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Millennium Fund preserves founders’ passion for helping kids

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Jan Leach
Jan Leach

In 1999, the Millennium Fund for Children was just a glimmer in the eye of former Akron Beacon Journal editor Jan Leach.

The paper had just published a series of articles on the needs of local children, most notably those affected by shaken baby syndrome.

The topic lay heavy on her heart.

"I always felt newspapers should pay close attention to the children and the under-served in the community who don’t have a voice of their own," she said. "We were very interested in the well-being of children in the area."

Around that same time, former Beacon Journal publisher John Dotson and then-Akron Community Foundation president Jody Bacon attended a conference designed to encourage the exchange of ideas about local philanthropy. In the midst of all the discussions, one simple idea stood out: Ask people to donate their last hour’s pay of the 20th century to benefit children in the 21st century and beyond.

Then and there, the Millennium Fund for Children was born.

"It became very clear that it was a great idea," Jan said. "We really liked it, and we thought we could do it with the resources of the community foundation."

The concept caught on immediately, so Jan, John, Jody and a handful of residents set out to develop a focus. Jan and John’s unique insight from years working in local news led the group to a single deserving focus: grassroots children’s causes.

On Thanksgiving 1999, Akron Beacon Journal and Akron Community Foundation announced the establishment of the Millennium Fund for Children, a permanent endowment to improve the lives of children in the Akron Beacon Journal’s five-county circulation area.

More than a decade has passed since the fund was created, but its core purpose remains the same: using small grants to make a big difference. Nearly half a million dollars in grants have fed hungry infants, provided beds to children in foster care, engaged young students with live theater, and much more.

And the need is growing. This year, grant requests to the Millennium Fund totaled more than $83,000 – a 13 percent increase over 2011. But with your help – and the gifts of thousands of people across greater Akron – more grants are being awarded each year to meet those needs.

"Some of the issues we wrote about … in 1999 are the same today; they may even be more acute," she said. "Every year, we see dozens of good programs seeking help. Every year, we have to turn down some of these worthy programs. With the uneven economy and cutbacks from state and government agencies, there is probably an even greater need."

Even a small gift can make a big difference: $50 can teach a refugee child English; $35 can supply a year’s worth of milk to a needy child; and $5 can help a child victim of violence experience a carefree day of food, music and fun with local first responders. Go online and give today at www.akroncf.org/give/millennium.

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