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Helping others is something William “Bill” Lemmon’s parents instilled in him from an early age.
Bill Lemmon's parents owned a grocery store, Lemmon’s Market, on 12th Street in Canton and often knew every shopper who walked through the door.
“My dad was always helping people,” recalled Lemmon. “He was quiet. He never wanted to be in the spotlight, never wanted any publicity. He much preferred to be in the background.”
Lemmon worked at his family’s grocery store from the time he was in elementary school until the time he graduated from Canton Lehman High School in 1955 and left for college. Growing up, Lemmon remembers learning a lot about running a business and the importance of caring for others and giving back to the community— characteristics he witnessed his parents embody every single day.
Lemmon attended college in Columbus, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in real estate and finance and a master’s degree in business from The Ohio State University. While in business school, Lemmon learned not to put the pursuit of profit on a pedestal but to prioritize respect and compassion for the people you serve.
Shortly after college, he started working as a real estate appraiser in Columbus. Lemmon quickly went from appraiser to property manager to land developer. And although he found fulfillment in his work, his love for his family and close ties to his hometown called him back to Canton to continue his real estate career.
When he returned to Canton, Lemmon started working with the DeHoff family, a well-known name in the real estate business. Shortly after, he branched out and started his own real estate development company, Lemmon Development, which partners with DeHoff on many developments.
Fast forward to today, and Lemmon has developed countless subdivisions in Northeast Ohio and Central Ohio. He has also built various commercial buildings in the Canton, Akron and Columbus markets, including senior living communities, apartment complexes, shopping centers, office buildings, college residence halls, group homes, a church and a golf course. Some of these local developments include Washington Square, North Ridge Apartments and Danbury Senior Living.
The ripple effect of Lemmon’s economic development endeavors spread far and wide, touching the lives of thousands of individuals in our region and even more in our community through his support of meaningful nonprofits and their clients.
“I firmly believe in giving back to the community,” he said. “I find it very rewarding helping others.”
Through the William J. Lemmon Charitable Fund, a Donor Advised Fund at Stark Community Foundation that he established in 2001, he regularly supports organizations moving Stark County forward and improving the quality of life for our community’s residents.
Similar to his father’s demeanor, Lemmon is known for his generosity and quiet acts of kindness.
A few years ago, he recognized that Hope Outreach Ministry, a faith-based organization in Canton that provides food, clothing and fellowship for those in need, had outgrown its existing facility and needed more space to serve local residents. Lemmon renovated, and later donated, the building the nonprofit now calls home.
“He didn’t renovate and donate a building and walk away,” said Pastor Marilyn Roman, founder of Hope Outreach Ministry. “He’s continuing to be a big part of helping our ministry. He donates clothes, delivers food and makes sure the children we serve have presents at Christmas. He’s been amazing.”
He continues to show his commitment to nurturing our youth by making thoughtful investments in education. His support extends to local nonprofits such as Walsh University, United Way of Greater Stark County, Hoover High School, First Tee of Canton and ArtsinStark.
Lemmon’s caring upbringing and passion for others have served him and his community well. Most recently, Lemmon established the Lemmon Foundation, a Supporting Foundation at Stark Community Foundation, to ensure his community commitment and passion for economic development continues in perpetuity.
“I don’t need the money, but our community does,” shared Lemmon.
Through his foundation and its board of directors, grants are awarded annually to Stark County nonprofits with a strategic focus on community improvement, economic development and housing projects and initiatives. Inaugural grants from the foundation provided support in 2023 to six organizations, including Beacon Charitable Pharmacy to help renovate a building into a new, expanded pharmacy, Louisville Public Library to construct a new facility at Metzger Park and CommQuest Services to optimize the size of its footprint.
Another nonprofit receiving an inaugural grant from the Lemmon Foundation is Canton for All People, an organization near and dear to Lemmon’s heart doing important work in his childhood neighborhood.
“I watched my childhood neighborhood deteriorate,” explained Lemmon. “It went from one of the best growing up to one of the worst in the area. I knew we had to do something about it.”
Lemmon worked closely with the DeHoff family and Crossroads United Methodist Church to form Canton for All People, a community development corporation with an ambitious mission to improve the quality of life for the residents of downtown Canton by bringing affordable housing and opportunities to the area.
“Bill is an active philanthropist,” shared Don Ackerman, executive director of Canton for All People. “He is not satisfied with writing checks but is someone whose feet and hands follow his giving. Seeing someone in his position pack and distribute meals to kids in the Gibbs neighborhood, showing up to eat ice cream with kids in the Shorb area or helping to inspect vacant houses is unique and needed in a culture where people are divided along socio-economic lines.”
Unsafe, unaffordable housing conditions in downtown Canton were leading to higher crime and unemployment rates and keeping families in a cycle of poverty that is difficult to overcome. Canton for All People aims to address this housing need to ensure the city’s neglected neighborhoods can access resources to help residents live healthier lives.
“It’s important to get people into housing at a price they can afford – whether that’s renting or owning,” explained Lemmon.
Canton for All People is building new homes and apartments and restoring existing homes in the greater Shorb area.
Lemmon shared, “We will put a dent in the housing need. It will take money, but we have the people and passion to do it. If we can build or remodel 50 homes a year, that has the power to change a neighborhood and ultimately Stark County.”
While Lemmon’s journey as a real estate developer continues to unfold, one thing is certain: his expertise in housing development, philanthropic spirit and passion for neighborhood revitalization have already reshaped Stark County for the better.