After over a year of hard work to bring micro-lending platform Kiva to Columbus, Reese Neader achieved his goal of opening up a new finance option to Columbus’ entrepreneurial community in July of 2016. His untimely passing in December of 2016 left a spirit greatly missed by the Columbus community, but his work lives on as the Kiva program forges forward.
“Bringing Kiva to Columbus meant a lot to Reese,” says Priyam Chokshi, a policy advisor in the Mayor’s office who worked with Neader to bring the program to Columbus. “Specifically, it meant that local entrepreneurs would have access to resources towards a goal of building a better city and improving neighborhoods. He felt strongly about Kiva adding value to Columbus.”
To continue the program, the city welcomes its new Kiva Fellow, Lily Vail. Vail had been working with the Kiva team in New York City since July of 2016 before taking official post in Columbus in January thanks to a co-funded grant from the Columbus Foundation and The Open Road Alliance.
Vail was drawn to Kiva’s ability to foster sustainability and create an economic impact. Individuals are able to invest in the welfare of their own communities by supporting local businesses.
With Vail at the helm, the program will continue as anticipated. Small business owners and entrepreneurs can seek zero-interest, crowdsourced micro-loans through Kiva, with borrowers lending as little as $25 to support loans.
Vail will be focusing on two facets as she settles into Columbus: raising public awareness of Kiva and bringing more trustees onto the platform. As an individual or a business, trustees publicly vouch for borrowers on Kiva.
While she never worked directly with Neader, Vail saw the work that went into making Columbus a Kiva city and is eager to contribute to making sure that success continues.
“Being able to follow in his footsteps has been extremely enlightening,” she says. “In the past five weeks I’ve really been able to understand why Reese worked so hard to make sure Columbus was a Kiva City.”
Chokshi speaks to Neader’s desire to bring Kiva to Columbus.
“It meant radically expanding access to capital for entrepreneurs, expanding our city’s entrepreneurial networks by bringing together entrepreneurs, investors, and community support in new and powerful ways,” she says. “And it also addressed inequality by creating more economic opportunity for underserved populations.”
An outpouring of support flooded social media in the days after Neader’s passing, and his legacy will live on both on Kiva and in Columbus. The Kiva national team started a Kiva Lending Team in Neader’s honor. The Reese Neader Memorial Fund was also set up at the Columbus Foundation.
“If only he could be here today to witness the tremendous outpour of love and peace he brought out in others,” Chokshi says. “He lived a life of public service that was beyond admirable and the communities he served are forever grateful. His drive and passion for Forge and Kiva was a testament to a true, wise and kind activist whose leadership was respected by many, and whose strength and resilience will never be forgotten. I know he’ll always be here in spirit as Columbus becomes synonymous with progress and builds stronger neighborhoods inspired by people like him who collaborate and co-create.”
For more information on Kiva in Columbus, visit us.kiva.org/columbus/.