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Wean small grant program pays big dividends in Valley

Saturday, September 8, 2018

If ever there were a pro- gram whose name so aptly matched its mission and results, a project of the esteemed Raymond John Wean Foundation must take the cake.

The Warren-based foundation’s Neighborhood SUCCESS Grant program marks its 10th anniversary this month as the motor that has sparked creation of about 500 difference-making projects in neighborhoods throughout Youngstown and Warren. Now that’s SUCCESS!

Those are not just any projects, mind you. Most are creatively constructed and meticulously implemented to best support the major priorities of the grant program: community revitalization, economic opportunities, educational opportunities and public-service leadership.

Though the SUCCESS grant sizes are small by traditional foundation standards, ranging from $500 to $5,000, they typically grow two- to four-fold in matching funds and in-kind services from other sources. Collectively, they are making sizeable positive impacts in the predominantly inner-city neighborhoods they are committed to serving.

A partial listing of those grass-roots groups receiving funding this 10th anniversary year include numerous block-watch groups, several urban- garden projects, Friends of the Mahoning River, Hunger Helpers, The Robins [Theater] Project, the Brier Hill Green Space Gateway Project and scores of others.

Recipients of these small grants make big differences in the lives of those they service. Take the award to the Hope for Newport Community Garden group, for example.

Carole Conatser, who runs the garden, said her urban garden has used the SUCCESS grant for the past four years to buy supplies such as topsoil, fertilizer, deer fences, plants and equipment. Each week during the growing season, free produce is handed out to residents of the South Side Youngstown neighborhood. That project fills a gaping void located as it is in the heart of a food desert, far from a full-service grocery.

“We could not do it without the Wean Foundation. They are invaluable to us,” Conatser said.

NOT MERE CHARITY

But don’t think for a moment that the grants represent mere charity handouts. Those seeking grants must match the amount they are seeking with volunteer labor, cash and in-kind donations.

As such, they serve as building blocks for individuals to cultivate the value of the work ethic as well as keen organizational skills.

The program also continues the proud tradition of the Raymond John Wean Foundation. Founded in 1948 by Valley industrialist R.J. “Jack” Wean, the foundation has awarded $120 million in grants to benefit a wide variety of nonprofit causes and organizations to serve as catalysts for positive change in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

Wean has also been a forerunner in our philanthropic community in launching progressive and innovative initiatives. The Neighborhood SUCCESS Grant Program stands as a vibrant and shining example of that compassionate and enduring commitment.