Left to right: Ron’s late husband, Chad Sandusky, Ron Kovach, and Ron’s late parents Helen and John Kovach

An Immigrant Family in Baltimore Gives Back to Those in Need

By the time John Kovach moved to Baltimore in 1958 to join Alex Brown and Sons, he had already forged an unlikely but inspiring path to success. One of six children born in the small coal-mining town of Curwensville, Pennsylvania, John began his career working in a shoe store owned by his father, a Czechoslovakian immigrant with little formal education. Determined to improve his prospects, Kovach went on to earn a degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. After serving in the Army in Japan during World War II, he received his masters from Harvard University’s School of Business. By that time, John had met his wife, Helen, the daughter of Sicilian immigrants, and together they settled in Oklahoma, where John was the financial vice president at a petroleum corporation. They soon moved again, with their two sons, this time to Baltimore City. In less than a decade, John would be made senior partner at Alex Brown.

Ron Kovach is the advisor to the John G. and Helen H. Kovach Fund at BCF

“Dad was surprised by his own wealth,” says his son Ron, “and wanted to use it to support institutions and programs that reflected what he cared about in life.” In 1999, John and his wife opened the John G. and Helen H. Kovach Fund at the Baltimore Community Foundation. A significant focus of the fund early on was Govans Presbyterian Church where John would become a deacon. He and his wife were also generous supporters of scholarship funds, reflecting their commitment to help low-income families like theirs make their way in the world through education. Recipients of these BCF funds included scholarships for students at St. Ambrose Catholic School, the Children of Slovakia Foundation, and the International Youth Foundation. As Ron explains, “My father and mother were trying to reach out to people who could not afford an education but showed potential.”

Ron loved growing up in Baltimore’s Homeland neighborhood, first attending Roland Park Public School through 8th grade and then Friends School. Ron also remembers the fun he had on Saturday afternoons watching movies with friends at the Senator Theater and visiting the Gwynn Oak amusement park. “Dad thought Baltimore was a great place to live, particularly because of the rich diversity of the city’s immigrant communities,” Ron recalls. “He loved walking through his favorite Greek and Italian and other ethnic neighborhoods.” Much to the delight of the kids, the family also took a trip to Disneyland.

“My father had a wanderlust which I inherited,” Ron admits. After graduating from Friends, Ron attended Dickinson College and then moved to Washington DC to start a job at the Environmental Protection Agency. He loved his work. It was also where he met his future husband, Chad Sandusky.  They were married in 2010. Ron’s parents grew to love Chad like another son, and the four of them traveled the world together. “We went everywhere, from China to Costa Rica to Alaska and across Europe and Southeast Asia,” says Ron. Together, they visited his father’s ancestral hometown of Palin in the Czech Republic, as well as a small town in Sicily where his mother’s family was from.

“Dad was surprised by his own wealth and wanted to use it to support institutions and programs that reflected what he cared about in life.” 

Over the years, the family fund at BCF would reflect Ron’s parents’ appreciation for those who cared for them in their later years. They continued to support Govans Presbyterian Church, as well as the University of Maryland Medical System Foundation and Gilchrist Hospice Care. After Mr. Kovach died of cancer in 2004, Helen carried on the family’s giving tradition, providing grants to disaster relief efforts, including support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, as well as end-of-life care institutions such as the Gilchrist Hospice Care. The Fund helped build a new chapel at the University of Maryland hospital and bought a desperately needed MRI machine. Later on, Helen was diagnosed with dementia, but kept the Fund’s focus on medical and hospice care institutions. Among those grants: a scholarship fund for the employees of Blakehurst, an independent living retirement community where Helen resided for a time before she developed dementia.

Ron has had to struggle recently with the pain of losing his mother in 2019, after losing his husband only the year before. They had been together for nearly 40 years when Chad died.

Having served the Baltimore philanthropic community for nearly half a century, BCF’s donor services staff work with many individuals like Ron, as a family’s charitable legacy passes from one generation to another. Ron has not yet decided his long-term giving plans for the family fund at BCF, but he is carrying on the family’s charitable giving legacy, with recent gifts to Gilchrist’s music therapy program for hospice patients, and to Capital Caring, a hospice organization that helped both his husband Chad and mother Helen. He has also started to volunteer his time in community-based organizations in Washington D.C. And, Ron continues to take pleasure in travel, with group trips this past year to Russia and the Galapagos.  He is looking forward to the day he can reschedule a trip—unfortunately recently canceled due to the park closure—to take Chad’s son and grandson to visit the new Star Wars park at Disneyland.  ν

Christi Macy
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Building Stronger Neighborhoods Regionwide

We have a nearly 30-year history of offering grants to resident-led groups and community projects in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. These grants give residents the resources they need to accomplish a small project, get more people involved, and encourage the next generation of neighborhood leaders. We also fund programs that support the development of leaders of all ages who are working to improve their neighborhoods and schools. Our support is intended to help identify, activate, inform and network leaders. And finally, we believe when schools and neighborhoods team up to improve their school and community, meaningful and lasting change can be made. We are interested in funding proposals in which the students and adults in schools collaborate intentionally with community residents, neighborhood associations, and other individuals, groups, and institutions in the area surrounding a school.

School Leadership

We believe that attracting and retaining effective and diverse school leaders is a key lever for change in Baltimore's educational landscape, and so we fund school leadership development efforts at the district and individual school level. We are interested in funding proposals that focus on principal coaching, mentoring, peer networking, wellness/self-care, as well as pipelines that identify and develop new leaders. We will also continue to support efforts that build a culture of appreciation and encouragement for school leaders.

How Can We Help?

Melissa McC. Warlow
Director, Baker Fund Grants Program
410-332-4172 x150

Apply for a Grant

Our on-line application system provides applicants with a portal to start a new grant application or to continue updating an application already in process. Please be sure to select the “Save and Finish Later” button when you are finished working on your application in order to save your current session’s work. At any time during the application process you can select the “Contact Us” button in the top right corner of the screen and you will be able to send an email to the Baltimore Community Foundation staff with specific questions. 

To be considered for funding, proposals must be submitted through the online application portal, however, we provide a PDF version of the application along with other useful forms here for your reference:   

When you are ready please select one of the following options:


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Select this option if you have never used our website to apply for a grant from BCF.


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Select this option if you have applied for any of BCF’s grants using our website. Your profile may still be in our system and you may login using your account.

Place-based Grantmaking in Selected School Communities

We have allocated funds for two geographical areas that bookend a crucial corridor on the Westside of Baltimore City: Howard Park /Forest Park area (served by Calvin Rodwell Elementary Middle School and Liberty Elementary), and Reservoir Hill/Penn North area (served by Dorothy I Height Elementary). In these three schools and their surrounding neighborhoods, we will support projects and activities designed to make the communities safe, clean, green and vibrant; and improve the quality of the schools. Some projects may be neighborhood-focused, some school-focused and others collaborative projects between the schools and their respective communities.

Early Learning & Judy Centers

High quality early childhood education has a lifelong effect on students. Through our Early Learning grant program, we are interested in system-wide early childhood education proposals that will help Baltimore City and County's youngest learners, and their families, get the start they need. Nonprofit organizations that offer programs and/or services to Judy Centers are encouraged to contact the centers directly to explore partnership opportunities.

How Can We Help?

John A. Gilpin


Director of Planned Gifts
410-332-4171 ext. 132

How Can We Help?

Kate Sam

Communications Officer
410-332-4171 ext. 181

How Can We Help?

Cathy Brill

Executive Director
Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Charitable Foundation