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Our Story

In 1922, our founder, Mr. Rudolf Henry Pfaff, established a philanthropic corporation known as The Ashtabula Foundation.  He pledged $5,000 in Liberty Bonds to be held by the corporate trustees, or their successors, in trust, for charitable purposes.  The Foundation’s earliest mission, as found in the original minutes, was “The principal and income shall be applied and used by the trustees and their successors in office, in and for religious and charitable purposes, in the relief of the needy and the benefit of humanity in Ashtabula …”

​As investments grew, The Ashtabula Foundation made its first grant in 1924 to the Community Chest (now United Way) of $300 and the Ashtabula County YWCA in the amount of $100. The Board of Directors has continued its support of both the hospital and the YMCA to the present day. In addition to the annual distributions from designated funds, the Foundation has given outright grants for the expansion and upkeep of the facilities, as well as supporting programs of those organizations.

​The original Board Members of The Ashtabula Foundation included some of the most prominent names of Ashtabula, a tradition that continues to this day.  The current volunteer board of directors includes civic-minded community leaders in the areas of education, religion, healthcare, business, and nonprofit sectors.  The eleven board of directors have a combined service to The Ashtabula Foundation of over 140 years.

The Board currently gives grants in the categories of Human Services, Recreation and Conservation, Education, Religion, Arts/Culture/Historical, Community Development, and Youth Enrichment. The Board is required to grant five percent of its asset value annually to non-profit 501(C)(3) organizations. Annual grants range from $750,000 to over $900,000, with an emphasis on those organizations that “provide relief of the needy."

Through contributions from other philanthropy-minded individuals, The Ashtabula Foundation's assets have grown annually.  By maintaining the original contributions and granting only the income from the investments, The Ashtabula Foundation has been able to preserve Mr. Pfaff’s vision for over 100 years.

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Rudolf Henry Pfaff


R. H. Pfaff was a prominent businessman and philanthropist born in Frieberg, Germany, on October 17, 1851.  Mr. Pfaff’s family immigrated to America when he was three years old.  He lived in Pittsburgh until 1875, when he relocated to Ashtabula at the age of 24, married, and had two sons.

​Mr. Pfaff began a career as a carriage trimmer for the Ashtabula Bow Socket Company and eventually became the CEO of the company and remained so until his death on February 18, 1935.

During his 60 years in Ashtabula, Pfaff served as Mayor of Ashtabula and the President and major benefactor for Ashtabula General Hospital, now ACMC.  He donated $250,000 to the establishment of the hospital.  Pfaff and his brother-in-law, Fred K. Lewis, donated $100,000 to build the former Amelia Lewis Nurses’ Home, which once stood adjacent to the hospital.

​Having made other generous contributions to the Ashtabula Foundation, Mr. Pfaff and Mr. Lewis stipulated that Ashtabula General Hospital (ACMC) and the former Lewis Nurses’ Home shall continue to receive the net income of the investments annually.   Accordingly, the Ashtabula County Medical Center continues to receive quarterly distributions from the Ashtabula Foundation for the general purposes of the hospital.



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100th Year Anniversary!

Are you interested in learning about our PAST, 100-year history? Want to know more about our PRESENT Board of Directors, grants, and what we are focusing on in the FUTURE? If so, please read our monthly publications (links below), sharing all that is, The Ashtabula Foundation!

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