What started as a group of like-minded friends 16 years ago, today is one of the most well-known and respected community groups in Marion, the Peace and Freedom Committee. Known particularly for their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast Celebration, the group founded by Lora Troutman, is the recipient of two of the seven Racial Equity and Justice grant awards from Marion Community Foundation in 2023.
“The Martin Luther King Breakfast—and the whole organization—has grown so much,” said Troutman. “At our first MLK Breakfast, we had about 75 people; this year it was more than 340. People really look forward to it and get excited about it.”
Troutman explains that two decades ago she became convinced, after seeing the large Martin Luther King events in Columbus, that Marion should have an event, too. The group she initially formed had the sole focus of a breakfast to honor Dr. King. Now, with the help of a grant from Marion Community Foundation, they will be expanding to offer classes this summer and take a deep and formal look at the organization to strengthen and build capacity in their service to the community.
The Peace and Freedom Committee will receive a grant of $18,000 for “Capacity Building for Racial and Social Justice,” which will be used to offer classes to local youth who are eligible to participate in their annual Speech, Essay, and Art competition to mentor them on topics such as stage presence and confidence, in preparation for the contest. The group will also conduct an internal evaluation of their organization by hiring a professional consultant for the review, develop a 5-year strategic plan, and conduct site visits with similar organizations in the area to allow members to exchange information and best practices.
Troutman said that the biggest change in the Peace and Freedom Committee has been community support. In addition to Marion Community Foundation, the group is supported by the Marion Rotary Club, United Way, and United Church Homes.
“We have a vision and people who believe in the work that we do,” said Troutman. “We are grateful for this support and are working, not only to do better, but to take expectations to a new level.”
The second Racial Equity and Justice grant to the Peace and Freedom Committee is a $6,000 award to develop a book series, Marion Looks Like Me. Six writers are contributing to the project, which explores issues of diversity. Troutman herself is one of the authors. She is creating a coloring book titled “Color Me Friend” and including Marion children’s illustrations.
“The books will help to promote the Peace & Freedom Committee’s work to Marion youth of color and help them see themselves as full members of the community by telling stories about people, cultures, and lived experiences in Marion,” said Troutman.
In addition to the Peace and Freedom Committee’s awards, Marion Community Foundation’s 2023 Racial Equity and Justice grant program awards, totaling $54,000, include:
2023 Racial Equity & Justice Grants
Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History | $5,000 – Marion Black Joy Summerfest 2023
Marion Black Joy Summerfest is an annual celebration to build pride and educate the community about Marion County’s Black culture, heritage, & folklife. The annual event is held near Juneteenth, the federal holiday which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and has been celebrated in the African American community for decades. This year’s Joyfest event will take place at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park on Saturday, June 24th, 2023.
Black Heritage Council of Marion | $15,000 – Strengthening African American Families
This prevention program of the Black Heritage Council is designed to foster resilience among African American youth and prepare them to avoid the consequences associated with poverty and other negative influences.
Mount Vernon Nazarene University | $2,500 – Academic Summer Camp
This program provides an opportunity for minority students from Marion County high schools to attend Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s Academic Summer Camps and envision a future college experience.
Peace & Freedom Committee | $18,000 – Capacity Building for Racial and Social Justice
This award supports the work of Marion’s Peace & Freedom Committee and builds its capacity as a transformational organization to continually improve racial and social justice in Marion.
Peace & Freedom Committee | $6,000 – Peace & Freedom Publications
The award will help to promote the Peace & Freedom Committee’s work to Marion youth of color and help them see themselves as full members of the community by telling stories about people, cultures, and lived experiences in Marion. Publications supported by this grant help to raise funds to sustain the work of the Peace and Freedom Committee.
St. Mary Catholic Church | $4,000 – Latino Health Fair
This award supports and helps expand St. Mary Church’s annual Latino Health Fair for Marion’s Spanish speaking community. The program serves as a welcome event for new Latino families in Marion County and offers health care screenings, education, and community information. Attendance at this annual event has been steadily increasing each year. Organizations interested in participating in the Latino Health Fair should contact Evelyn Lisiecki at St. Mary Church, 740-382-2118.
St. Mary Catholic Church | $3,500 – Summer Enrichment Program
For several years, St. Mary Church in Marion has provided summer academic reinforcement in math, reading and religion to underserved children in LaRue and New Bloomington. This grant will support the program and its goal to reduce summer learning loss.
“The goal of Marion Community Foundation with our Racial Equity and Justice grants is to foster innovative programs for leaders at every level to use their resources to help people overcome challenges and continually build a better community,” said Dean Jacob, President and CEO. “Moving forward takes small, continuous steps and is essential for a community, like Marion, that values all people.”
The Racial Equity & Justice Grant Program is open to any charitable non-profit 501(c)(3) organization or equivalent, including educational, governmental, and religious programs, looking to improve issues of equity and justice in Marion County (Ohio). Awards favor applicants who identify and detail a community need and offer a solution that clearly states an effective plan to meet that need. Funding for the program comes from Marion Community Foundation’s Health Care Fund and the Robert M. & Dorothy C. Wopat Community Fund. The application period is February and March each year and applications are available online at www.MarionCommunityFoundation.org.
The Racial Equity & Justice grant committee consists of co-chairs Jody Demo-Hodgins and Nicolle Wampler and members Candace Floyd, Hon. Matt Frericks, Dana Hanif-Booker, Evelyn Olivos Lisiecki, Pastor Jackie Peterson, and Erin Slater, who review applications and make award recommendations to the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
The 2024 Racial Equity & Justice Grant Program is expected to open in February 2024.
Click HERE to learn more about this grant program.