of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
- W.B. McIntosh, executive director of the C.W. Seiberling Memorial Foundation
- William O’Neil, president of General Tire & Rubber Co.
The community foundation receives an initial $776,552 from Shaw’s estate. George Oenslager and Frank Van Cleef, co-executors of Shaw’s estate, join John L. Collyer, Paul A. Frank, P.W. Litchfield, W.B. McIntosh, William O’Neil, Bert A. Polsky and Lisle M. Buckingham around the dining room table at Shaw’s former estate at 618 N. Portage Path. There, they conduct an organizational meeting of Akron Community Trusts. The following officers were elected: W.B. McIntosh as executive director and treasurer; Bert A. Polsky as president; Paul A. Frank as vice president; and Lisle M. Buckingham as legal counsel and secretary.
Forrest D. Myers, local realtor and "insurance man," is appointed trustee by Summit County Probate Judge Vincent Zurz.
Oct. 13, 1955
The community foundation receives an additional $264,310 upon becoming the sole trustee of the Edwin Shaw Estate.
Nov. 21, 1955
Paul E. Belcher is appointed trustee by executive members of the United Foundation.
June 1957 – total assets $1.2 million
The community foundation makes a $10,000 grant to underwrite the University of Akron’s Committee on the Educational Forecast, which studied what the university needed to do to meet the community’s needs during the next decade. This included projections for enrollment, curriculum, faculty, instruction, finance, facilities and administration. According to then university President Norman Auburn, the work funded by the community foundation "set the stage" for the university’s conversion from municipal to state status.
June 2, 1959 – total assets $1.3 million
Paul A. Frank is elected second president of the community foundation. E.J. Thomas fills the vacancy left open after the death of P.W. Litchfield.
Outgoing president Polsky calls the community foundation "the ideal vehicle for public-spirited citizens who wish to donate or bequest a sum for community betterment." He promised donors would receive "able and experienced" handling of funds and "continuity of administration; diversification of investment; and careful, faithful and intelligent distribution of income."
Feb. 8, 1961
The community foundation makes a $30,000 grant to Visiting Nurse Service for a home health care pilot program. The services developed out of this pilot program received complete certification from the Social Security Administration, enabling Visiting Nurse Service to provide Medicare services to homebound patients all over Summit County once the government’s health care program was established.
A $15,000 grant to the American Medical College Association funds a study that led to the establishment of what is now Northeast Ohio Medical University.
The Akron Board of Education receives $27,000 for a pilot work-study program and $37,360 for its Lane Community School, which laid the groundwork for the Adult Education Program.
The Akron Board of Education receives a grant of $2,732.78 to start a pre-kindergarten program, which becomes the model upon which the federal Head Start program is instituted. It is the first such grant in U.S. history.
1965 – total assets $1.5 million
The community foundation makes a $10,000 grant to the Akron Board of Education to restore Old Stone School.
The community foundation contributes $20,000 toward the eventual construction of Blossom Music Center. It also makes a $12,943 grant to Akron Public Schools to establish a summer park education program.
The community foundation moves into free office space at the III Cascade Branch of Goodyear Bank.
On July 1, the community foundation moves into the executive offices of Akron National Bank and Trust Company at I Cascade, which the bank provided at no charge.
The community foundation grants $19,500 to Akron Public Schools to underwrite a special needs program for handicapped students and extend day programs to junior high students. It also makes a $10,000 grant to Summit County Historical Society to plan Akron’s 1975 sesquicentennial celebration.
The University of Akron opens E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, named for the former Goodyear CEO and past community foundation trustee, following a $50,000 grant from the foundation.
The community foundation makes an $85,620 grant—the largest in its history at that time—to Akron Children’s Hospital for its Advanced Medical Research Laboratory Program. This enables the hospital to secure a federal grant of $850,000.
1975 – total assets $2.1 million
Akron celebrates its 150th anniversary as Ohio's "City at the Summit." The community foundation makes $15,000 in grants to support the sesquicentennial celebration.
The community foundation moves its offices to the eighth floor of I Cascade, where Akron Regional Development Board, Downtown Association, Knight Foundation and Goals for Greater Akron had their offices.
1978 – total assets $2.4 million
The community foundation distributes $213,022 in grants, an all-time high at that point.
The community foundation makes the first of two $25,000 grants to fund the restoration and renovation of Akron Civic Theatre.
The community foundation pledges $112,380 to Edwin Shaw Hospital to purchase rehabilitation equipment. It is the largest grant in its 25-year history. That year, it also made grants of $14,000 for Akron General’s blood pheresis program for cancer treatment and $10,000 for orthopaedic research at Akron City Hospital.
On Sept. 24, Akron Community Trusts changes its name to Akron Community Foundation.
1985 – total assets $4.7 million
May 13, 1988
More than 800 people attend the "Evening of Music and Memories" at Akron Civic Theatre, the proceeds of which help establish the Lisle M. Buckingham Fund of Akron Community Foundation. Mr. Buckingham, 92 at the time of the celebration, was the first secretary of Akron Community Trusts. The evening culminates with the presentation of a check for $125,000 to the community foundation.
1990 – total assets $16.8 million
Gordon Heffern, former CEO of Society Corp. (now KeyCorp), becomes president and chief executive officer of Akron Community Foundation after a restructuring by the 18-member board. Jody Bacon joins the community foundation as executive vice president after heading the Jackson Community Foundation in Michigan since 1981. That same year, Heffern moves ACF’s offices into a larger space in the Society Building.
Three new affiliate funds are established at the community foundation to meet the needs of specific groups of people: the Medina County Community Fund, the Women’s Endowment Fund and the Vernon L. Odom Fund.
The John A. McAlonan Trust is transferred to the community foundation. Its $4.74 million gift becomes the community foundation’s largest single gift in nearly 40 years of existence. In addition, the John S. Knight Center, named for one of the foundation's first trustees, opens in downtown Akron following a grant from the community foundation.
1995 – total assets $32.1 million
June 8, 1997
Akron Community Foundation breaks ground on its new building at 345 W. Cedar St.
June 25, 1998 – total assets $66.7 million
Akron Community Foundation cuts the ribbon for its new building at the annual meeting.
The Medina County Women’s Endowment Fund is established to support programs that create opportunities for the educational, physical, emotional, social, artistic and personal growth of women and children in Medina County.
Nov. 30, 1998
The community foundation holds its first day of operations at its new office.
In partnership with the Akron Beacon Journal, Akron Community Foundation establishes the Millennium Fund for Children to support grassroots children’s programs in the newspaper’s circulation area.
The Gay Community Endowment Fund is established to support programs and services that positively impact the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, as well as the entire Greater Akron community.
Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, FirstMerit Bank and the Akron Beacon Journal create the Fire Truck Fund at Akron Community Foundation. Nearly 55,000 people donate $1.39 million, which is used to purchase two EMS vehicles, three SUV police cruisers, and a 95-foot ladder truck for the New York City Fire Department.
Akron Community Foundation, Coming Together Akron, the Akron Beacon Journal, FirstMerit Bank and the Summit County chapter of the American Red Cross raise nearly $500,000 to distribute to victims of the tsunami in Indonesia.
2005 – total assets $116.6 million
Akron Community Foundation works with the city of Akron, the Akron Beacon Journal, FirstMerit Bank and the Summit County chapter of the American Red Cross to start a fund to help people affected by Hurricane Katrina. The partners raise nearly $900,000 to purchase a refrigerated box truck, delivery van, pallet jack and more for the food bank serving Biloxi, Miss.
John T. Petures Jr. becomes president and CEO of Akron Community Foundation.
Akron Community Foundation renovates its office on West Cedar Street to better serve donors and nonprofit organizations.
Medical Mutual of Ohio breaks community foundation records by donating $5 million to establish the Medical Mutual Community Investment Fund. The gift becomes the largest in the community foundation’s history to that point and is one of a record 40 funds established that year. Through it, the company created a local legacy to fund its corporate charity in Summit County.
2013 – total assets $150.2 million
The IBH Foundation makes the largest gift in Akron Community Foundation history of $12 million. The endowment fund provides predictable income for IBH Addiction Recovery Center and related programs.
A fire breaks out at the community foundation overnight, causing major damage to the majority of the building and requiring a 10-month renovation.
On March 31, 2014, the Knight Foundation establishes a record-breaking fund at the community foundation in honor of its outgoing board chair and former Akron Community Foundation board chair, Robert Briggs. The Robert W. Briggs Fund becomes the 41st fund established at the community foundation, breaking the record of 40 new funds started in fiscal year 2012.
A committed group of residents establishes the Bath Community Fund to preserve the history, beauty and legacy of Bath Township for generations to come.
Renovations to the foundation’s office are complete following the January 2014 fire.
June 2015 – total assets $191.6 million
Local fundholders, leaders and nonprofits celebrate Akron Community Foundation's 60th anniversary with pop-up parties across the community.
Joe Kanfer establishes the community foundation's 500th fund after being selected as the Bert A. Polsky Humanitarian Award recipient.
The community foundation celebrates record new funds and grants at its annual meeting. For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016, 50 new funds were established and $9.5 million was made in grants and distributions – the highest single-year totals in the organization's history.
Summit Metro Parks establishes a fund with $3.5 million – the second largest establishing gift for an agency endowment fund in the community foundation's history.
March 2017 – total assets $177.2 million
Foundation sets all-time high for grants and distributions at $11.4 million for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017.
The first On the Table Greater Akron community conversations are held around Summit and Medina counties, thanks to funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The feedback received from these conversations will help inform future proactive grantmaking.
At the end of the fiscal year, the community foundation distributed a record $13.2 million in grants back into the community, bringing the lifetime total of grants to more than $150 million.
During that time, the foundation also set a new record for the number of funds established in a fiscal year, with 51 new funds. The Summit County Police & Fire Community Engagement Fund, which helps local safety forces participate in community outreach initiatives, was the 600th fund established at the community foundation.
Akron Community Foundation launches The Center for Family Philanthropy, a resource center for the region’s charitable families.
The community foundation’s first round of capital improvement grants are awarded to 27 local organizations.
The community foundation breaks ground on a 2,500-square-foot expansion and renovation.
September 2019 – total assets nearly $225 million
The community foundation awards its first round of proactive grants to organizations addressing three key issues: the aging senior population; drugs and addiction; and diversity, equity and social inclusion. A total of $500,000 in grants is planned over a three-year period.
The community celebrates the 50th year of the Bert A. Polsky Humanitarian Award. Originating with what is now the Greater Akron Chamber, the award was inherited by Akron Community Foundation in 1990.
Akron Community Foundation establishes the Community Response Fund for Nonprofits to provide flexible resources to nonprofit organizations in Summit and Medina counties working on the front lines of educating, engaging and supporting individuals impacted by the coronavirus.