Wean Foundation’s ‘Respond. Stabilize. Redesign.’ Plan Addresses Pandemic and Race Equity in the Valley

(September 9, 2020 – Warren, Ohio) COVID-19 and race equity topped the agenda at the Wean Foundation’s 3rd quarter Board of Directors meeting on September 1st. “As the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism persist, an ongoing, equitable response from the Wean Foundation is required,” said Jennifer Roller, Wean Foundation president. “With board support, we are refining our 3-phase ‘Respond. Stabilize. Redesign.’ strategy to partner with residents and organizations to ensure equitable access to resources, knowledge and opportunity in this time of crisis – and beyond.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic first began impacting the Mahoning Valley, the Wean Foundation has devoted its resources to existing grantees and organizations serving residents most impacted by the crisis. Together with the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley and the Youngstown Foundation, the Wean Foundation formed the Mahoning Valley COVID-19 Crisis Relief Application, which was expanded in June to include stabilization efforts. Using a single, shared application process, grantseekers can apply for support from all three foundations at once. To date, 82 grants totaling $1,122,910 have been dispersed to community-based organizations. The Wean Foundation dispersed $305,300 through 28 grants.

“As the Wean Foundation now shifts to stabilize organizations long term, the realization of our vision of empowered residents creating an equitable Mahoning Valley requires fresh thinking, honest conversations and innovative strategies,” Roller said. “We need to do more than advocate for change. We have to rethink the dynamics of decision making in the Valley. We have to ask each other who has the power to determine access to resources, knowledge and opportunity – and why.”

A recent report published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy notes that organizations led by people of color win less grant money and are trusted less than their white-led counterparts to make decisions about how to spend those funds. To bridge this gap, the Wean Foundation is making strategic investments in Black and other people of color-led organizations, as well as organizations committed to the uplift of communities of color. This includes the Wean Foundation’s 3rd quarter Community Investment grantees Inspiring Minds Warren and the Youngstown State University Center for Nonprofit Leadership.

Inspiring Minds Warren is an important Black-led anchor institution in the Valley providing academic support, personal connection and enrichment activities to Warren City School District students. The organization builds bridges between school, home and community that are even more critical for children and youth in the shifting realities of the pandemic. The Youngstown State University Center for Nonprofit Leadership provides professional development and high-quality academics for students. More recently, the Center has emphasized outreach and recruitment of students and organizations of color with the potential of raising the next generation of leaders to take on the challenges of entrenched systems of advantage.

“To address systemic racism over the long term,” Roller said, “the Wean Foundation is redoubling our community-building efforts to ensure the Mahoning Valley can emerge from this crisis as a stronger, more equitable community.”