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Vernon L. Odom Fund awards $10,000 in grants


Grants will support after-school mentoring programs, a new art exhibit and more

Vernon L. Odom Fund logo

On Friday, March 3, the Vernon L. Odom Fund of Akron Community Foundation awarded $10,000 in grants to programs dedicated to enriching the quality of life among local communities of color.

The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Zeta Theta Omega Chapter, is a first-time applicant and grant recipient this year. The organization received a $1,000 grant for a leadership institute called "Perfecting Our Pearls" that will foster the next generation of young women leaders.

Dana Kaye LaGarde, the chairperson of the leadership institute, explained how the program will address a variety of challenges affecting young women in their daily lives. "The program's ultimate goal is to provide a holistic approach to help the participants succeed in all aspects of their lives, from giving foundational strategies to build leadership skills to confronting challenges such as bullying, lack of mentorship, inability to identify mental health resources, lack of opportunities to develop future goals and community violence," she said.

A portion of this year's funding will support programs that promote the fine arts and the benefits of creative expression for young people. A $500 grant to Dancing Classrooms Northeast Ohio will allow the organization to continue its work with Akron Public Schools to improve the educational experience of students in kindergarten through fifth grade by encouraging confidence, teamwork, social skills and more. An additional $500 grant to South Akron Youth Mentorship will promote effective decision-making and teamwork through the exploration of the visual and musical arts. Art lovers of all ages will benefit from a $1,000 grant to Summit Artspace for an exhibition by local artist Crystal Miller centering the Black experience.

The following is a complete list of the 11 organizations that received a grant from the Vernon L. Odom Fund in 2023:

Akron Inner City Soccer Club, to support an after-school soccer program for low-income families in Akron, $1,000

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Zeta Theta Omega Chapter, to support "Perfecting Our Pearls," a youth leadership program that will provide young women from diverse backgrounds with education and mentorship, while improving their self-esteem, $1,000

Dancing Classrooms Northeast Ohio, to support social-emotional learning for Akron Public Schools students through a ballroom dance residency program, $500

Girls on the Run Northeast Ohio, to increase representation of volunteer coaches from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds by providing stipends to remove child care and transportation barriers, $1,000

Law and Leadership Institute, to support a tuition-free, four-year college preparatory program for promising high school students who are at risk of not graduating high school or attending college, $1,000

Limitless Ambition, to support a mother-daughter brunch event that will help Summit County mothers strengthen their relationship with their teenage daughters, $1,000

South Akron Youth Mentorship, to support a series of fine arts workshops that empower students in Southeast Akron to express themselves through creativity, overcome challenging tasks, and collaborate with their peers, $500

South Street Ministries, to support an after-school enrichment program that provides literacy and life skills training for elementary school students in the Summit Lake and South Akron neighborhoods, $1,000

Summit Artspace, to support the installation of "Black Spaces: Defying Social Constructs," an exhibition by local artist Crystal Miller that explores the Black experience through an Afrofuturistic lens, $1,000

University of Akron Foundation, to establish the National Society of Black Engineers Jr. at Buchtel CLC to encourage academic excellence, college readiness and an interest in STEM careers among Black students, $1,000

Williams Challenge, to strengthen families by providing a six-week fatherhood mentoring program at no cost to absent and recently incarcerated fathers, $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 $226,000 while awarding over $225,000 in grants to innovative programs that promote ethnic and racial harmony and improve the quality of life within Greater Akron's communities of color. For more information about the Vernon L. Odom Fund or to contribute, visit or call 330-376-8522.

About Akron Community Foundation
Celebrating 67 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 $260 million with a growing family of more than 810 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 $217 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

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