African American Fund growing

The African American Fund of Bartholomew County has grown by more than $70,000 since it was established three years ago.

Beginning with a fund balance of about $10,000, the fund is at just more than $80,000 now and is quickly approaching the $100,000 mark, said Tom Harmon, one of the fund’s founders.

Harmon and his wife Mary joined with five other local couples to establish the fund. In addition to the Harmons, founders include Gil and Dawn Palmer, Dennis and Paulette Roberts, Charles and Lorraine Smith, Donald and Shirley Trapp and Ben Downing and Lori Thompson.

Created around five key initiatives — education, leadership development, economic/career development, health awareness, and arts and cultural awareness — the fund hopes to educate and inspire blacks in Bartholomew County, its founders said. Building a lasting endowment will assist in diminishing disparities between blacks and others, model philanthropy and inspire blacks to overcome barriers to reach goals, the founders said when announcing the fund.

The fund has sponsored local events including the Langston Hughes Project and Arts for AIDS.

The fund grows through donations from individuals and businesses in the Bartholomew County area, Harmon said.

“It’s attracted all kinds of donors,” said Tracy Souza, president and CEO of Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, which administers the fund.

That includes “groups that were really drawn to the cause and what they were trying to do,” Souza said.

The African American Fund most recently sponsored several Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities in Columbus, including the annual breakfast and the diversity and inclusion luncheon at IUPUC, Harmon said.

The fund also recently expanded its board to allow for greater input from younger black residents. Stephanie Womack, Sandra Miles and Courtney McCoy were added to the organization’s board.

As the fund continues to grow, Harmon said he hopes to see it expand its influence in the local black community by sponsoring more events.

Souza attributed the continued persistence and engagement of the fund’s founders, including Harmon, as the reason the fund has found success and support across Bartholomew County.

Contributions to the African American Fund of Bartholomew County can be sent to the Heritage Fund at 538 Franklin St., Columbus.

About the fund

The African American Fund of Bartholomew County was created in 2013 by six local couples:

  • Tom and Mary Harmon
  • Gil and Dawn Palmer
  • Dennis and Paulette Roberts
  • Charles and Lorraine Smith
  • Donald and Shirley Trapp
  • Ben Downing and Lori Thompson

The fund is designed to improve the quality of life for area blacks, and by extension will benefit all residents, its founders said.

Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5712.