Trailblazing Through Time: Innovators of the African-American Community Fund, Then and Now

In 1991, when the Dayton Foundation Governing Board Chair John E. Moore, Sr., along with fellow Governing Board Member Lloyd E. Lewis, Jr., launched the African-American Community Fund (AACF) under the umbrella of The Dayton Foundation, their goal was simple: to empower the African-American community by offering individuals an opportunity to create a permanent financial resource for generations to come.

Historically, AACF donors have included trailblazers whose legacies are carrying on through their funds. One example is Dayton’s first African-American attorney, Moses Jones, who dreamed of a brighter future for African-Americans in Dayton. The fund was established through his 1926 bequest and later transferred to The Dayton Foundation, becoming AACF’s first endowed fund. To date, more than $30,000 has been awarded from the Moses H. Jones Fund to aid YMCAs in Dayton’s primarily black communities.

Following are a few more examples of donors who have made their mark on Greater Dayton through their AACF funds.

Henry Garcia


As the first black man to graduate from an Ohio music conservatory, Henry Garcia paved the way for future African-American musicians. Born in 1917 as a minister’s son, he started playing organ in the ninth grade at his dad’s church, which led him to pursue his passion at a higher education institution. When Henry initially applied to the school, he was denied because of his skin color. Four years later, Henry finally was admitted.

After earning his master of music literature and organ degree, Henry’s journey led him to Wilberforce and later Central State University, where he served as a music professor. As an advocate for music education, Henry wanted to ensure no student would have to experience what he had to endure. Upon his passing in 2001, Henry left a $600,000 gift from his estate to establish the Henry A. Garcia Fund, which helps minority students who want to pursue a music degree. Nearly $400,000 has been awarded to date to support students in the music department at Wilberforce University by providing scholarship assistance for tuition, housing or educational expenses.

“Everyone has the right to an education. I’m happy to do what I can through The Dayton Foundation to preserve this right.”
– Henry Garcia, Dayton Foundation donor

“When you go through what I did to get an education, you don’t want to see it happen again to another young person,” Henry said in 1999. “Everyone has the right to an education. I’m happy to do what I can through The Dayton Foundation to preserve this right.”

Edythe Lewis


During the 1950s, a time when few black people were in the broadcasting industry, Edythe Lewis became the first African-American female disc jockey in Dayton. Years later, she would become known as a pioneer in the local broadcasting industry and in 2003 was inducted into the Dayton Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Remembered for her kindness, Edythe Lewis’s career as a public health nurse ran concurrently with her broadcasting career. This experience also aided her in her work as a Dayton City Commissioner, a role she took over for her husband, Lloyd E. Lewis, Jr., upon his passing in 2001. Edythe and Lloyd established the Lloyd and Edythe Lewis Fund for Black Children’s Health Care Fund through AACF in 1989. To date, nearly $70,000 has been awarded from the Lewis’s fund to care for children’s health needs.

“Sick children, hungry children and children who can’t see, can’t possibly keep up in the classroom,” Edythe said in 2002. “I want to make sure their health is taken care of, so they can stay in school, succeed and become productive citizens. It makes me feel so good now that I’m able to do something to help.”

Gary LeRoy, MD


For longtime Daytonian and former Dayton Foundation Governing Board Chair Gary LeRoy, giving back has been a part of his life since he was a child. Gary’s family was the second African-American family to move into a predominately Jewish, German and/or Appalachian neighborhood, forcing Gary to realize at an early age the importance of diversity and inclusion. He also was taught the power of community.

“When I was in elementary school, I vividly remember bringing nickels, dimes and pennies to school to contribute to the United Way – Red Feather campaign or to the annual Barney Children’s Hospital fundraisers. While I did not know the full extent of my tiny gift, I knew that it was the right thing to do for my community,” Gary said. “That philanthropic sense of responsibility still resonates with me as a professional and as a concerned member of the society that made me who I am today.”

Now a practicing physician and Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Admissions for Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine, Gary’s passion for helping others and his community is reflected through his Dayton Foundation funds. In addition, Gary has volunteered his time for dozens of organizations over the last 30 years, including serving as board chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians and co-chair of the Oregon District Tragedy Fund LLC.

In his recently published book, Quotes From the Edge of Nowhere – The Art of Noticing Unnoticed Wisdom, Gary enlightens readers with “wisdom that came to me through little quotes or thoughts that spontaneously dropped into my consciousness over the span of 40-plus years.”

“In the spirit of the The Dayton Foundation’s tagline, We Help You Help Others,℠ I have always wanted to be that guy who helped people help others – so that collectively we could create a better world in which to live.”
– Gary LeRoy, MD, Dayton Foundation donor

Though he has achieved great success and accolades throughout his life, Gary hopes above all that he will be most remembered as a solid citizen of Greater Dayton.

“In the spirit of the The Dayton Foundation’s tagline, We Help You Help Others,SM I have always wanted to be that guy who helped people help others – so that collectively we could create a better world in which to live,” Gary said.

Debbie Carter


As the current president of AACF, Debbie Carter is a woman passionate about two things: education and “having a good heart.” A graduate of Spelman College, Debbie enjoyed a career as a public relations director for many years until a colleague suggested she become an educator. She went on to earn her master’s degree from the University of Dayton and in 2003, began teaching at Dayton Early College Academy. She moved on to the Miami Valley Career Technology Center, where she has been guiding future leaders for the past 15 years.

Though she has enjoyed a long and successful career, the accomplishment she is most proud of is her family. She and her husband, Michael, established the Carter Family Fund in 2013 to help future generations achieve their goals. This is a philosophy she learned from her family growing up in Tuskeegee, Alabama, and has tried to instill in her own four children.

“I saw my parents and grandmother faithfully give their tithes and offerings at church and sow seeds in our little town. I would often hear my grandmother say, ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ She meant if we have been blessed with talents, health, time, etc., we should use those gifts to help others,” Debbie said. “That memory and my love for what she poured into me is what still motivates me to give back to the community I now call home.”

The Future of AACF

These are just a few examples of nearly 200 fund holders who have made an impact on our region over the last 30 years through AACF. Today, AACF’s 190 funds collectively total more than $7 million in assets and serve as a national model for the promotion of philanthropy in the African-American community. From educators to healthcare workers, AACF donors are making a difference and lifting up Greater Dayton now, and for future generations.