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A secret donor has been paying for major Providence projects. Here’s who it is

The mysterious donor funded reports on the city’s public safety departments and Rhode Island’s history of racial injustice, among other things.

Market Square was the epicenter of Providence's trade and markets, as a site for sales of human cargo from Africa and the West Indies.Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

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Happy Friday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I have a bad habit of buying way too many useless items from Facebook and podcast ads. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 143,740 confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, after adding 428 new cases. The most-recent overall daily test-positive rate was 1.9 percent, and the first-time positive rate was 20.8 percent. The state announced four more deaths, bringing the total to 2,646. There were 138 people in the hospital, and 316,983 residents were fully vaccinated.


Alert: We can send the Globe’s Rhode Island stories to your inbox so you don’t miss any of our team’s great reporting! Sign up for our e-mail list and we’ll share alerts about breaking news and a rundown on what we’ve covered each day.Mystery solved.

For months, Providence officials have been refusing to release the name of a private donor who paid for a new report that recommends big changes to the city’s public safety departments and the big truth-telling report that outlines Rhode Island’s history of racial injustice.

And those aren’t the only projects being funded privately.

The Elorza administration disclosed for the first time Thursday that the secret funder is the Wend Collective, a social impact fund started by Walmart heir James Walton.

In addition to funding the public safety and truth-telling reports, the Wend Collective has partnered with the city to donate $60,000 to the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), $50,000 in 450 Visa cards to support residents facing food insecurity, $100,000 for a guaranteed income pilot program, $50,000 to support COVID-19 testing, $5,000 to Snapchef, and $40,000 to the Alliance to Mobilize Resistance (AMOR) to help undocumented residents.


Providence also received “technical support” from PeopleForBikes, an organization that helps cities improve their bike networks. The Wend Collective was the funder, but a spokeswoman for the city did not say how much funding was provided.”

All of our efforts have been focused on equity and access,” said city spokeswoman Theresa Agonia. “Our values aligned funders have stepped in to help the city through our COVID response, during the national reckoning of the racial injustices occurring throughout our society. We can’t lose sight of the work—this pandemic has exacerbated the inequities in our society.”

Agonia said the Wend Collective asked to not have its identity revealed as a donor because it wasn’t seeking credit from programs that it funds.

In an e-mail, Ben Davis from the Wend Collective said the organization is partnering with dozens of cities and states around the country on similar projects.”All of our work is intended to address and build greater equity and justice, no matter the subject,” Davis said.


⚓ My latest column: Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has been pumping out big, bold ideas for his city as he prepares a campaign for governor for next year. But what are the chances he’s going accomplish any of them? Read more.

⚓ Call it Polarizing Park. Mike Stanton makes the case for why Rhode Islanders should not take the trip to Worcester to see the new baseball stadium. Read more.


Brian Amaral reports that methamphetamine — often known simply as meth — is a growing problem all around Rhode Island. Experts say the problem is made worse by how new it is in the state. Read more

⚓ Attorney General Peter Neronha on Thursday called for pausing the state review process for a proposed medical waste-to-energy plant in West Warwick. Read more.

⚓ A man carrying an anti-police sign at a Black Lives Matter demonstration attended by hundreds at the State House Wednesday was charged with carrying a loaded handgun. Read more.

⚓ In her season debut as the iconic Newport Music Festival’s new executive director, Gillian Friedman Fox announced the festival’s 53rd schedule of rich, genre-defying shows across 17 outdoor concerts in July. Read more.

⚓ Rhode Map readers have sent a round of Happy Birthday wishes to: Belinda Lill, Elizabeth Roberts, Joshua Laguerre (34), Phil Eil, Karen Lee Ziner, Peggy Benz, state Representative Jose Batista, Kristina Contreras Fox, Allyson Antin, Elizabeth “Bunnie” McPherson, Marshall Lancey (29), Kaitlynne Ward Morris, Kara Gitlin, Jane Cianciolo Maglio, Heather Stark Cianciolo, Mike Walsh, Ted Hunkeler, and Joe Ross.

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Business: The Globe’s Ideas team put together a great package on the future of work. It’s worth your time. Read more.

Health: Citing improved public health data, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said Thursday that he was lifting his state’s mask mandate. Read more.


Education: A federal judge on Thursday upheld the Boston school system’s temporary changes to its admission policy for its exam schools, a victory that may allow acceptance letters to go out by the end of the month. Read more.

Politics: Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey on Thursday announced he is introducing a bill that would expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court, arguing that increasing its size would restore justice to a body that Republicans “broke” because of the way they confirmed two of former president Donald Trump’s nominees. Read more.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ I was on “Political Roundtable” on The Public’s Radio this week, and we interviewed Mayor Elorza.

⚓ At 11:30 a.m., Governor Dan McKee and US Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse are scheduled to visit the veterans’ home in Bristol to announce new federal funding for the facility.

⚓ While Earth Day isn’t until next week, there are lots of neighborhood cleanups happening this weekend, including this one in Providence.

⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.