AFP Honors Nonprofits, Philanthropists for Pandemic Work

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Kyle English and the foundation he leads, the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, started planning for 2020, the leadership never imagined the challenges that would lie ahead.

But as the coronavirus pandemic became a threat and then a reality, the organization knew what had to be done. And through its Giving Week campaign in June, the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania raised $574,502 to support nonprofits that needed help to continue their work.

On Friday, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Mahoning-Shenango Chapter honored 20 organizations and citizens, including the Community Foundation, at its 30th National Philanthropy Day held at Stambaugh Auditorium.

“Most of all, I want to thank the region for stepping up,” said English in a pre-recorded statement. “I’ve always said if you give a region the opportunity to give, they’ll step up and do so.”

Even as the pandemic has brought new challenges to the philanthropy sector, local support remains strong and enables nonprofits to continue their work.

“We have been fortunate that even in these very difficult times, philanthropy remains strong in our five counties, enriching our citizens and quality of life in so many ways,” said Lisa Long, president of the AFP Mahoning-Shenango Chapter.

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Those honored at Friday’s event include Sharon Hrina, retired vice president of Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley; Mike Iberis and Renee Fulton, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley; Racole Taltoan, Dionne Dowdy and Nyesha Ford, United Returning Citizens; and Bridget Lackey, Mercy Health Produce Box Program.

This year’s event was held as an in-person event and live-streamed online. It focused on those who assisted their communities or members of the health-care industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the honorees, the Mercy Health Produce Box Program, adapted to provide health food for individuals, seniors and families with pickup and delivery services during the pandemic. The program has operated from April through November in Mahoning and Trumbull County with help from SCOPE.

“With all the unforeseen obstacles this year, I wasn’t sure how we were going to be able to do it,” said Bridget Lackey, dietician and community health educator. “But with the support of the Mercy [Health] Foundation as well as Mahoning County commissioners, I feel we’ve done a great program and a great service to our community and to our over 500 patients that are enrolled in the program.”

Pamela Russo, Wise and Well program coordinator at Wickshire Senior Living, provided extracurricular activities for dementia patients at the facility during the pandemic. She also helped the patients write letters and emails to the patients’ families to maintain contact.

“It’s just been a blessing and an honor to be in this field of work for 21 years,” Russo said. “I also want to say thank you to the AFP for honoring the COVID-19 workers this year.”

The Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley was also honored for providing food to the community during the pandemic. The food bank saw a 40% increase in requests for assistance.

The food bank, with help from the Ohio Army National Guard, provided 6.2 million meals in the Mahoning Valley, a 1.5 million increase compared to this time last year.

“We began to work with our donors and other venders in order to get more food in, and were successful in getting approximately 50% more food in than last year,” said Mike Iberis, executive director of the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley.

Other honorees include: 

For more on some of this year’s honorees, read The Business Journal’s story from our November issue, “Philanthropy Day Honors COVID-19 Heroes.

Pictured at top: Bob Hannon, president of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, was emcee for the event.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.