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Sugar Bush History

In 2006, Garrett Boone, co-founder and Chairman of The Container Store (TCS, a privately held company at the time, went public in 2013) retired and sold his ownership stake. Boone’s sister and brother-in-law, Mary Anne and Don Flournoy, dedicated themselves to leveraging their TCS windfall into sustainable economic and environmental development in their local community of SE Ohio and Ohio University. Mary Anne and Don, environmental activists, and academics at Ohio University, decided to donate the money to OU and brought together a community and university legal team to create the Ohio University Foundation’s first so-called “Supporting Organization” — The Sugar Bush Foundation.

Mary Anne was a retired Associate Director of the Center for International Studies and taught in the College of Education, and Don was a Professor in the College of Communications after serving as Dean of University College. They had a working farm in Athens County, and experienced first-hand the disconnect and power imbalance between the academic institution and the economically distressed Appalachian community they lived in. They understood it was not easy for the community and the university to work together and they knew the community and the university’s success was dependent on collaboration. 

Through the thought leadership of Mary Anne and her best friend, Rural Action Founder and the Sugar Bush Foundation’s first non-family Director, Carol Kuhre, the operating principle of “Joint Design Methodology” was born. Each project seeking funding from the Sugar Bush Foundation must have a university partner and a community 501c3 (charity) partner with a plan for joint design and execution of projects. The Flournoy’s, together with daughter Hylie Voss and son Eli, convened Carol Kuhre and six board directors, plus a high school and an OHIO student director, leaders drawn from the community and university, into a semi-autonomous governing body that would give gifts (not grants) through the Ohio University Foundation to joint university-community projects located anywhere in the 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio. The Sugar Bush Foundation Board hears proposals for funding annually and makes recommendations to the Ohio University Foundation Board for final approval and disbursement of funds. 

In 2019, the Athens community mourned the passing of Mary Anne Flournoy, whose legacy of service lives on throughout the Southeastern Ohio region. The Flournoy family continues to lead the Sugar Bush Foundation with Don as Director Emeritus and daughter Hylie Voss now serving as President, with son Eli Flournoy, granddaughter Dakota Flournoy and son-in-law Bruce Voss serving as family board directors together with Carol and six community directors. Granddaughter Annie Voss serves as a student director.

The Sugar Bush Foundation prioritizes funding for projects in the following categories: renewable energy, zero waste, environmental protection and restoration, food security, and sustainable development. To date, the Sugar Bush Foundation has given more than $4 million to projects in the region.


Building on the Sugar Bush Farm
The foundation is named after the Sugar Bush Farm, located just outside of the city of Athens on land set aside by the U.S. government in the Northwest Ordinance of 1786 to support the establishment of Ohio University. The extended Flournoy family have lived there for over 50 years.