Stark Community Foundation Reflects on Protecting Stark’s Future Initiative and Announces Funding

Valuable lessons have been learned in the infancy of Protecting Stark’s Future, a Stark Community Foundation-led initiative to support collaborative, community-based solutions to reduce child poverty at the neighborhood level. Recently, a second round of funding was awarded to local organizations combating child poverty.

Year One Observations
The Protecting Stark’s Future initiative grew from data-driven community research and the release of Protecting Stark’s Future: A Call to Coordinate Child Poverty Strategies, an eye-opening 2020 study of the child poverty challenges facing Stark County. As we examined our community’s data, it became apparent that every issue of concern was related to poverty. In particular, the high child poverty rates in our community demand our increased and continued attention.

To spur community-based solutions and fuel lasting change, the Foundation provided nearly $430,000 in inaugural Protecting Stark’s Future grants to 12 organizations to address child poverty in Stark County in 2021.

While working alongside these community partners, the Foundation has learned several valuable lessons that will guide our future funding:

  • Literacy Challenges: An outstanding challenge faced by community partners when implementing programs is the lack of literacy skills among youth. Child illiteracy is borne out in headlines today based on the first nationally representative report comparing student achievement from just before the pandemic to performance two years later. Test scores in elementary school and reading have fallen to levels unseen for decades.
  • Chronic Absenteeism: Chronic absenteeism rates have persisted but worsened through the pandemic. Chronic absenteeism was the main theme in the current round of grant proposals.
  • Centralized Resource: Community partners that hoped to address childhood poverty through programming found that the programming already existed and identified the need for a better central resource to connect individuals with organizations.
  • Homeownership: Financial literacy education with the goal of homeownership/asset building is more powerful than financial literacy without a goal.
  • CARE Teams: CARE (Coordinates and Aligns Resources to Engage Empower & Educate) Teams and family support specialist models, which are designed to remove the barriers that prevent students from succeeding in the classroom, show a lot of promise in supporting families with pre-K children.
  • Neighborhood Partnerships: Promising partnerships emerged within the neighborhood approach of Protecting Stark’s Future, which requires projects to be considered at the neighborhood level and seeks input from residents engaged in the Stark County Neighborhood Partnership Program.
  • Broader Impact: Although Stark Community Foundation understands addressing immediate needs is essential, the Protecting Stark’s Future initiative seeks to incentivize projects that have the potential for broader impact in the county and further consider the root cause of poverty.

Second Round of Funding
Through a request for proposals process, Stark Community Foundation solicited the best ideas from organizations that partner with imaginative solutions to address child poverty at the neighborhood level. One-year planning grants up to $15,000 per project and one-to-three-year implementation grants up to $100,000 per project were considered from eligible organizations.

Selected projects consider at least one recommendation from the 2020 Protecting Stark’s Future study, engage one or more specific neighborhoods and involve multiple community partners.

The second round of Protecting Stark’s Future grantees includes:

Planning Grants

  • TomTod Ideas: $12,000 to engage a team of youth to understand the causes of family transiency occurring in neighborhoods along the school district border between Canton City School and Plain Local School districts.
  • Wilderness Center: $15,000 to work with the Canton City School District to brainstorm opportunities for urban-locked children to better connect with and experience nature as a way to positively impact their educational outcomes.

Implementation Grants

  • Tri County Jobs for Ohio’s Graduates: $99,998 to partner with the Early Childhood Resource Center to deliver early childhood education to young Massillon parents and expand its partnership with Massillon City Schools to pilot a middle school curriculum that provides academic intervention and career pathway programming.
  • University of Mount Union: $100,000 to launch an Alliance Area Community Learning Center for Adults, Youth and Children that will provide free courses, children enrichment activities, paid internships and personal coaching for adults and Ohio’s first affiliate of Raising a Reader’s program, all in collaboration with several community partners.

To learn more about Protecting Stark’s Future, visit

About Stark Community Foundation
Stark Community Foundation is the community’s trusted partner in giving to more than 850 individuals, families, businesses and nonprofits that have created charitable funds to support causes they care about. Ranked in the top 10 percent of community foundations in the United States today, Stark Community Foundation is committed to serving donor needs and strategically addressing local issues. Since it was established in 1963, the Foundation and its family of donors have granted more than $215 million to nonprofits. Learn how you can simplify your giving and amplify your impact through our Center for Partners in Philanthropy at

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