Lakewood Man's Giving Circle Going Strong
Walter Wright and his friends started Cleveland Colectivo in 2004, after getting sick of just talking about Cleveland's problems.
In 2004, Walter Wright and his friends were fed up.
"We were tired of talking about the problems Cleveland faces and not doing anything to fix them," he said.
So he decided to use his experience in non-profit development to start Cleveland Colectivo, a giving circle that awards grants to organizations and businesses looking to start, expand or launch a new program.
This year alone, the organization doled out $13,000 in grants to five groups — including a $2,000 award to LakewoodAlive for its initiative that encourages residents to paint their homes.
Past winners include:
- Erie's Edge Farm to develop a line of prepared foods from locally grown produce to sell at the Tremont Farmers Market and through community-supported agriculture programs;
- Joy Machines Bike Shop to open their new storefront in Ohio City's market district; and
- Camp Sunrise, a summer camp in southern Ohio serving children across the state who've been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
Wright said the idea for a giving circle came from immigrant communities who would invest resources in each other's businesses, forming tight-knit villages.
"Getting together with other people and sharing your money tends to form a bond," Wright, 53, said.
The organization raises its money through fundraising events, which Wright said typically feature a visual presentation and a potluck.
"We try to keep it as grass-roots as possible," he said. "There's no board, there's no executive-director."
The group has about 30 members, who pledge to donate $400 annually and have voting privileges. Volunteers can attend meetings and help review grant applications for the group.
Wright said the group has awarded more than $90,000 in total grants since 2005.
"It really varies by year, depending on how much money we raise," he said. "We've given away as little as $7,000, and as much as $23,000."
Last year, the organization awarded $12,500 to seven organizations, including Nicole McGee's Plenty Underfoot, a Cleveland small business that makes and commissions art from reused materials.
"(The grant) helped me move out of my home without holding my breath," said McGee, who received a $1,500 grant to help move her business out of her home into a studio. "It was also the affirmation that what I was doing was something people thought was really cool."
Wright's employment background is just as ecelectic as the organizations receiving grants from the Colectivo.
"I've worked in construction, in the health-care industry, at a factory, in a print shop," he said. "I've also been an art teacher at public and private high schools."
Now he lives in Lakewood with his wife, Judy, who also works in philanthropy, and their two children, 5 and 7 years old. He serves as project director for the Greater University Circle Commonwealth Building Initiative at the Cleveland Foundation.
Colin McEwen contributed to this story.