Indispensable Civic Roles

Cleveland’s Go-to Partner

The Foundation’s Indispensable Roles as Advocate, Catalyst, Convener and Leader

The Cleveland Foundation is the largest grantmaking organization in Greater Cleveland (and, for that matter, the state of Ohio), with annual awards that exceeded $87 million in 2013. The total dollars awarded since grantmaking began in 1919 is a truly staggering figure: $1,783,903,817.

But the foundation’s impact is greater than the sum total of its grants. Beyond robust endowment building and responding thoughtfully to requests, the Cleveland Foundation is privileged to have the human and financial resources to fill other critical roles.

Time and again the foundation has stepped forward to serve the community as a convener of influential parties on issues of great importance: as a catalyst that mobilizes financial and intellectual resources or launches projects that draw upon the board’s and staff’s talent, passion and expertise, as a think tank that conducts or supports research and the investigation of best practices, and as an advocate for courageous action or public policy reform. The foundation has also demonstrated its willingness to take the lead whenever it is the anchor institution in the best position to do so. As shown by the examples of non-grantmaking roles featured here, the Cleveland Foundation has a long, rich tradition of serving as the community’s “go-to partner,” a tradition that it intends to perpetuate in the years ahead.

Leader: Paving the Way for Public Housing 1933

None of the many civic responsibilities that Leyton E. Carter shouldered as an expected complement to his position as the Cleveland Foundation’s director proved more significant than his chairmanship of Cleveland Homes, Incorporated. This private housing corporation was formed in 1933 to implement a program of slum clearance and low-cost housing construction to be financed by a $12 million allotment from the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (PWA).

With blight swallowing up fully one-fourth of Cleveland’s total acreage, Cleveland Homes prepared a master redevelopment plan that called for 1,000 acres of east-side slums to be replaced with new streets and speedways linking low-income garden apartments with stores, schools and other public buildings.

The plan was never fully realized because Cleveland Homes proved unable to raise an additional $2 million required by the federal government. Nevertheless, during his brief tenure as chair of the housing corporation, Carter helped to lay the groundwork for the construction of the first three public housing projects in America. Before PWA decided in early 1934 to assume full responsibility for the first 1,028 units Cleveland Homes had planned to build, the housing corporation had commissioned all the necessary architectural drawings and acquired the land.

Construction of the Cedar Apartments, Outhwaite Homes and Lakeview Terrace was completed in 1937, and three years later PWA placed the public housing complexes under the management of the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA). The founding director of CMHA, former Cleveland councilman Ernest J. Bohn, is usually given sole credit today for the concept of public housing, as it was he who persuaded city council to undertake a catalytic study of blight and influenced state legislation establishing municipal housing authorities. But Carter’s unpaid and time-consuming leadership of Cleveland Homes should also be acknowledged as part of the Cleveland Foundation’s record of accomplishment.

Convener: Establishing a Groundbreaking Interracial Forum 1964

On April 7, 1964, a bulldozer clearing land for one of three new public elementary schools to be built in predominately African-American neighborhoods on Cleveland’s east side backed up and accidentally crushed to death a Presbyterian minister who had joined an on-site demonstration organized by a coalition of civil rights groups to protest the construction project’s reinforcement of school segregation.

The news of the Reverend Bruce W. Klunder’s demise horrified James A. Norton, the director of the Cleveland Foundation’s affiliated philanthropy, Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation (GCAF), who had for months been trying to persuade the chamber of commerce to organize a meeting of its members with their African-American counterparts to discuss the city’s disintegrating race relations. Norton and GCAF’s chairman, retired industrialist Kent H. Smith (who also sat on the board of the Cleveland Foundation), feared the tragic accident might ignite greater unrest. They prevailed upon John W. (Jack) Reavis, the managing partner of a pre-eminent corporate law firm, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, to convene an emergency meeting of all concerned.

The meeting that took place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 19, 1964, in the Sheraton-Cleveland Hotel was as historic as it was dramatic. Never before had the ranking leadership of Cleveland’s black and white communities been assembled in one room. The white captains of business and industry listened quietly as the self-styled Negro Leadership Committee, whose members included such prominent African-American businessmen as newspaper publisher W.O. Walker and bank executive Bertram E. Gardner, laid out the political, economic and social inequalities afflicting the African-American community.

The parties agreed to form ad hoc committees to examine the problems facing African-American residents in the areas of employment, housing and education, but parted company on whether the issue of police brutality should be tackled. After months of frank and intense discussions, subcommittee members decided at summer’s end to institutionalize their newfound working relationship by creating the Businessmen’s Interracial Committee on Community Affairs (BICCA). GCAF gave BICCA space in its offices, and the committee’s full-time director and administrative expenses were paid in part by annual grants.

Operating under Jack Reavis’s leadership for the next seven years, the Businessmen’s Interracial Committee produced mixed results. The education subcommittee decided the schools’ new superintendent, Paul W. Briggs, should be given time to investigate charges of segregation, a reasonable approach that even the protestors accepted. With a crisis averted and a peaceful opening of the school year assured, master politician Briggs was able to refocus BICCA’s and the community’s attention on passing bond issues to pay for renewing the school system’s physical plant. More than 40 new neighborhood schools were subsequently built, cementing into place the emerging patterns of segregation that had provoked the protests.

BICCA’s housing subcommittee decided to focus on the issue of fair housing and set about organizing and funding the Fair Housing Council, a professionally staffed coordinating agency for the more than 40 community and neighborhood groups the subcommittee had discovered were working on the issue, largely independently of one another. The council met with some success, conducting a campaign that saw 45 of Cuyahoga County’s 60 municipalities pass fair housing resolutions. It also helped to implement Operation Equality, a Ford Foundation initiative to improve minority housing opportunities in eight demonstration cities.

BICCA’s most successful program to improve economic opportunities for African Americans—an intensive effort to train and find jobs for 2,000 chronically unemployed African-American youths—began in June 1967 with federal support. This campaign against central-city joblessness, which stood at 15.5 percent among African Americans, also received a large Ford Foundation grant. BICCA’s most lasting contribution, however, was in demonstrating to the city’s black and white leadership the imperative and benefits of collaboration and inclusion—a lesson that reshaped Greater Clevelanders’ conduct of civic affairs going forward.

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Advocate: Backing The Free Clinic 1970

The Cleveland Foundation was an early champion and financial supporter of the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland, which annually provides quality health care and related services free of charge to more than 10,000 people who lack appropriate alternatives. The Free Clinic was established in 1970 in a old frame house on Cornell Road in University Circle as a treatment center for young people with drug-related problems. The foundation backed the creation of this safe haven, where medical care was provided with no questions asked.

The need for indigent health care on the east side of Cleveland was so great that the Free Clinic soon began treating anyone who walked in. In less than a decade, it had evolved into a comprehensive health center offering medical, dental, mental health, social, legal, educational and counseling services to underserved populations ranging from victims of domestic violence and runaways to neighborhood residents. When the clinic faced closure due to mounting debt in the early 1980s, the foundation stepped forward with emergency operating grants and organizational development assistance.

Today, this bright, modern facility on the outskirts of University Circle is one of the few free clinics started in the turbulent Vietnam War era to survive. Having recently been designated a community health center, one of only 33 in Ohio, the Free Clinic now qualifies for federal support.

Convener: Safeguarding Cleveland’s Cultural Assets 1977

The Cleveland Foundation took creative steps to secure the financial futures and continued artistic development of Cleveland’s major performing arts organizations in the late 1970s. The foundation’s first program officer for cultural affairs, Patricia Jansen Doyle, recognized that the city’s new ballet and opera companies and its more established theater groups were operating on the assumption of ever-increasing government funding at a time when national research predicted a leveling off of federal support in general. With board approval, in November 1977 Doyle invited the Cleveland Ballet, Cleveland Play House, Cleveland Orchestra, Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, Karamu House, New Cleveland Opera Company (later Cleveland Opera) and the Playhouse Square Foundation to participate in the Cleveland Cultural Resources Study.

The participating arts organizations received technical assistance, including a long-range economic analysis of their revenues and expenditures, to inform their preparation of five-year plans. Doyle also assembled a committee of high-powered business leaders chaired by Allen C. Holmes, managing partner of the law firm Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue to review and critique the group’s plans, with the objective of nurturing the interest of local corporations in supporting the arts. At the end of this yearlong process of self-study, six of the organizations formed a consortium to pursue a joint $2 million challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Since the Cleveland Orchestra had recently been a beneficiary of an NEA challenge grant, it did not participate.

In 1979, the NEA awarded the Cleveland Consortium for the Performing Arts a $1.75 million challenge grant that required a 3-to-1 match. The Holmes committee reached out to 180 corporate executives, requesting financial support. During the three-year challenge period, the participating arts organizations raised nearly $13 million in new and increased donations from corporations and individuals. Each of the consortium members dramatically enlarged its base of support, making it possible for all to expand their artistic horizons.

Catalyst: Boosting Biomedical Research 1980

In the early 1980s, the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) faced a difficult and momentous transition. The chairs of its departments of microbiology, anatomy, pathology and physiology had either resigned or retired. How the vacancies were filled would affect the school’s competitiveness for national science grants well into the next century. The ability of many Cleveland hospitals to attract topflight physicians also depended on the rebuilding of the medical school’s basic sciences departments, as new faculty members would hold joint hospital appointments.

The new dean of the medical school, Richard E. Behrman, looked to the Cleveland Foundation for funds to enable his new department heads to update laboratories and attract nationally regarded researchers. Behrman’s request for $3 million was three times larger than the foundation’s largest grant to date.

Acting on the advice of a team of 11 nationally known basic scientists led by cardiovascular-pulmonary specialist Alfred P. Fishman, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, the foundation agreed to support the rebuilding of CWRU’s basic sciences departments one at a time. Site reviews were to be conducted by the consultants prior to the release of funding for each successive department.

Between 1981 and 1986, the medical school received four large grants totaling $2.15 million, a foresighted investment in an institution vital to the practice of medicine locally and to the vigor of the regional economy. By the end of the 1980s, the new basic sciences faculty had attracted about $20 million in additional federal research funds, and the medical school had announced plans to build a new $78 million biomedical research center. The school’s increasing momentum had also helped to propel CWRU back into the national ranks of the top 20 private research universities.

A three-year foundation grant of $575,000 awarded to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in 1988 similarly enhanced that institution’s capacity to perform advanced biomedical research. Until then, the hospital’s physicians had conducted research with a largely physiological or biochemical focus. With the foundation’s support, cardiologist Bernadine Healy, the recently arrived director of the Clinic’s research institute, created and staffed a major new department of molecular biology, making possible (among other things) research in the emerging field of genomics and gene sequencing.

The foundation’s vote of confidence in Healy’s vision empowered her. Before leaving to head the National Institutes of Health in 1991, Healy continued to broaden the Clinic’s research interests, promoted the critical place of research in the Clinic’s medical education program, and took the first steps toward relocating the Clinic’s scattered research departments into a single complex. Today, the Lerner Research Institute, which opened in 1999 with support from the Cleveland Foundation, houses 18 multidisciplinary teams in its department of cellular and molecular medicine alone.

The repositioning of the Cleveland Clinic and CWRU’s medical school at the cutting edge of biomedical research has advanced scientific knowledge and medical understanding. Valuable in its own right, the ongoing process of discovery has also been one of the engines driving Greater Cleveland’s transformation into a nationally recognized center of biomedical commercialization—a high-tech, high-growth industry cluster key to northeastern Ohio’s economic recovery and global competitiveness.

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Leader: Reforming Public School Governance 1996

Steven A. Minter felt duty-bound to accept Cleveland mayor Michael R. White’s request that he co-chair the Mayoral Commission on School Governance in 1996. The Cleveland Foundation had a long tradition of leading efforts to improve the public schools, and the foundation’s seventh chief executive was personally devoted to education reform.

During the first three years of Minter’s tenure, the foundation had stepped forward to make the lead commitment to a $16 million philanthropic-corporate partnership called the Cleveland Initiative for Education (CIE), which sought to establish universal postsecondary scholarship and employment programs requested by the system’s superintendent as incentives for his students. Minter deemed the initiative so critical to the well-being of the city and its children that he joined the CIE board and helped guide its evolution into a broad-based coalition working to effect school improvement on multiple fronts.

Minter’s new assignment came as a result of a proposal floated by two Ohio General Assembly members recommending that control of the state’s failing public school systems be vested in the top elected official of the system’s home city. If adopted (as similar legislation had been in Chicago), Clevelanders would no longer elect school board members.

The prospect of losing hard-won voting rights did not sit well with many of Cleveland’s African-American leaders, and the leaders of the Cleveland Teachers Union were opposed to ceding control of the schools to a politician with whom they had publicly wrangled over contract negotiations. Yet “mayoral control” seemed to be making a difference in the performance of the Chicago schools. A nonpartisan study of the concept, Mayor White recognized, might help to ensure it a fair hearing in the General Assembly. To chair the study, he looked to civic leaders who could be counted on to do a thorough examination and who would be perceived as having no axes to grind: Steve Minter and David Bergholz, then executive director of the George Gund Foundation.

Like all champions of public education, Minter had watched with increasing concern the comings and goings of 14 Cleveland schools superintendents and the dysfunction of the system’s elected board. The board proved incapable of heading off either state control, which the federal courts imposed on the system in 1995, or the “fiscal emergency” declared by the state auditor in 1996. Finding these developments intolerable, Minter had given considerable thought to the issue of school governance and believed that mayoral control might be a workable alternative.

To inform its deliberations, the Mayoral Commission on School Governance conducted research, sought perspective from national experts and held public hearings that brought out contentious opposition to the concept of an appointed school board. Minter knew the hearings would change no minds, but believed them necessary to the integrity of the study process. He did not want it said that the commission had ignored legitimate concerns. Minter took special pains to solicit the feedback of then U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes, who had represented Cleveland’s 11th District since 1970 and whose opinions counted with both the public and the powers-that-be. The congressman helped to shape a positive outcome by vetoing the idea of having suburban representatives on the appointed board and making his opposition to mayoral control known without mounting the barricades.

The commission issued its final report in December 1996, arguing that “those involved in governance must have the ability to make a variety of financial, policy and other strategic decisions that will effectively chart the correct course of the Cleveland Public Schools…. We believe these types of skills can best be brought to bear through an appointed board structure.” The commission co-chairs succeeded in moving “the debate beyond the political to considerations of management and education,” according to Mayor White.

The Ohio General Assembly ushered in a new day for the Cleveland public schools by enacting legislation that enabled the city’s mayor to name a chief executive officer of the public schools and appoint a nine-member board of education. The legislation called for a referendum on mayoral control after four years. When the vote came on November 5, 2002, more than 70 percent of the city’s electorate said yes to the perpetuation of the untraditional governance model that has been essential ever since to the initiation of substantive efforts to improve Cleveland’s public schools.

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Advocate: Championing Advanced Energy 2003

The Cleveland Foundation was the first to envision the rise of an advanced energy industry in northeastern Ohio. In a test of the attractiveness of solar power, the foundation spearheaded the creation of Evergreen Energy Solutions, a worker’s cooperative that designs and installs photovoltaic solar-panel arrays for institutional and commercial customers. Given the region’s manufacturing heritage, the design and production of wind power components seemed an even better bet to the foundation’s new president and CEO, Ronald B. Richard.

Struck by the windy chop of Lake Erie during his first trip to interview for the foundation job in 2003, Richard had barely settled into his new responsibilities before he began to talk about the environmental and economic benefits to be derived from the region’s taking a lead role in clean energy creation. Having gained extensive experience with manufacturing and environmental issues during his previous career in business, he suggested that offshore wind generation might be a means to provide Greater Cleveland with a green, renewable source of electricity, and to reinvigorate its manufacturing base. In the beginning, people were skeptical.

Richard believed that one of the reasons for the region’s economic weakness was missing out on the information technology revolution. He was determined to ensure that Greater Cleveland participated in what he correctly believed would become a big-industry cluster. Today, advanced energy enterprises generate $46 billion in annual revenues and account for 400,000 jobs worldwide.

In 2004, Richard won board approval to take the first step toward gauging the technical and economic feasibility of creating an offshore freshwater wind farm. With foundation funding, Green Energy Ohio installed an anemometer, a wind-measuring device, on the city’s water intake crib off downtown Cleveland so that monthly data on wind speed, direction and temperature could be collected and evaluated. The data were encouraging, as was public fascination with a 135-foot-tall wind turbine that the Great Lakes Science Center erected on the lakefront in 2004 with a $160,000 grant from the foundation. Generating enough energy to power up to 20 homes through a tie-in with Cleveland Public Power, the turbine served as an educational demonstration on the environmental benefits of alternative energy.

Ronn persuaded British Petroleum (formerly Ohio’s Standard Oil Company) to allow him to use designated funds at the foundation to hire a senior fellow for economic and environmental advancement. With the recruitment of energy industry veteran Richard Stuebi to the position of BP fellow in early 2006, Ronn’s aspiration to help Greater Cleveland become a North American hub of wind energy research, manufacturing and generation began to take strategic form.

Stuebi (whose fellowship ended in 2010) recommended that the foundation award a $3.6 million grant in 2007 to help launch the Great Lakes Energy Institute (GLEI) at the School of Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. Focused on advanced energy research, particularly in the fields of renewable energy, energy storage and energy efficiency, the institute was expected to develop new technologies with commercial promise. Ohio’s Third Frontier innovation and development fund also recognized the institute’s potential as an engine of technology transfer, awarding GLEI a $3 million grant in 2009 to fund wind turbine research.

On the manufacturing front, the Cleveland Foundation helped to establish the Great Lakes Wind Network (GLWN), a supply chain advisory group that works to link regional metalworking companies with domestic and international wind turbine manufacturers seeking to source components. With the support of a 2008 foundation grant, GLWN also collaborated with WIRE-NET, a manufacturing advocacy group on Cleveland’s west side, to educate local casting, machining, forging and fabrication firms about the growth potential of serving the wind power industry.

On the generation front, Stuebi worked closely with state legislators on drafting a clean energy policy for Ohio. SB 221, adopted in May 2008, included provisions requiring Ohio utilities to obtain 25 percent of their electricity from advanced energy sources—half of which must be renewable—by 2025. Without this state mandate, a substantial market for advanced energy technologies and businesses could never gain traction here.

The seemingly quixotic dream of erecting a freshwater wind farm in Lake Erie is moving closer to reality. Along with representatives from such stakeholders as Ashtabula, Lake and Lorain Counties, Case Western Reserve University, the City of Cleveland, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority and NorTech (an accelerator of high-growth industry clusters), Stuebi served on the Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force, chartered in 2006 by Cuyahoga County. The task force’s research, largely funded by the Cleveland Foundation, confirmed the feasibility of offshore wind power generation and recommended that a new nonprofit organization be created to spearhead the wind farm’s development.

In 2010, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) was formed, with Dave Karpinsky, vice president and director of NorTech Energy Enterprises, serving as board chairman. Supported by $700,000 in start-up and operating monies from the Cleveland Foundation, LEEDCo began planning a “proof of concept” project. In 2012, “Icebreaker”—named for a type of turbine foundation support—became one of seven offshore wind power prototype projects to receive U.S. Department of Energy funding. The $4 million federal grant will enable LEEDCo to complete the engineering studies and permitting needed to erect six three-megawatt, American-made wind turbines seven miles off the Cleveland shoreline. Just as important, LEEDCo is now one of six projects eligible to receive a follow-on Department of Energy grant. The three winners of grants of up to $46.7 million apiece will be determined in spring 2014.

In Icebreaker’s case, the additional federal funding would cover about half of the estimated costs of building and installing the six turbines—the next step toward LEEDCo’s ultimate goal of demonstrating the commercial potential of offshore wind generation to private developers and helping regional metalworking companies gain the experience to serve those developers.

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Catalyst: Creating Real Jobs for Neighborhood People 2008

In leading the Greater University Circle Initiative, the Cleveland Foundation has set out to achieve nothing less than a dramatic reduction of poverty in the six Cleveland neighborhoods adjoining the Circle, which are home to 43,000 residents whose average household income is below $18,500. In addition to stimulating major physical improvements within the Circle, the initiative has undertaken two neighborhood-rebuilding campaigns, the objectives of which can be summed up in the phrases “Live Local,” “Hire Local,”and “Buy Local.” The first phrase describes an employee housing assistance program. The second and third phrases underpin a business formation plan that taps into the $3 billion the Circle’s anchor institutions spend annually on procurement.

Devised by the foundation in partnership with the anchor institutions, the business formation campaign represents a new paradigm for neighborhood economic development. The partners have committed to creating a network of for-profit businesses that recruit their workforces exclusively from the pool of residents who live in neighborhoods surrounding the Circle. The businesses offer their recruits on-the-job training and award them a living wage and full health benefits.

Jobs alone are not enough to break families out of the cycle of poverty, however. Once the businesses achieve profitability, employees who have worked for a year or longer will also receive an equity stake in the business. Employees’ shares of annual profits are to be distributed into their portable capital accounts. Profits will also underwrite worker training and new business start-ups.

Three employee-owned businesses employing about 90 workers have been launched since 2009: an industrial-scale laundry that washes and irons bed linens, a hydroponic greenhouse that raises lettuces and herbs, and a solar panel installation company that also offers weatherization services. Called Evergreen Cooperatives, they all operate according to the latest “green” principles. In addition to reaping long-term savings from their sustainable business practices, the cooperatives have a good chance of succeeding because University Circle’s largest institutions have contracted with them for goods and services.

The hard-won experience of the Cleveland Foundation’s program director for neighborhoods, housing and community development informed the partnership’s discussion about how to reverse the loss of jobs in Buckeye-Shaker, East Cleveland, Fairfax, Glenville, Little Italy and Hough. As the former director of the City of Cleveland Empowerment Zone, India Pierce Lee appreciated that employment tax credits offered by the federal program had not created a sufficient number of jobs to make a critical difference in the targeted urban neighborhoods. She had also observed the pitfalls of workforce training programs that prepared low-skilled city residents for jobs largely available in distant suburbs. Recognizing the need for an out-of-the-box job creation strategy, the foundation turned to Ted Howard, a national expert on community wealth building based at the University of Maryland.

Howard was retained as a consultant to the foundation in 2007. He helped the Greater University Circle partners formulate the cooperatives strategy and carefully think through each element of a model employee-owned business, right down to calculating the estimated $65,000 that each worker could expect to accumulate in his or her portable capital account at the end of eight years of employment.

To help the model designers visualize the end product, Howard led representatives of Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals of Cleveland (among others) on a study tour to Spain’s Basque region, the location of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, an interconnected group of 120 cooperatives with 100,000 employees and $25 billion in sales that has been built over a period of 50 years. Howard also met with national foundations that had never before worked in Cleveland and obtained seed grants from several funders who recognized the undertaking’s value as a “learning lab.” 

In recognition of his contributions to the design, financing and rollout of the Evergreen Cooperatives, Howard was subsequently named the foundation’s first Steven A. Minter Fellow for Social Justice. In this capacity he continued to collaborate with the Greater University Circle partners on the refinement of the cooperatives strategy and advise other urban communities interested in replicating the Cleveland model.

The Cleveland Foundation granted $1 million toward the start-up of the first three Evergreen Cooperatives. These seed monies, along with the promised procurement contracts, helped to leverage an additional $35 million in venture and operating capital from a variety of sources, including grants from local and national foundations, long-term, low-interest federal loans, tax credits, state grants and even commercial loans. The foundation has also contributed more than $2.5 million to the development fund of the Evergreen Cooperative Corporation, a not-for-profit holding company whose foundation-led board oversees the existing cooperatives and plans to raise between $50 million and $100 million to capitalize the next generations of start-ups.

One locally rooted, sustainable business at a time, the economies of Greater University Circle neighborhoods will be revitalized. The long-term goal is to create hundreds, if not thousands of new jobs that will pay wages on which families can be raised and help those families achieve the American dream of building wealth.

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