Wean Foundation hosts Akron Peers for Learning Visit

May 25, 2022 (Warren, Ohio) – The Raymond John Wean Foundation hosted the Mahoning Valley Community Development Learning Visit on Wednesday, May 18 offering their Akron peers the opportunity to learn more about the strategic partnership between the Wean Foundation, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership (TNP) and Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC).

The Akron group included representatives from Akron Community Foundation, the City of Akron, GAR Foundation and Huntington Bank, who are consulting with Joel Ratner, former Wean president, to build their community development organizations. During the day-long visit, the group toured TNP, visited the Wean Foundation for a panel discussion and wrapped up the day with a tour of YNDC.

During a panel discussion, Jennifer Roller, Wean Foundation president, Matt Martin, TNP executive director and Ian Beniston, YNDC executive director shared with the group how the strategic partner relationship has developed over the past decade and the efforts to ensure the work in communities persists. Roller comments, “Resident-centered neighborhood revitalization, that’s our collective vision.”

“We are incredibly impressed by the resourcefulness and partnership among the Wean Foundation, TNP and YNDC. GAR Foundation is working to advance equitable community development in our hometown of Akron. We fully plan to incorporate many of the strategies we learned about to improve our community’s capacity to engage, listen to and uplift residents in this work,” says Bronlynn Thurman, program officer at GAR Foundation.

Both Martin and Beniston shared with the group that they were able to leverage the Wean Foundation’s initial multi-year commitment with other funders to build capacity and continue to grow their respective organizations. “I keep stating it, but it was that long-term commitment from the Wean Foundation that allowed us to continue to grow and look ahead beyond one year,” said Martin.

The group plans to visit other cities in the state to see how funders in those areas work with their Community Development Corporations (CDCs).

“This visit allowed us to see how other communities are developing stronger funder/agency partnerships to improve the community. The work that is taking place in Warren and Youngstown is transformational to those communities and we walked away with a renewed energy to continue building those bonds with our CDCs who are working on similar programs and services in Akron,” says John Garofalo, vice president of community investment at the Akron Community Foundation.


About the Wean Foundation: The Raymond John Wean Foundation is dedicated to community-building in underresourced communities of Warren and Youngstown in Ohio’s Mahoning Valley. The Foundation leverages a dynamic combination of grantmaking, capacity building, convening and partnerships to provoke new thinking, strengthen communities and disrupt the status quo to achieve its vision: empowered residents creating an equitable Mahoning Valley. Visit weanfoundation.org to learn more.

Photo: Representatives from several Akron area foundations and TNP employees look on as Christian Bennet-Mosley, healthy retail access coordinator from TNP, center, gives a tour of one of the community gardens. From left: John Garofalo, vice president of community investment, Akron Community Foundation; Bronlynn Thurman, GAR Foundation; Cristina Gonzalez-Alcala, Akron Community Foundation; Lydia Walls, AmeriCorps VISTA, TNP and Sevasti Tripoulas, community programs coordinator, TNP.