Celebrating the Faces of African American Philanthropy: Planting the Seeds of Philanthropy

Ann-Marie Ogletree, retired Cleveland Metropolitan School District Administrator and Founder, Fundamentals Early Childhood Development Academy

From donating her allowance to help a friend, to mentoring the next generation of Clevelanders, philanthropy and community building has always been a priority for Ann-Marie Ogletree. A retired Cleveland Metropolitan School District administrator and founder of Fundamentals Early Childhood Development Academy, Ogletree shared her story as a featured philanthropist at the 2018 African American Philanthropy Summit. In recognition of Black Philanthropy Month, we asked her to reflect on the events and people that inspire her philanthropic giving as part of this six-part series “Celebrating the Faces of African American Philanthropy.”

How did you come to be philanthropic?

Ann-Marie Ogletree: It started when I was quite young. At our school, we had what was known as the Community Chest in Cleveland. It was focused on giving to those who had less than you. I don’t know if I had much more than who I was thinking about, but I had a friend, and I knew she had a little less than I did, and sometimes not quite enough to eat. I said, ‘If I take a little bit of my allowance and give it to the Community Chest, I’ll earn my red feather, and I’ll feel like I’m helping her and other kids.’

What do you want Cleveland to look like in the future? How can philanthropy be a part of that change?

Ogletree: I like a multicultural and diverse Cleveland. I don’t want to be able to delineate East Side from West Side by the color of somebody’s skin or how much money they make. That’s one of my first goals. Along with that, I want to see some visible signs of integration of children in our activities like Phyllis Wheatley, where my granddaughter has taken dance lessons, and theaters on the West Side that bring a lot of diversity. I appreciate downtown and what we’re doing now. This is my town, and it’s so good to be able to see people come, reflect on it and say, ‘Wow!’ We need to showcase our city as a phenomenal place to live and to bring your families to live. That would be one of my cherished goals to see.

What attracted you to the African American Philanthropy Summit?

Ogletree: I’ve seen the benefits of the Cleveland Foundation. I have been working with groups who are recipients of it. It was just a progression of my thought patterns to try to be in a group, a foundation, where philanthropy is just what we do.

What prompted you to create a fund with the Cleveland Foundation?

Ogletree: I knew from past experience that if I had a [donor advised] fund here, I knew what good it could do because I’ve seen it from different organizations I’ve worked with. I’m an educator, and I was, at one point, a college counselor in a very large school here at East Technical High School. I set up my fund for students who were going into early childhood education, because when I retired, that’s what I did. I started a child care center, Fundamentals Academy, for students majoring in elementary through high school education or related fields like social work. It has been my joy to read the applications of youngsters and help in the process of making that a reality for some students.

The African American Philanthropy Committee was created in 1993 to promote awareness and education about the benefits of wealth and community preservation through philanthropy. The committee convenes a Philanthropy Summit once every two years to raise the visibility of African American philanthropy in the region and to honor local African American philanthropists. Save the date for the next Cleveland Foundation African American Philanthropy Summit, “2020 Vision: Disrupting the Cultural Landscape through Philanthropy,” in April 2020, and give online to the African American Philanthropy Committee Legacy Fund.

To learn more about becoming a donor and making your greatest charitable impact, visit www.ClevelandFoundation.org/Give.

The Cleveland Foundation is proud to have provided early funding that made it possible for two upcoming exhibits to travel to Cleveland. Check out:

  • The Soul of Philanthropy: Reframed and Exhibited, a multimedia re-imagining of the book Giving Back by author Valaida Fullwood and photographer Charles W. Thomas. The exhibit, which conveys and celebrates traditions of giving time, talent and treasure in the African American community, will be on display from Sept. 6 – Dec. 6, 2019, at the Western Reserve Historical Society.
  • seenUNseen, a collection of the works of some of the top African American artists dating back more than a century. On loan from the collection of longtime postal worker Kerry Davis, these objects are on public display for the first time outside of Atlanta. The show, which also includes more than 60 works from local and regional artists, will run from Sept. 20 – Nov. 16, 2019, at the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve and The Sculpture Center.