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Vernon L. Odom Fund grants support diversity initiatives

4/11/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

AKRON — The Vernon L. Odom Fund of Akron Community Foundation has announced its 2013 grant distributions. In total, $7,500 in grants was awarded to nine Akron-area nonprofits that promote ethnic and racial harmony.

The committee allocated more than 25 percent of the funds to programs that help noncustodial fathers develop healthy relationships with their children. A $1,000 grant to Williams Challenge will provide an eight-week skill-building program for men who are transitioning out of the court system or have otherwise been absent from their children’s lives. This free program teaches fathers parenting skills, including punctuality, responsibility and effective communication. It also provides a supportive environment for men who need help finding employment, gaining visitation rights and re-entering society from prison.

According to Williams Challenge CEO Frank Williams, children who grow up without an active father are more likely to live in poverty, use drugs, drop out of school or commit a violent crime. But with the help of programs like the Man 2 Man Fatherhood Building Program, men in Greater Akron can stop the cycle of absenteeism and become a healthy influence in their children’s lives, Williams said.

“By equipping men with the skills to sustain positive relationships with their children, the course of many young lives could be forever altered for the better,” Williams said.

The following is a full list of Vernon L. Odom Fund grants:

  • Blessings in a Backpack, of Akron, to provide backpacks of food for the weekend to students in need at Helen Arnold Community Learning Center (CLC) and the Akron Digital Academy, $500;
  • Child Guidance & Family Solutions, to increase the independence of Spanish-speaking clients by translating therapy materials and health care forms into their native language, $1,000;
  • Fathers and Sons of Northeast Ohio, for fatherhood education classes that help noncustodial fathers be an active parent in their children’s lives, $1,000;
  • Girls on the Run of Greater Summit, Jewish Community Center of Akron, to mentor at-risk girls at Glover CLC by combining fitness training with discussions about personal values, respect and self-worth, $1,000;
  • One Love Unity, Charisma Community Connections, for Teen Talk, a 12-week open forum that provides a safe space for at-risk adolescents to discuss issues ranging from peer pressure to family dysfunction, $1,000;
  • Opportunity Parish Ecumenical Neighborhood Ministry (OPEN M), for a mentoring program that helps young men from inner-city neighborhoods succeed in school, find employment and make healthy choices, $500;
  • Summit County Youth Employment for Success (YES), to send at-risk teens to The University of Akron’s 2013 Black Male Summit, which addresses critical issues facing young black males, $500;
  • Urban Vision, for an incentive program that allows youth participants to purchase school supplies with the “dollars” they’ve earned through good behavior, attendance and grades, $1,000; and
  • Williams Challenge, for a fatherhood education and mentoring program that gives at-risk and absent fathers the support they need to develop positive relationships with their children, including help applying for employment and transitioning from incarceration, $1,000.
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