July 5, 2016
Author: Brandon Chrostowski
I had been cultivating the idea for EDWINS since 2004, but by 2013 it was a fully-formed vision – at least to me, and the significant number of supporters and volunteers who were giving hope to the men inside of Grafton Correctional Instruction by providing skills-based education and a community after release.
But it was clear that EDWINS needed to broaden its reach and establish a sustainable enterprise with a brick and mortar restaurant and institute. A remarkable group of individual advocates rallied around EDWINS, because they also believed in the idea that the men and women returning home to Cleveland needed a fair and equal second chance, but I hadn’t yet been able to find an entrée into foundations.
I had been pounding tables and pounding pavement to drum up financial support to turn the institute and restaurant into reality. It wasn’t until SVP’s 2013 bigBANG! that I felt the pathway to significant foundation and organizational support start to open up.
SVP’s endorsement of EDWINS gave us credibility and a spotlight so that other organizations were finally able to see the absolute need for our programming in the community, the potential of the men and women we serve, and the viability in my plan. In many ways, SVP’s role with EDWINS mirrors what I believe our responsibility is to our students: to remove obstacles and clear their runway for success.
SVP was the catalyst that sparked a huge boom in support for us, and within months of winning 2013’s bigBANG!, we had received more than $400,000 in foundation and organization support.
As essential as that money was, the intangible generosity and outcomes were – and are – just as vital. The advocacy from Joyce and Kevin Shaw, Doreen and Dick Cahoon, Carol and Gil Lowenthal, Doug and Holly Wang, and so many others continues to this day. Their influence and recruitment increased EDWINS’ network exponentially, and we see the direct benefit in our students’ lives today.
When a student comes to us with a problem – whether it’s legal, financial, medical or something else – we have a collective of individuals and organizations that are willing to step up and meet the need. If the value of SVP’s contribution is ever in doubt, we need only think of Lynn, Alvin, Tiffany, Darnell and our entire list of graduates who are now sustaining themselves and their families because of the support of Social Venture Partners.