Todd Kelley ’92 is on a mission to transform not only Philadelphia neighborhoods but also the lives of their most disadvantaged residents.
Since 2013, Kelley’s company, Graffiti Removal Experts, has been erasing graffiti, removing stickers, and restoring glass throughout Center City and beyond, with clients that have included Review Publishing—parent of Philadelphia Weekly and sister publication South Philly Review—and Whole Foods Market. Apart from Kelley and two others in senior management positions, all Graffiti Removal Experts employees were once homeless and/or incarcerated, each having faced his or her fair share of employment and housing discrimination.
“The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing the unbelievable transformation of our employees—from feeling disempowered, worthless, and despised, to finding they’re actually hugely capable, valued, and loved members of our team and society,” says Kelley, who got his start helping his father with voluntary graffiti- and sticker-removal jobs in Society Hill.
An Army National Guard veteran, with a business degree from Babson College, Kelley says his interest in creating positive social change was ignited at The Shipley School: “Shipley instilled and reinforced my innate desire to find a career that makes a positive impact on society while also allowing me to achieve financial security, personal fulfillment, and happiness.”
Nearly three decades after his high school graduation, Kelley was able to reconnect with former classmate and long-lost friend Gregory Montanaro ’92, President of the Union League of Philadelphia, who shares his deep passion for Philadelphia’s history, growth, and beautification—and allows his team to store its equipment and supplies in the Midtown Parking Garage in exchange for maintaining the four blocks surrounding the Union League building.
“It’s a win-win for everyone!” Kelley says.