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Wean Foundation hosts Akron peers for learning visit

WARREN — The Raymond John Wean Foundation hosted the Mahoning Valley Community Development learning visit earlier this month, offering its Akron peers the opportunity to learn more about the strategic partnership between the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, Wean Foundation and Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.

The Akron group included representatives from Akron Community Foundation, the City of Akron, GAR Foundation and Huntington Bank, which are consulting with Joel Ratner, former Wean president, to build their community development organizations. During the daylong 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, Ian Beniston, YNDC executive director, Jennifer Roller, Wean Foundation president, and Matt Martin, TNP 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.

“Resident-centered neighborhood revitalization — that’s our collective vision,” Roller said.

“We are incredibly impressed by the resourcefulness and partnership among the Wean Foundation, TNP and YNDC,” Bronlynn Thurman, program officer at GAR Foundation, said.

“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 to improve our community’s capacity to engage, listen to and uplift residents in this work.”

Martin and Beniston shared with the group that they were able to leverage the Wean Foundation’s initial multiyear 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,” Martin said.

The group plans to visit other Ohio cities to see how funders in those areas work with their Community Development Corporations.

“This visit allowed us to see how other communities are developing stronger funder / agency partnerships to improve the community,” John Garofalo, vice president of community investment at the Akron Community Foundation, said.

“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.”

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