Donor Spotlight

Donor Spotlight

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

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The Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund

The Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund is designed to make a difference in food insecurity across Southeast Ohio for generations to come.

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The Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund supports the operations of the Athens County Food Pantry, dedicated to providing supplemental and emergency food aid to residents of Athens County, Ohio who find themselves in need.

The Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund was made possible with $350,000 from the many thousands of gifts inspired by Joe Burrow’s 2019 Heisman Trophy acceptance speech. Each gift invested in the Fund was matched dollar-for-dollar by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, bringing the initial investment in the Fund to $700,000.

This matching opportunity was available thanks to an investment in FAO through the State of Ohio’s budget, which was designed to grow endowment funds serving Appalachian Ohio.

The pantry has been serving Athens County since 1980, delivering aid in the form of direct food distribution. An all-volunteer nonprofit organization, the pantry’s dedicated team works to ensure that food is always available for those in need. The creation of a permanent endowment fund will help to strengthen the pantry’s mission in perpetuity.

With this support and the many gifts to come, the Fund will help the Athens County Food Pantry amplify Joe Burrow’s message, and reach the many children, families, and individuals in need of support from the Athens County Food Pantry for generations.

Support the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund with a gift today.

The Story

When Joe Burrow stood up on stage accepting a Heisman Trophy, he shared his experience growing up in a community where many classmates and neighbors didn’t know where their next meal was going to come from.  He shared the story of a county struggling with a nearly 20% rate of food insecurity. These remarks from the Louisiana State University quarterback prompted a remarkable outpouring of generosity, with gifts flooding into the Athens County Food Pantry based in Joe’s hometown. And the pantry, with an eye for making a lasting difference with these gifts, invested $350,000 to create the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund at FAO.

The roughly $650,600 raised for the Athens County Food Pantry as of January 31, 2020 came through contributions from well over 13,000 people from Athens to Louisiana and beyond, all inspired by Joe Burrow’s speech. For an organization with an annual operating budget of $75,000, this level of grassroots giving was unprecedented. The influx of contributions represented a truly watershed moment for the Athens County Food Pantry and their fight against food insecurity.

Even though this is a large amount of money, given the reality of the high food insecurity rate we see in Athens County and throughout southeast Ohio, it does not come close to addressing the persistent problems of hunger and food insecurity.

According to Feeding America, Athens County is home to about 12,970 food insecure people as of 2016. That’s about 19.9% of the population, making Athens County the most food insecure county in the State of Ohio.

This means that if all of the donations inspired by Joe Burrow’s speech were put to use in the near future, the food pantry would have $50.24 per food insecure person in the county. It would not stretch nearly far enough. And that’s given the 2016 data. Not long after Burrow’s speech, those numbers began changing daily in light of the economic crisis and soaring unemployment triggered by COVID-19. The food insecure population is only growing.

This great challenge is one exacerbated by a philanthropy gap facing Appalachian Ohio. This region of Ohio, which includes Athens County, has nine times fewer philanthropic dollars than the rest of the state of Ohio, leaving nonprofits organizations, communities, and individuals with fewer dollars to invest in meeting health and hunger needs, creating educational opportunities, and community development. Growing philanthropic dollars to support organizations like the Athens County Food Pantry is at the heart of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio’s mission and is why matching dollars were available to support the creation of the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund.

Give Today

To support the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund, make a gift online here or mail your donation to the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, PO Box 456, Nelsonville, OH 45764 and designate the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund.

Gifts may also be made in many other ways, including cash, bequests, appreciated stock, IRA distributions, and life insurance. For more information about the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund and how to give in the way that works best for you, contact the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio at 740.753.1111 or

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