Graham C. Grady

Chief executive of the Chicago Housing Authority. Commissioner of buildings for the City. Assistant state’s attorney for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Graham Grady would rather gloss over these accomplishments and talk about his philanthropy.

Long active in organizations like the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation and the Art Institute of Chicago, Grady joined the Trust’s African American Legacy (AAL) in 2005. This identity-focused has given $950,000 in grants to more than 50 organizations since 2003.

“It was an eye opener,” Grady recalls. For example, AAL once considered funding a program that teaches parents to help their children with homework. But board member Reverend Richard L. Tolliver pointed out that few parents would attend.

“His point was, you have to be careful what kinds of programs you put forth because a lot of parents are not going to come. Because they know they can’t do it,” Grady explains. “So it was an eye opener, [dispelling] this middle-class vision of everybody sitting around the dining room table doing homework.”

Today, as the African American Legacy’s chairman, Grady is focused on fundraising. Because of the recession, he says it’s been difficult to bring in new donations. But the Trust’s expertise and impact boosts AAL’s fundraising efforts.

“The awareness of the good work of the Trust … has evolved in the last few years because the Trust is more high profile in the communities where it gives money,” Grady says. “People recognize that it’s not this big downtown institution, but that it actually has a presence in the community and on the street.”

Grady’s parents were the inspiration for his philanthropy. They raised money and volunteered their time— a tradition he is passing to his 17-year-old daughters. The twins volunteer at the Inspiration Café, a restaurant employing and serving homeless and low-income people.

“What I’ve gained is a much greater understanding of the needs in our society and in Chicago and in the African American community in particular,” Grady says. “And that’s been very enriching for me. And it keeps me grounded.”

 

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