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Community Response Fund for Nonprofits grants distributed, focus expanded to support programs that combat systemic racism

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The Community Response Fund for Nonprofits at Akron Community Foundation has provided over half a million dollars in funding since it was established in early March. Originally established to provide flexible resources to area nonprofits facing hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fund has since expanded to help direct changes that encourage greater community inclusion and equity for all in the region.  

During the seventh round of grants from this fund, $96,500 was awarded to 27 local nonprofits, with more than $60,000 of that total going toward diversity, equity and inclusion-based initiatives. 

"The unrest and divisions we continue to see across our country simply reinforce the need for continued investment in programs and services that promote equity and inclusion," said John T. Petures Jr., president and CEO of Akron Community Foundation. "Modifying our Community Response Fund for Nonprofits grantmaking to include efforts that move us toward the dismantling of systemic and historical racism is absolutely necessary. This is just one of the first steps of meaningful action we’re taking as an organization to foster a more inclusive community."

This round of funding includes a $5,000 grant to Akron Public Schools to establish Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). 

"These groups will create an open and inclusive environment that encourages input from others, integrates global perspectives, values the contribution of employees who champion diversity and drive the initiatives," said Peggy Greiner, grants manager for Akron Public Schools. "ERGs will raise awareness and address systemic and structural inequities by giving voice to advocates for change."

In June, Akron Public Schools’ Board of Education passed a resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis, and is working to address a long history of racism and racial disparities that have adversely impacted educational and economic outcomes for many minority groups, specifically Black citizens, in Greater Akron.  

An additional $5,000 was awarded to Project Ujima to support its race dialogue discussions and training efforts. Project Ujima provides trained facilitators to lead race dialogues for Akron-area groups and organizations. These dialogues address structural racism, implicit bias and cultural competency through discussion circles, enabling diverse citizens to come together, consider issues of shared concern, develop relationships of trust, discover common ground, and collectively move from talk to action.  

Akron Community Foundation has seen the benefit of these discussions firsthand, following staff discussions facilitated by Project Ujima at the beginning of 2020.  

"As our organization began looking at a more intentional approach to diversity, equity and inclusion a few years back we realized we first needed to look inward," said Petures. "Project Ujima is among a number of organizations we’ve worked with for this purpose, and the discussion circles they led for our staff helped us forge a deeper understanding of each other and our cultural competency at both the individual and organizational level."

Another $5,000 grant was awarded to Akron Civic Theatre to support production of and outreach for Millennial Theatre Project's "Say It Loud" presentation, which explores attitudes about race and equality in our community. 

The production was created by Maya Nicholson and Francine Parr and based on testimonials about race from nearly 200 individuals who responded to a survey or participated in personal interviews conducted by Nicholson and Parr. "Say It Loud" will reflect on how the Akron community feels about the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, redlining, and other racial issues the community faces. 

For more information about the Community Response Fund for Nonprofits or to see the full list of grants it has distributed since its establishment in March, visit www.akroncf.org/communityresponsefundinfo.  

Below is a complete list of the seventh round of grants awarded:   

Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank, to support diversity training for hunger relief efforts, $2,500

Akron Civic Theatre, to support production of and outreach for Millennial Theatre Project's "Say It Loud," which explores attitudes about race and equality in our community, $5,000  

Akron Public Schools, to establish Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to help identify and address disparities, engage employees and raise awareness about systemic and structural inequities, $5,000 

Akron-Summit County Public Library, to support safety measures needed at all library locations which opened in July, $5,000 

Akron Urban League, to educate minority communities on their rights to vote and support Make Black Count, an effort to get a complete count of Black Americans in the 2020 Census, $2,500 

Antioch Baptist Church, to provide a low-cost disinfecting and sanitizing solution for local churches and other local faith-based organizations, $3,000 

Apollo's Fire the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, to support the Mosaic Project in Summit County, which nurtures future musicians of color through a pipeline approach – reaching children, teens and young adults at multiple points throughout their development, $2,000 

ArtsNow, to support the Community Circles and Statements of Equity: Arts and Culture project, which ensures mutual support, education and professional development resources, and visibility for minority artists, $5,000  

Battered Women's Shelter, to facilitate a committee to review the agency and develop a strategic plan for corrective actions for any deficiencies in diversity, $3,000  

Birthing Beautiful Communities, to support expectant and new parents who are COVID-19 positive or are identified as high-risk for contracting the virus, $2,000  

Bounce Innovation Hub, to support the minority-focused business program Generating Real Opportunities and Wealth (GROW), $5,000  

Community Legal Aid Services, to create a diversity, equity, and inclusion plan to guide improvement and better serve its clients, $5,000  

Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, to support diversity, equity, and inclusion board development, $2,500  

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, to resume train rides that have been put on hold due to COVID-19, $2,500  

ECDI, to support underserved small businesses impacted by COVID-19 in Greater Akron, $3,000  

Global Ties Akron, to support the transition to virtual services for community programming, $3,000  

International Soap Box Derby, to support at-home STEM education programs for students of Firestone Park, Sam Salem, and Innes, $3,000  

Journey Covenant Church, to purchase personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies needed during COVID-19, $2,500  

Limitless Ambition, to supply girls in Summit County who are impacted by trauma with "Dream Kits," duffle bags including self-guided curriculum workbooks, positive affirmation cards, personal hygiene products, and more, $2,000  

Portage Path Collaborative, to support North American First People's Day, presenting first-person accounts from members of various Indigenous nations to local students, $5,000  

Project Ujima, to support race dialogue discussions and training, $5,000  

Revere Power Pack Program, to provide food to local families in need, $3,000 

South Street Ministries, to support the Embodied Cause program to facilitate training on issues of race and address racism education through authentic sharing and activism, $5,000 

Summit County Community Partnership, to provide small businesses with tools to identify emerging behavioral health needs of employees, $2,500  

Summit Food Coalition, to support racial equity training and host conversations on its implications for food justice, $2,500  

VANTAGE Aging, to purchase personal protective equipment, $2,500; and to support diversity, equity and inclusion training for staff, $2,500 

Victim Assistance Program, to support an organizational Racial Equity Institute (REI) assessment to improve service to Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities in Summit County, $5,000 

About Akron Community Foundation  
Celebrating 65 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. It is a philanthropic endowment of nearly $222.5 million with a growing family of more than 670 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 nearly $177 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.  

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