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African American Community Fund

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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.


Grant Opportunities

African American Community Fund (AACF), in partnership with the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO), is accepting grant applications from Black-led and Black-serving nonprofit and public organizations serving African American communities throughout Appalachian Ohio’s 32 counties.

AACF and FAO’s I’m a Child of Appalachia® Fund, with support from the AEP Foundation, will award grants to projects or programs benefitting African American communities across five areas essential to generating and sustaining transformative change: Arts & Culture; Community & Economic Development; Education; Environmental Stewardship; and Health & Human Services. Projects should increase quality of life, create access to opportunities or implement a solution to a need.

2022 applications are currently closed and under review. Grantees will be announced in Quarter 4 2022.


Recent Projects

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.

Preference for grant awards was given to organizations that meet at least two of the following criteria: the organization’s executive director identifies as Black; 50% of the board is Black; and the organization serves the Black community.


AACF Family of Funds

Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church
Ernest E. Bynum Memorial Fund for African American Communities

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. Michele Reynolds

Ralph Smithers

Ken Mason


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.