The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio provides funding for community organizations in all 32 Appalachian counties in the state of Ohio. FAO began in 1998 in a way that is strikingly similar to the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. A group of people who saw the need to directly address the issues and challenges of Appalachian people in Ohio got together and began the process of organization and obtaining funding. Since 1998, FAO has provided funds for non-profits throughout the Appalachian counties of Ohio.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact people all over the globe, FAO recognizes the particular ways in which the pandemic has impacted Appalachians. In response to this unfolding set of challenges, FAO has launched the Emergency Relief Fund to provide assistance to non-profits who are working to meet the needs of people in the Appalachian counties. These needs run from immediate medical care to financial assistance for people who have lost their sources of income.

Source / Appalachian counties in Ohio

The Appalachian Ohio Emergency Response Fund has awarded over $36,000 in grants to support nonprofits that are working to provide basic necessities to ensure the health and safety of Appalachian Ohio’s most vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 crisis.

I got a chance to speak to Megan Wanczyk, Vice President of Communications and Programs for FAO, and she gave me some details on the emergency fund. Megan explained that the Foundation “created and launched ERF as they began to see and anticipate challenges for non-profits as the COVID-19 emergency began to stretch the resources of non-profit organizations.” Since FAO supports non-profits through grants and other financial support, it was clear to them that the added burdens that come with medical emergencies and lost jobs would tax non-profit relief and support organizations. Megan further explained that FAO’s “first priorities are health and safety. We have been hearing from some of our organizations that these needs are changing rapidly.” Megan told me that dealing with basic health and safety is especially challenging “because we do not know how the virus will move throughout the Appalachian region, and it remains unknown how long the problem will last.” With COVID-19 still a serious problem, the work of FAO goes well beyond the immediate needs of health and safety.

The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio supports numerous organizations that provide assistance for the secondary effects of the health crisis. Megan told me that “the reverberating effects like food, security, and hunger remain pressing, and these needs continue to grow.” The Emergency Response Fund is working to provide help and funding to groups that provide assistance in these areas. With massive shutdowns in several industries, basic needs like food and shelter have become critical.

Source: / Map of poverty in Cincinnati by neighborhood

Through this round of funding, the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) awarded grants to eleven nonprofits working to make a difference across 27 counties in Appalachian Ohio. In total, the Appalachian Ohio Emergency Response Fund has now awarded over $118,000 to 29 nonprofits serving all 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio. More awards will be announced in the coming weeks.

Megan Wanczyk says that the Foundation is “actively looking for people and groups who might need grants to support their work. The Emergency Relief Fund is in place for groups who need the help, and Megan is clear that “we continue to actively look for ways to make it helpful.” The needs of non-profits and community organizations continue to grow as COVID-19 and its repercussions continue to weigh on the Appalachian counties. Megan reminded me that the struggles we are facing “are not a sprint, but a marathon.” The lasting impact of the COVID-19 crisis is long-term, and the Emergency Relief Fund from the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is here to provide additional support for non-profits and community organizations who are working to support people throughout the Appalachian region of Ohio.

The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is continuing to review grant requests. To learn how your 501(c)(3) nonprofit or public organization may request funding, or to help grow the dollars available for the next round of funding, visit or contact FAO at 740.753.1111 or [email protected].

Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.

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