Kindness, compassion, caring — and the financial support to make dreams come true. Since 1980, the Community Foundation of Lorain County has made it a mission to improve lives in myriad ways. That passionate purpose will once again be in the spotlight during Connect to a Cause, the foundation’s annual 12-hour fundraiser that takes place Sept. 16 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

During last year’s crowdfunding event, more than 1,000 individuals raised $148,000, plus a $40,000 match, for a total of $188,000 for 56 Lorain County nonprofit organizations.

Cynthia Andrews, Community Foundation of Lorain County president and CEO, hopes this year’s fete will raise $250,000 for 65 nonprofits.

“Our mission is reflected in our tagline: Connecting people who care with causes that matter,” she says. “And if you think about the community we live in today, everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something. And we are. We’re all part of this community that we call home, and it’s your Community Foundation that continues to strive to meet the needs of those who live here.”

For more information about Connect to a Cause and how to make a donation, visit

Here are four inspiring stories of programs and places that have been touched by the extraordinary generosity Lorain County residents help the Community Foundation of Lorain County provide.



YWCA and a YMCA?” It’s a question Jeanine P. Donaldson gets asked often. Her answer is succinct: “When you move to a community and you want to know where to swim and gym, you’re looking for the YMCA. When you move into a community and you’re looking for day care, child care, a homeless center, domestic violence programs and girls’ empowerment programs, you’re looking for the YWCA,” she says with a smile.

Incorporated in 1913, the Elyria YWCA was the first organization to host multiracial social events and champion social justice and women’s rights.

“That’s been our legacy since we began,” reflects Donaldson, who’s been the executive director of the Elyria YWCA since 1980. “ We were also the first organization to receive funding from the Community Foundation of Lorain County because we agreed to be the custodial account for the welfare department and provide diapers and cribs to mothers in need.”

Donaldson recounts the celebrated history of the Elyria landmark, which began as a safe place for women to live after they decided to leave the family farm in Lorain County and head to the big city of Elyria to look for work.

In 1995, the YWCA expanded its residential program to provide the county’s first transitional housing for homeless women and families, Women’s Campus Project. Five years later, it was followed by Women in Secure Housing (WISH),  a permanent housing facility in downtown Lorain for women with disabilities. 

The YWCA’s beginnings date back to 1855 when philanthropist Lady Mary Jane Kinnaird founded a home in North London for nurses to stay while traveling to and from the Crimean War. In this country, Donaldson adds, the YWCA created orphanages following the Civil War, began hiring women of color in the 1920s and testified before Congress for anti-lynching laws.

Last fall, the Community Foundation of Lorain County created a Racial Equity Fund to strengthen relationships between marginalized communities and law enforcement, and create measurable improvements in racial equity. As a result, the Elyria YWCA’s longstanding Anti-Hate Task Force — a coalition of community organizations and law enforcement who’ve banded together to prevent hate crimes and other injustices — has transitioned into the Lorain County Racial Equity Center.

“Becoming a center has always been in our strategic plan and partnering with the Community Foundation to make it happen will help in making it a community-wide strategy,” Donaldson says.

The Lorain County Racial Equity Center will focus on racial inequities across all systems including health, economic and workforce development, education, housing and community policing and law enforcement.

“We know that certain segments of the population are not dying because of disease,” Donaldson says. “They’re dying prematurely because of inadequate housing, health care and education. All of these circumstances intersect with racial issues and contribute to a public health crisis. The Lorain County Racial Equity Center will define it.”




As Parris M. Smith, president and CEO of Lorain County Urban League, looks forward to Community Foundation of Lorain County’s Connect to a Cause, fundraiser, she’s quick to express her gratitude for any amount her organization may receive.

“We’ve been working to empower our community at any cost, so philanthropy is important because we’re a nonprofit and all services we provide to clients are free,” Smith says. “We’re excited the foundation has found a way to allow the community to connect to causes that matter to them. Last year, the Urban League came up with the [slogan] ‘I got $5 on it,’ to let people know that any amount is gratefully appreciated.”

Since 1978, the historic civil rights organization has been dedicated to elevating the standard of living for African Americans and all underserved urban communities, no matter the race or ethnicity.

“Our services are literally here for anyone in Lorain County,” Smith says. “Because we want to empower everyone. When we empower one person, they can empower someone else.”

Thanks to crucial help from the Community Foundation of Lorain County, the Urban League’s Rental/Mortgage Assistance Program was a lifesaver to those affected by COVID-19.

“We received federal and state dollars for the program, but they came with restrictions,” Smith says. “All of our housing programs are really focused on making sure people have a home, which we believe is an essential, everyday need. The non-discretionary financial support we received from the foundation allowed us to help people in ways they needed it the most.”

The Urban League also inspires youth to find their life’s purpose in a variety of ways. The organization partners with Bon Secours Mercy Health to sponsor the Rising Star Medical Program, which introduces high school juniors and seniors to potential careers in the medical profession, as they enhance their stills in teamwork, leadership and professionalism. Project Ready Mentor helps underserved 10th grade high school students progress academically, socially and intellectually with the help of a trained mentor, and Road to Success College Tours offer Lorain County students the opportunity to visit an array of institutions which will prepare them, as Smith explains, “for college, career and life.”

Residents of all ages and skill levels can attend Financial Empowerment workshops that offer budgeting tools, tips on improving credit scores and free credit consultations. Those searching for a job are encouraged to participate in the Urban League’s Workforce Development Program for assistance with resume preparation, job readiness training and brushing up on interviewing skills.

Through the Minority Business Assistance Center, the Urban League supports aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners and assists them with launching and growing small-business enterprises through training and coaching resources.

On Sept. 18, the Urban League’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference will feature motivational speaker and author Dennis Kimbro, who will discuss financial wellness.

“Our mission is to craft programs that are tailor-made for the needs of every individual we serve,” Smith says.



Metropolitan Park District has become a 10,000-acre oasis containing 30 parks, reservations and preserves; 70 miles of scenic trails and countless ways to commune with the great outdoors.

Thanks to support from the Community Foundation of Lorain County the park system continues to blossom. Tourists and residents alike continue to enjoy the Historic Rose Garden at Lakeview Park, filled with 2,800 roses planted along 48 beds connected by walkways. Dedicated in May 1932, and sponsored by 17 community organizations — including the Lorain Rotary — the garden was designed in the shape of a wheel with eight spokes to replicate the Rotary Club emblem.

The inclusive playground and splash pad at Hollstein Reservation in Amherst is a family-friendly space for children of all abilities that was also made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation of Lorain County. Children playing in the splash pad are provided with ponchos that will protect wheelchairs and walkers from getting wet. Playground swings are also designed for everyone to enjoy, and a covered sand pit allows children to play for hours without getting sunburned. The in-ground slide offers easy access to those with developmental disabilities who cannot climb a ladder. Park staff formed focus groups with parents of students attending Murray Ridge Center for suggestions on what the playground should feature and how it should evolve. 

“We’re grateful for all the support the foundation has given us over the years,” says Lorain County Metro Parks director Jim Ziemnik. “The organization has helped us create endowment funds that will provide sustaining investment in our community.”

Dollars the Metro Parks receive from the Community Foundation’s 2021 Connect to a Cause event will be used to provide daily care to the red-tailed hawk, screech owl, turkey vulture, barn owl and barred owls that call the Raptor Center at the Carlisle Visitor Center home.

“We chose the Raptor Center in LaGrange as the recipient of any Connect to [a] Cause funds we receive this year,” says Lorain County Metro Parks assistant director Jennifer Bracken. “Over the past several years, we’ve had [a company] donate food to us at a value of more than $5,000 a year. But the pandemic caused them to close their doors. We’ve conducted annual fund-raising campaigns for the Raptor Center.”



From a charming main street to avenues of historic homes, Wellington embodies a proud history that dates back to the mid-1800s. It’s the place where, in 1858, a group of citizens banded together to rescue a runaway slave, and celebrated painter Archibald Willard lived for most of his life.

“The spirit of Wellington grows stronger every day,” says Jenny Arntz, executive director of Main Street Wellington, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing the village through beautification and hosting special events including themed First Fridays.

Thanks to funding from the Community Foundation of Lorain County, Main Street Wellington was able to create two maps that enable visitors and residents alike to easily find the perfect spots to shop, dine and commune with nature.

“Cindy Andrews [Community Foundation of Lorain County president and CEO] called us earlier this year to explain that with all of the COVID relief efforts that were needed, the foundation was not going to be able to give a large grant to us,” Arntz says. “But she wanted to let us know that they really support what we’re doing and would happily sponsor a small project. The idea to make maps has been on the drawing board for a long time. We’re grateful the foundation generously gave us the seed money to make them a reality.”

Located in the Spirit of ’76 Museum, the Southern Lorain County Historical Society invites visitors to take a walk through Ohio history by exploring more than 4,000 artifacts on display, including “The Spirit of ’76,” Archibald Willard’s iconic painting honoring the American Revolution. Born in Bedford, Ohio, in 1836, Willard and his family moved to Wellington in 1855, where he painted carriages and furniture for E.S. Tripp. Following the Civil War, Willard, who’d enlisted in the 86th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, set up a studio in Cleveland where he painted his most famous image. One of his 22 original versions hangs in the museum.

Thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Lorain County, one of Willard’s more obscure — but no less pivotal — works has been restored. A masonic lecture chart for the Freemasons Bellefontaine Lodge No. 206, which Willard created in approximately 1877, has been refurbished and taken its rightful place in the museum. The 10-by-13 mural is painted on cloth and depicts an arresting biblical image of masons constructing Solomon’s temple.

“Our museum is levy-funded, but it’s a very small levy that’s just enough to keep the doors open,” says Tim Rolfe, president of Southern Lorain County Historical Society. “Through the Community Foundation of Lorain County, we received money to purchase security cameras, and a grant helped us complete the restoration of the masonic chart. If it wasn’t for the foundation, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”;