Wean Foundation to have summit for local nonprofits

Local nonprofit
organizations report assets totaling $2.8 billion.



WARREN — For years, the Raymond John Wean Foundation bestowed $4 million per year on a variety of national causes with limited commitment to the town that helped its founder make his fortune in steel.

Now, foundation representatives say descendants of “Jack” Wean have resolved to rededicate the foundation to the Mahoning Valley, as was its founder’s intention, said foundation spokesman Jeff Hedrich.

“Four million that was going elsewhere is coming here now,” Hedrich said.

With $90 million in assets, the foundation has the largest holdings of any institution of its kind in the area. It was founded in 1949 with profits from the Wean Engineering Co., a designer and manufacturer of equipment for the production and finishing of flat-rolled steel.

Monday, the foundation announced its first-quarter giving would benefit nearly two dozen area nonprofits with funds exceeding $1 million. Organizations aimed at providing educational opportunities, sheltering the homeless, building community gardens and providing quality child care all benefited from the foundation’s first round of giving.

Next the foundation announced it would hold a first-of-its-kind development summit open to all area nonprofits. Between 100 and 150 local organizations are expected to attend Monday’s Nonprofit Community Summit, “Building Capacity for Community Good: Strengthening the Mahoning Valley Nonprofit Sector,” said Joel Ratner, who was recently installed as the foundation president. Ratner comes to the foundation from The Cleveland Foundation.

The event is intended to energize and educate the local nonprofit sector, he said.

“We want to help nonprofits,” said Ratner. “We think nonprofits are at the forefront of dealing with the issues of the community.”

There are between 2,377 and 839 nonprofit organizations currently at work in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. Those groups reported combined assets of $2.8 billion in 2007. Nationally, the nonprofit sector accounts for 8 percent of employment, Ratner said.

“Nonprofits have a really significant economic impact,” he said.

Those who attend Monday’s summit, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Avalon Inn in Howland, will have the opportunity to attend workshops led by nonprofit-sector leaders from across the country. Topics will range from fund-raising strategies to developing a board of directors. It will also offer leaders in the local not-for-profit industry an opportunity to network and better integrate their services.

“The point is not that the Wean Foundation has all the answers,” said Ratner. “It’s that we want to come together to ask the questions.”

The foundation tries to cohere to the same “building capacity” theme with its charitable giving, Hedrich said. The Wean Foundation’s gift of $62,800 to Associated Neighborhood Centers is earmarked to increase the organization’s fund-raising capabilities.

Executive director Jennifer Cousin Miller said the money will help her organization expand its focus. Currently, Associated Neighborhood Centers offers recreational and educational opportunities out of the McGuffey Centre on Youngstown’s East Side. In the future, organizational leadership hopes to provide job and leadership training to promising East Side residents.

“We’re branching out. We’re trying to be more holistic to the community that we serve,” said Miller. “This grant could help us find a development officer to help us plan and find money and do more.”

Associated Neighborhood Centers also expects to benefit from Monday’s summit, Miller said.

“They’re offering a wealth of information and training that a lot of nonprofit organizations couldn’t afford,” she said.

The organization’s new board members will benefit from the “Due Diligence for Board Members” workshop, she said. Miller said she is particularly looking forward to keynote speaker Rev. Marvin A. Mickle’s lecture “Building Community at Challenging Times.” Mickle is the senior pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland. Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann will also give a keynote address.

To register for the event, visit rjweanfdn.org or call (330) 394-5600. Registration is limited to the first 400. The cost is $20 per person or $15 for each additional person from the same organization.


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