Jo Ellen Diehl Yeary | Meigs County native’s generosity rooted in pride, remembrance and dedication to the future of home
Jo Ellen Diehl Yeary has never forgotten her upbringing in Pomeroy, Ohio. The spontaneous but regular playtime with friends in her childhood neighborhood. The opening of the new Meigs High School where her father served as principal. And a story her fourth-grade teacher, Carolyn Smith, told her class.
A young man from Pomeroy was studying in Paris and attended a dinner at the home of a wealthy American. As the group of American students gathered around the dinner table, they went around the room saying where they were from. Boston, Philadelphia, New York, the young man’s compatriots replied. The young man told the group he was from Cincinnati. After all, he had taken some classes there, and the people at the dinner were probably at least somewhat familiar with Cincinnati.
When it was his turn, the host said, “Well, you’ve never heard of the place I’m from. I’m from a little place on the Ohio River called Pomeroy, Ohio.”
“Ms. Smith told us to always be proud of and remember that we came from Pomeroy, Ohio,” Jo Ellen recalls. “That story stayed with me. I told it in my commencement speech at Meigs High School to graduates 20 years after my own graduation. And I hope that those graduates in the decades since have relayed the story on to their children.”
The reminder about the importance of home and of roots was the first of many seeds Jo Ellen has planted for the future of both her hometown in Meigs County and the entire Appalachian Ohio region.
While job opportunities led Jo Ellen, now a retired attorney, to Charleston, West Virginia, she continues to give time, talent and treasure through the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio to the place where her story started.
“There’s comfort and strength that you have in that connection to home,” she says, noting the “love your neighbor aura” that is a hallmark of Appalachian Ohio. “We now have the vehicle to give back. It just opens up the opportunities.”
Jo Ellen has been on the front lines of opening those opportunities, joining FAO’s I’m a Child of Appalachia® Network, becoming one of the organization’s inaugural philanthropic shareholders and now serving on FAO’s Board of Trustees.
She continues to give to the Meigs County Foundation, one of FAO’s 14 geographic affiliates, and to FAO’s I’m a Child of Appalachia® Fund. The unrestricted fund allows FAO’s community of givers to join together to seize the most promising opportunities and fill the greatest needs throughout the 32-county region with a focus on five areas essential to creating and sustaining transformative change: arts and culture, community and economic development, education, environmental stewardship, and health and human services.
“It’s not just feeding the poor. It’s not just clothing the poor,” Jo Ellen says. “It’s planning for the future.”
Give today to the I’m a Child of Appalachia® Fund. Every gift makes a difference – in ways that can be seen today and will be felt for generations.