Donor Spotlight

Donor Spotlight

Jo Ellen Diehl Yeary | Generosity rooted in pride, remembrance, dedication to home

Learn more

African American Community Fund

Matching funds available! The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is providing a 50-cent match for every $1 given to any endowment within the African American Community Fund’s family of funds. Matching funds can also be used to help start a new endowed fund and for new documented planned gifts. A total of $300,000 in match funding is available on a first-come, first served basis through Nov. 8, with up to $100,000 in match available per household.

For more information on the 2024 match opportunity, click here.
For information on ways to give to the African American Community Fund, click here.


Father and son, Ernest E. and Ernest A. Bynum, have long been passionate about supporting African Americans and other minority communities in Appalachian Ohio. The pair co-founded the Minority Business Resource Network of Southeast Ohio to increase the diversity of the region’s business community. Now, they are continuing their advocacy with a new effort to grow resources dedicated to serving Appalachian Ohio’s African American communities, founding the African American Community Fund at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.

As of 2017, over 86,000 African American individuals were living in communities throughout Appalachian Ohio. Appalachian Ohio’s history has been shaped in significant ways by its African American population. Among countless examples, African Americans played a critical role in making Appalachian Ohio a major hub of the Underground Railroad, and also shaped the region’s musical and cultural history, including through the development of bluegrass music.

Now, the African American Community Fund has been established at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) to serve African American communities throughout Appalachian Ohio’s 32 counties.

The Fund will serve as a vehicle to address disparities in the African American community and help to improve the physical, economic, and structural conditions that affect quality of life. By supporting and enhancing initiatives in Appalachian Ohio’s African American communities we will strengthen not only African American populations in the region, but entire communities.


2022 Annual Report

To view the African American Community Fund’s 2022 annual report, click here.


Grant Opportunities

The African American Community Fund, in partnership with FAO’s I’m A Child of Appalachia® Fund and with support from the AEP Foundation, is providing a grant opportunity to Black-led and Black-serving nonprofit and public organizations across Appalachian Ohio’s 32 counties.

2023 grant applications closed on September 12, 2023.

Helpful Links and Documents:


Grant Awards

The African American Community Fund has awarded 31 grants, totaling $175,750, to support Black-led and Black-serving nonprofit and public organizations throughout Appalachian Ohio, including 10 capacity-building grants. African American Awareness Research Council to help fund a panel discussion and screening of the film “The Lincoln School Marchers” in Highland County as part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision Dress To Succeed to provide professional attire for men and women in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, including those returning from incarceration, to enter the job market, college, vocational training and other needs Enterprise Muskingum to help fund the development of its website GO Community Development Corporation to purchase boots, hats and gloves for those in need in Ashtabula County Groundwork Ohio to recruit, train, and provide stipends to African American families from Appalachia participating in the Family Action Network and engaging in state policy development Kool Boiz Foundation to support the Young Men’s Empowerment Series for boys and young men of color in Youngstown Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church to provide the lead match for a Jeffris Family Foundation Capital Campaign Challenge Grant, which will provide the funding needed to complete the restoration of the historic Black church in Lawrence County Mahoning Youngstown Community Action Partnership to provide food vouchers for the Tri-County Senior Food/Program Mobile Services, which serves Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society to assist with basement removal and repairs Muskingum County Social Justice Coalition to support the 2024 Career Connections Camp, which provides an opportunity for junior high students to explore career pathways in their communities Nelson T. Gant Foundation to help fund a parking lot pavement and sidewalk installation project OH WOW! Center for Science & Technology to purchase supplies and equipment for programming that provides STEM learning interventions to K-12 students in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties and professional development to educators in those counties Pump House Center for the Arts in Ross County to support its 2024 Juneteenth Celebration Second Baptist Church of Warren to help repair the stained-glass windows, frames and ceiling of the historic Second Baptist Church Chapel Trillium Project to help fund crosswalk murals and sidewalk painting in the historically Black North End neighborhood of Portsmouth in Scioto County Women Helping Women to support services provided to survivors of gender-based violence and their children in Adams, Brown and Clermont counties Youngstown Lifeguard Academy to purchase scuba equipment for and the training of at-risk and underserved youth and young adults who successfully complete the lifeguard and/or swim instructor certification YMCA of Youngstown to support the RESPECT League, a mentoring program for at-risk youth ages 11-17 YWCA of Greater Cincinnati to support its House of Peace Domestic Violence Shelter, which serves Adams, Brown and Clermont counties The I’m a Child of Appalachia® Fund provided AACF up to $5,000 to support projects developed and implemented by local youth under age 18. The goal of this funding is to empower young leaders and inspire them to embrace greater roles in their communities. AACF awarded youth-led project grant funding to: Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum to support a program that will train Ashtabula youth ages 11-18 to become docents and to teach other youth Simon Kenton Council Boy Scouts for supplies, outreach activities and training for the ScoutReach program, serving Adams, Athens, Highland, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton counties AACF, with funding from the U.S. Bank Foundation, also awarded 10 capacity-building grants to help Black-led and Black-serving organizations best meet the needs of those they serve by expanding services, enhancing program quality and/or improving operational efficiencies. A total of $47,000 in capacity-building funding was awarded to: Black By God to expand the community-led news organization focused on the Black experience in the central Appalachian region Calvary Missionary Baptist Church to train teachers, support staff and volunteers for a career and educational development initiative serving Black and minority individuals in Zanesville’s Putnam Historical District Enterprise Muskingum to train a staff member in data use, sources and visualization Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church to fund interim insurance payments while the church’s preservation society is being organized, which will allow for the release of state-appropriated funding Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society to support restoration of the historic church OH Wow! Center for Science & Technology to fund staff training, team development and professional development Simon Kenton Council Boy Scouts to help train adult leadership volunteers, youth leaders and a diversity, equity and inclusion trainer Women Helping Women to support the influx of crisis hotline calls, to improve system response and to provide direct assistance to survivors of gender-based violence in Adams, Brown and Clermont counties YMCA of Youngstown for professional development and training opportunities for staff and mentors and technology and equipment upgrades to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of the RESPECT League program YWCA of Greater Cincinnati to increase awareness of programs available in Adams, Brown and Clermont counties and to integrate back into those communities post pandemic

Seventeen grant awards were awarded through the African American Community Fund in 2022.

Black in Appalachia: Research, Education and Support for “A Liberated Landscape: Photographs of Black Appalachian Ohio,” a photo exhibition highlighting the stories and experiences of the Black community in Gallia and Lawrence counties. The exhibit will travel the region in advance of the 2023 Appalachian Studies Association Conference in Athens.

Books with Badges for start-up funding to create a leadership academy and afterschool mentoring program, serving young people in Belmont, Guernsey, Jefferson, Monroe and Muskingum counties.

Carver Community Center for its Incubator for Success Leadership Program, a personal finance education program serving youth in Ross County.

Dress To Succeed to provide monthly clothing and hygiene items to individuals in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties transitioning to life after incarceration.

GO Community Development Corporation for its Warm Feet program, which provides boots, socks and coats to those in need in Ashtabula County.

John Gee Black Historical Center for its Digitizing Gee project, which is capturing voices and oral histories, creating supplemental learning materials for the center’s visitors and assisting in the expansion and reach of its programming in Gallia County.

Kool Boiz Foundation for its Young Men’s Empowerment Series Mentoring Program, serving boys and young men of color in Youngstown.

Lawrence Funderburke Youth Organization for its Closing the Opportunity Divide Initiative that is engaging, equipping and empowering youth and their caregivers with life skills to increase resiliency and financial literacy in Athens, Hocking and Ross counties.

Minority Business Resource Network for the third volume of its “Archives of the People” collection, which is raising awareness and preserving the historic contributions of African Americans to the Zanesville community and Muskingum County.

Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society to assist in preserving and telling the story of this historically Black church and other moments in Black history in Athens through the installation of art murals on the church’s windows while they are being preserved.

Muskingum County Social Justice Coalition to support two summer 2023 Career Connections Camps for 50 junior high school students, exposing African American male and female students to career pathways.

Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council to support the development and maintenance of its corporate supplier diversity programs, serving as a bridge between its corporate members and minority-owned businesses across the region.

Promised Land Project’s “Lancer Pride: Honoring Local History,” which is capturing the oral histories of people of color through an alumni website, hosting a local history day and sharing curriculum lessons for students in Pre-K through 12th grade that will promote local history, provide tools to discuss race and advance anti-bias education in Athens County’s Federal Hocking Local Schools.

RISE Community Youth Group for its Each One Teach One Mentoring and Community Development Outreach, which will provide one-on-one mentoring and other academic, behavioral and life goals support to young people in Belmont and Jefferson counties.

Tablertown People of Color Museum to support the rebuilding of the Tablertown community by developing programs that celebrate and share its culture and history in Athens County.

Youngstown Lifeguard Academy Planning and Advisory Board to support the training of lifeguards as scuba divers and members of the County Search, Rescue and Recovery Team, serving residents of Mahoning and neighboring counties in emergency situations.

Zanesville Civic League to help implement its World of Art Expression, offering art sessions in diverse forms as a means of expressing thoughts and feelings while building confidence and resilience.

Eight grant awards were awarded through the African American Community Fund in 2021.

Alliance for Congregational Transformation In Our Neighborhoods (ACTION) received funding to combat food insecurity in Mahoning County by providing fresh and organic food from local farmers through a pop-up market model.

Black in Appalachia in partnership with Rendville Historical Preservation Society of Perry County received funding to support a local archival project.

GO Community Development Corporation received funding to stock a shoe and coat closet, providing Ashtabula County children with needed clothing for the winter season.

Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society received funding to produce Episode II of a three-part documentary film: Black Wall Street Athens County.

Muskingum County Social Justice Coalition received funding to provide implicit bias training designed to promote awareness among those who work and live in Muskingum County.

Tablertown: People of Color Museum in partnership with the Multicultural Genealogical Center received funding to preserve 19th-century artifacts currently housed in a non-climate-controlled pole barn.

The Underground Railroad Museum in Belmont County received funding to create a “Traveling Trunk” to bring artifacts from the museum to school-aged children in the classroom, who have been unable to attend due to Covid-19 precautions.

Zanesville Civic League received funding to provide support, training, and resources for women to become leaders through a program called Empowering a Community of Women.

Six grant awards were awarded through the African American Community Fund’s inaugural grant round.

The Alliance for Congregational Transformation In Our Neighborhoods (ACTION) received funding to combat food insecurity in Mahoning County by providing fresh and organic food from local farmers in the Youngstown area through a pop-up market model.

The Carver Community Center received funding to assist Ross County students and families as they face the challenges of remote learning. With parents and other family caregivers often working during the school day, the center provides childcare, supports children in their online schoolwork, and provides them with meals.

GO Community Development Corporation received funding to stock a shoe and coat closet, providing Ashtabula County children with needed clothing for the winter season.

The John Gee Black Historical Center in Gallia County received funding to provide virtual programming while increasing the reach of the organization beyond Gallia County.

The Underground Railroad Museum received funding to conduct extensive research and create a virtual map of the Underground Railroad stations in Belmont County. This virtual platform will allow the museum to reach patrons who cannot attend in-person tours.

United Returning Citizens received funding to create baskets of essential items such as facemasks, gloves, and hand sanitizers to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 among those released from prison, including those released early due to COVID transmission within prisons. Baskets will also be provided to those working or incarcerated in prisons and to other vulnerable communities in Mahoning County.

These grants were awarded through the inaugural grant round of the African American Community Fund. The Fund was established at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) earlier this year by Ernest E. and Ernest A. Bynum, who have both long been passionate about supporting minority communities in Appalachian Ohio. The Fund is one way to create opportunities for African Americans in Appalachian Ohio.


AACF Family of Funds

• Black Appalachian Regional Community Fund
• Ernest E. Bynum Memorial Fund for African American Communities
• Ken and Adele Mason Family Fund
Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church

If you are interested in starting a fund with AACF, call 740-753-1111.

Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church – located in Burlington, Ohio – was the first Black Church west of the Alleghenies/Appalachians, was the first Black Church in Ohio, and is the only extant antebellum Black Church still standing in the state of Ohio.


AACF Committee Members

Ernest A. Bynum

Rosetta Carter

Dr. Tee Ford-Ahmed

Lawrence Funderburke

John Jackson

Ruth Lomax

Ken Mason

Dr. Michele Reynolds

Ralph Smithers Jr.


Support AACF

To help the African American Community Fund grow its ability to support Appalachian Ohio’s African American communities with grants each and every year, mail your donation to the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, 35 Public Square, Nelsonville, OH 45764 and designate the African American Community Fund.

For more information about the African American Community Fund and how you can give to support the Fund, contact the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio at 740.753.1111 or info@ffao.org.