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Akron Community Foundation, civic groups announce fatherhood initiative

UPublish story by Kristen Ashby

Fatherhood Initiative_Williams_Lykes_Norris
Representatives from the three fatherhood groups remark on the collaboration.

After a year of collaboration with Akron Community Foundation, officials from three grassroots civic groups today announced the formation of a countywide initiative aimed at helping at-risk fathers develop healthy relationships with their children. The Summit County Fatherhood Initiative will combine the services of three nonprofit organizations to provide focused education and resources to men who are transitioning out of the court system or have otherwise been absent from their children’s lives.

“Akron Community Foundation takes very seriously our role as a convener in our community,” said John Garofalo, vice president of community investment at Akron Community Foundation. “We are the trusted third party that can bring smart people together to tackle important problems. We are also a funder that can spend money on a solution.”

The fatherhood initiative was announced Sept. 19 at a press conference at Helen Arnold Community Learning Center in Akron. The announcement coincided with the annual Father’s Walk, where thousands of local fathers, grandfathers, uncles and other significant male mentors walked or drove their children to school.

“It shows tremendous initiative that our fathers want to be involved,” said the Rev. Eugene Norris, CEO of Fame Fathers. Norris noted that Akron Community Foundation was the “first to step up to the plate” and fund this critical initiative.


The collaboration emerged after three similarly focused groups – Fame Fathers, Fathers & Sons of Northeast Ohio, and Man2Man – approached the community foundation for grant funding. Rather than awarding three separate grants, the community foundation and BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence funded a consultant who brought the groups together to align their services and share resources to help men become better fathers.

“I know this collaboration is just the beginning of wonderful things that will happen in Summit County,” said Olivia Demas, a member of Akron Community Foundation’s Distribution Committee and member of the fatherhood initiative’s Steering Committee.

Don Lykes, founder of Fathers & Sons of Northeast Ohio, said the combined effort will help change people’s attitudes about child support and responsibilities; assist fathers as they navigate the court system for visitation rights; and teach men who are re-entering society from prison how to repair their family relationships. The agencies plan to use one-on-one mentoring and group education sessions to help men stop the cycle of absenteeism and become responsible parents.

“We need fathers in our children’s lives,” said Frank Williams from the Man2Man Fatherhood Building Program. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, children with absent fathers are two to three times more likely to live in poverty, use drugs and become teen parents. Conversely, a healthy father-child relationship is correlated with better academic performance and fewer behavioral problems. These statistics underline the need for a countywide initiative focused specifically on fatherhood, Garofalo said.

Devoe Johnson, senior director of community impact for United Way of Summit County, compared the collaboration with other successful partnerships like Bridges Out of Poverty and the Summit County Reentry Network, both of which have received prior Akron Community Foundation funding. “We are so encouraged to see how you came together,” he said.

For more information about the Summit County Fatherhood Initiative, visit

About Akron Community Foundation

Celebrating 58 years of building community philanthropy, Akron Community Foundation embraces and enhances the work of charitable people who make a permanent commitment to the good of the community. In 1955, a $1 million bequest from the estate of Edwin Shaw established the community foundation. Today, it is a philanthropic endowment of more than $160 million with a growing family of more than 430 funds established by charitable people and organizations from all walks of life. The community foundation welcomes gifts of all kinds, including cash, bequests, stock, real estate, life insurance and retirement assets, just to name a few. To date, the community foundation’s funds have awarded more than $108 million in grants to qualified nonprofit organizations. For more information about Akron Community Foundation or to learn more about creating your own charitable fund, call 330-376-8522 or visit

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