“We’re creating pathways into the economy for people who’ve been shut out,” says Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperative.
By: Jordan Heller | HuffPost | November 27, 2018
We are in the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, located in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood on the east side of the city, a community that has long suffered from disinvestment. Despite her felony conviction (“Getting a job was my biggest fear,” she says, “having to check that felony box”), Thomas is now a supervisor at the laundry, where she runs a crew that prepares packs of surgical linen for the Cleveland Clinic, the world-renowned hospital nearby.
Before you view her story as an anomaly at Evergreen Cooperative Corp. — which in addition to the laundry includes the urban farm Green City Growers and the solar panel and LED firm Evergreen Energy Solutions — note that more than half of the 211 employees at these Cleveland co-ops have been in prison at some point in their lives. In fact, offering job opportunities to Clevelanders like Thomas is why Evergreen exists.
“We’re creating pathways into the economy for people who’ve been shut out,” says Jessica Rose, an Evergreen strategy adviser.
Launched in 2009 with $5.8 million from a variety of sources — including the city and the Cleveland Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving the lives of Clevelanders — Evergreen’s aim is not just to create employment opportunities for people living below the poverty line, but also to offer them a stake in their place of employment, as well as in the communities in which they live.
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