Six Over 60 Win $300,000 for Fighting for a Better World: The 2014 Purpose Prize

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On October 28, in Tempe, Arizona, Encore.org will honor the achievements of six outstanding Americans with prizes from $25,000 to $100,000.

On October 28, in Tempe, Arizona, Encore.org will honor the achievements of six outstanding Americans with prizes from $25,000 to $100,000, awarded in recognition and support of their ongoing efforts, including:

  •     A business executive whose management prowess gave rise to a nonprofit that dispatches thousands of volunteers to global disaster sites.
  •     A child psychiatrist, daunted by the effects of poverty on public education, who designed a school-based program that reaches tens of thousands of children a year.
  •     A rural reverend whose distress over too many congregants’ poor health inspired a community garden and family center that’s become a model for more than 20 church communities.

These are three of this year’s six winners of The Purpose Prize®, awarded by Encore.org, a nonprofit organization that is building a movement to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world. The Purpose Prize is a program of Encore.org.

Now in its ninth year, The Purpose Prize is the nation’s only large-scale investment in people over the age of 60 who are combining their life skills and talents for the social good. Created in 2005 by Encore.org (then called Civic Ventures), the prize aims to recognize social innovators with the drive to tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges — and the wisdom to know how to do it. Their work showcases the enormous, and too-often overlooked, value of experience, and disproves the notion that innovation is the sole province of the young.

“The 2014 winners of The Purpose Prize have applied their significant talents to address poverty, community health, disaster relief and disabilities,” said Eunice Lin Nichols, director of The Purpose Prize. “Despite their superficial differences, these extraordinary individuals share the belief that the work they are doing now ranks among their most significant accomplishments, impacting thousands of people, across the U.S. and the world.”

“Encore.org is proud to recognize their achievements. They stand as powerful examples for the millions of older Americans who believe that leveraging their life experience in order to make a difference — big or small, across communities, continents and generations — is a vital responsibility,” Nichols said.

Two winners of The Purpose Prize will be awarded $100,000 each. Four additional winners will each win $25,000.

The 2014 winners of The Purpose Prize are:
David Campbell, All Hands Volunteers (Mattapoisett, MA).
Tech executive Campbell used his management savvy to build a nimble, effective nonprofit that has dispatched 28,000 volunteers to 45 global disaster zones. ($100,000 Purpose Prize for Future Promise, sponsored by Symetra)

Charles Fletcher, SpiritHorse International (Corinth, TX).
Telecom veteran Fletcher used his ranch to launch a global network of 91 therapeutic riding centers serving 5,000 children with disabilities — free of charge. ($100,000 Purpose Prize)

Pamela Cantor, M.D., Turnaround for Children, Inc. (New York, NY).
Child psychiatrist Dr. Cantor leads an organization that helps schools counter the effects of poverty on student learning, reaching tens of thousands of children in low-performing public schools. ($25,000 Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Impact, sponsored by The Eisner Foundation)

Rev. Richard Joyner, Conetoe Family Life Center (Conetoe, NC).
Rev. Joyner’s thriving, 25-acre garden and family center is steadily improving the health of his rural congregation, boosting students’ high-school graduation rates and economic potential — and providing a model for more than 20 church communities. ($25,000 Purpose Prize)

Mauricio Lim Miller, Family Independence Initiative (Oakland, CA).
Miller’s unorthodox approach to ending poverty has helped hundreds of families by investing in their initiative as they implement their own solutions to increasing income, improving health and education, starting businesses, buying homes, and building community. ($25,000 Purpose Prize for Financial Inclusion, sponsored by MetLife Foundation)

Kate Williams, Employment Immersion Program, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (San Francisco, CA).
Recruiter Williams despaired of losing her career and her independence as her sight faded to near-blindness; she now uses the adaptive technology that kept her in the workforce to help the blind find jobs. ($25,000 Purpose Prize)

Twenty-four jurors — leaders in business, politics, media and the nonprofit sector — chose the six winners of The Purpose Prize. An additional 38 Purpose Prize fellows were selected from a pool of nearly 800 nominees. Jurors include Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount; David Bornstein, author and New York Times columnist; Eric Liu, author and founder of Citizen University; and Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Purpose Prize winners and fellows will be honored on October 28, 2014, at an awards ceremony at the Tempe Center for the Arts in Tempe, Arizona. Emmy-award winning journalist Jane Pauley and 2013 Purpose Prize winner Ysabel Duron will emcee the event, which will include hundreds of encore leaders and current and prior Purpose Prize honorees. The program will begin with an African dance and drumming performance by young artists from Chiku Awali African Dance, Arts & Culture. Founded by 2014 Purpose Prize fellow Alexandreena Dixon. (The troupe will travel to Arizona from Rockland County, NY.)

The Purpose Prize was created by Encore.org with major investments from The Atlantic Philanthropies and the John Templeton Foundation. More than 430 people have been recognized as Purpose Prize winners or fellows.

As in 2013, Symetra is sponsoring The Purpose Prize for Future Promise, a $100,000 award which recognizes an individual whose approach for helping society has the potential to grow steadily over the next five years. This year, David Campbell, who founded All Hands Volunteers, will be awarded The Purpose Prize for Future Promise, sponsored by Symetra.

Encore.org is proud to add MetLife Foundation and The Eisner Foundation as 2014 sponsors of The Purpose Prize. The Purpose Prize for Financial Inclusion, sponsored by MetLife Foundation, recognizes an outstanding individual working to alleviate poverty. Mauricio Lim Miller, founder, president and CEO of the Family Independence Initiative, is the 2014 winner of The Purpose Prize for Financial Inclusion, sponsored by MetLife.

The Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Impact, sponsored by The Eisner Foundation, honors an outstanding individual working to improve the prospects of young people. Dr. Pamela Cantor, founder, president and CEO of Turnaround for Children, is the 2014 winner of The Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Impact, sponsored by The Eisner Foundation.

For more information on The Purpose Prize and to nominate candidates for the 2015 Purpose Prize, visit http://www.encore.org/prize

About The Atlantic Philanthropies. The Atlantic Philanthropies are dedicated to bringing about lasting changes in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people. Atlantic is a limited-life foundation that will complete grantmaking in 2016. To learn more, please visit http://www.atlanticphilanthropies.org.

About The Eisner Foundation. Founded in 1996 by Michael and Jane Eisner and their family, The Eisner Foundation exists to provide access and opportunity for children and the aging in Los Angeles County. The Foundation gives philanthropic support and counsel to exceptionally-run nonprofit organizations working to create lasting positive changes in the lives of at-risk and disadvantaged seniors and children in the Los Angeles community.

About MetLife Foundation. MetLife Foundation was created in 1976 to continue MetLife’s long tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. Since its founding through the end of 2013, MetLife Foundation has provided more than $600 million in grants and $70 million in program-related investments to organizations addressing issues that have a positive impact in their communities. Today, the Foundation is dedicated to advancing financial inclusion, committing $200 million over the next five years to help build a secure future for individuals and communities around the world.

About Symetra. Symetra Financial Corporation is a diversified financial services company based in Bellevue, Wash. In business since 1957, Symetra provides employee benefits, annuities and life insurance through a national network of benefit consultants, financial institutions, and independent agents and advisors. For more information, visit http://www.symetra.com.

About the John Templeton Foundation
The John Templeton Foundation (http://www.templeton.org) serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. The Foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. It encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights.

About Encore.org. Encore.org is a national nonprofit that is building a movement to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world. The Purpose Prize is a program of Encore.org.

Short project summaries for all winners follow. Longer bios and high-resolution photos are available at http://www.encore.org/prize.

David Campbell
When the Indian Ocean tsunami ravaged Southeast Asia in December 2004, technology executive David Campbell, then 63, flew to Bang Tao, Thailand, to volunteer, with little more than duct tape and a wireless router. Campbell joined some volunteers who had started a website to recruit more help. He put on his work boots and gloves and pitched in — clearing debris, mixing cement and helping to build rudimentary temporary housing. Meanwhile, Campbell tapped into his managerial and operational skills to organize the chaotic global community of random volunteers. Within months of his return home to Massachusetts, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. Using the model he developed in Bang Tao, Campbell was in Biloxi, MS, within a week and enlisted 1,500 volunteers to help. These experiences became the foundation for All Hands Volunteers, the nonprofit Campbell launched in 2005 to provide immediate and sustainable volunteer support — with minimal bureaucratic obstacles — to communities struck by natural disasters. Since 2005, All Hands has completed 45 relief projects in five countries and dozens of U.S. locations, serving 45,000 families with the help of 28,000 dedicated volunteers. Campbell, now 72, says he has no intention of packing in his encore career. “My goal is to remain as highly effective as I can be in this next phase of my life — to live a life that has purpose.” ($100,000 winner of The Purpose Prize for Future Promise, sponsored by Symetra)

Charles Fletcher
Decades in the telecommunications industry took a toll on Charles Fletcher’s spirit. When he retired at age 58, he began volunteering at a Dallas-area equine therapy center for children with disabilities. The special connection between the children and horses was both restorative and intimately familiar, as Fletcher had been around horses since early childhood. But Fletcher believed the program could do more than offer feel-good pony rides. He thought it could heal. He spent countless hours researching how to produce innovative, science-based equine therapy methods. He reached out to medical specialists, learned about brain development and began building a network of experts. Cash-strapped but committed, in 2001 Fletcher plowed his Social Security checks into opening SpiritHorse, an equine therapy center on his ranch in Corinth, Texas. Parents and doctors soon spread the word about the effective, hour-long — and completely free — riding therapy sessions for children with disabilities. Today, 20 instructors provide therapy to 400 riders weekly. Fletcher has trained and licensed 91 other centers internationally, making SpiritHorse the largest research-based therapeutic riding center in the world, reaching over 5,000 people with disabilities. Fletcher’s horses also get a second chance, as most are donated show horses too old for competition. “This is a good place to send them to do another job. They have an encore career, as well,” says Fletcher. “They love this work, they love the children, and they live longer.” Now 76, Fletcher believes every step in his journey has led him toward this calling. “It’s amazing what God can do with a broken down old man and some broken down old horses,” he says. “No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to find your purpose.” ($100,000 winner of The Purpose Prize)

Pamela Cantor, M.D.
Not long after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, child psychiatrist and trauma specialist Dr. Pamela Cantor, then 53, received a call from the New York City Board of Education asking her to lead a team to assess the emotional impact of the attacks on the city’s public school children. What she discovered surprised her. One in five children met the criteria for a full-blown psychiatric disorder, and 68 percent were so traumatized that it affected their ability to learn. But it wasn’t 9/11 that traumatized them. It was poverty. The children were concentrated in high-poverty, low-performing schools. The students’ profound needs impacted their classroom behavior, causing students to be distracted, tuned out, nervous, impulsive and distrustful. So in 2002, Cantor founded the nonprofit Turnaround for Children. The organization partners with public schools to address the recurring, predictable obstacles to teaching and learning that stem from the stress of poverty. At Turnaround partner schools, all of the adults — including administrators and social workers — are supported by a Turnaround team, composed of a social work consultant, instructional coach and program director. This team builds a high capacity student support system, trains all teachers to create safe, supportive, productive classrooms through strategies that defuse disruption and increase engagement, and prepares leaders to develop and execute a school-wide improvement plan. Since 2002, 86 high-poverty schools serving tens of thousands of students have participated; today, 90 percent of children with intense behavioral needs now receive timely mental health support, compared with 20 percent in typical high-poverty schools. Schools have seen significant reduction in suspensions, serious behavior incidents and absenteeism. “It has taken courage for me to create an organization of this size and scale," said Dr. Cantor. “There is no way I could have done this at an earlier point. Everything I have done in life has led to this.” ($25,000 winner of The Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Impact, sponsored by The Eisner Foundation)

Rev. Richard Joyner
In 2005, Rev. Richard Joyner realized that he had presided over too many funerals at a church of just 300 members. In one year alone, 30 congregants under age 32 had died — mostly for health-related reasons. “It just started to feel unconscionable that you would see someone 100 pounds overweight on Sunday and not say anything about it. Then they’d die of a heart attack,” says Joyner, now 62, pastor of the Conetoe (“Kuh-neet-uh”) Baptist Church in rural North Carolina. With 25 years of ministering under his belt, Joyner realized that his spiritual mission needed to include mental, physical and economic health. So Joyner launched the Conetoe Family Life Center (CFLC), which provides after-school and summer camp programs for youth aged 5 to 18 at a 25-acre community garden. The young people plan, plant, harvest and sell the garden’s produce. They also manage beehives to pollinate the crops and distribute honey to low-income neighbors. The revenue goes to school supplies and scholarships. As dietary practices have changed, congregants have lost weight, the number of deaths has decreased and emergency room visits for primary health care are down. Graduation rates have risen, and kids are heading to college, the military and the workforce. Inspired by Joyner’s results, 21 churches in four counties have adopted CFLC’s community garden model. Joyner says his encore work speaks to life “on both sides of existence” — work he does as comfortably from the pulpit as he does from a field. That same holistic thinking is what Joyner aims to foster, both in his community and in himself. ($25,000 winner of The Purpose Prize)
Mauricio Lim Miller. In 2001, long-time social worker Mauricio Lim Miller had grown cynical about the nonprofit sector’s ability to improve society by throwing money at the neediest cases. But then he started thinking about his mother, a Mexican immigrant with a third-grade education who had sacrificed everything to save money for his college education, helping break the family cycle of poverty. That’s when he hit upon a simple but powerful idea: Put low-income families in the driver’s seat of their own progress. In that moment, the Family Independence Initiative (FII) was born. FII turns the conventional nonprofit model on its head by enrolling families in groups with friends. These friends — not staff — provide peer counseling and direction, reinforcing the centrality of self-determination and initiative. Participants work together to make progress on their own priorities, including homeownership, business, education, health and community-building. For example, FII families have pooled their resources in 40 “lending circles” worth $1.5 million that have helped families with emergencies, debt, education and launching new businesses. Participants track their own economic and social data through an online journaling system and share stories and make connections through an FII-hosted social media site. In turn, FII uses the data to develop resources that leverage what families are already doing to get ahead. FII is currently partnering with nearly 1,000 families in Oakland, San Francisco, Fresno, Boston, Detroit and New Orleans. On average, they have doubled their savings and increased earnings by 24 percent. One-third have started small businesses and 80 percent of the children have improved their grades. Miller hopes his solution for helping families fight poverty will spur others to think more creatively. “We need to stop our myopic focus on where people are struggling and instead invest in the initiatives people are taking to get ahead,” he says. “We must ensure that all families have access to the American dream. That would really make my mother proud.” ($25,000 winner of The Purpose Prize for Financial Inclusion, sponsored by MetLife Foundation)

Kate Williams
Williams worked for decades in human resources. Over the years, she also began to lose her vision, due to a rare degenerative eye disease. By 2007 — a decade after she’d made the painful choice to leave Los Angeles’ car-culture for San Francisco’s accessible public transportation — she was 65 and nearly blind. But Williams refused to give up. An introduction to Adaptive Technology Services, a company that converts computer software programs into spoken language, gave Williams the tools to accomplish the same tasks as sighted people. She was able to work again. But her perspective had shifted. Williams wanted to leverage her skills as a recruiter to help others like herself, and with Adaptive Technology Services, she developed an employment training program for the blind, incorporating seminars, interviewing role-plays, and one-on-one consultations. Before long, Williams was invited by LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired to design a similar program. Williams now heads that organization’s innovative Employment Immersion Program, which has trained over 100 blind job-seekers for positions in finance, industry, government, nonprofit and other sectors. In just three years, nearly 40 percent of program graduates have found jobs — a placement rate that rivals many programs for sighted individuals. Williams is determined to instill her strength of spirit in others. “Our lives are what we make up our minds they’re going to be,” says Williams, now 72. “To be where I am today, doing what I am, is against the odds.” ($25,000 winner of The Purpose Prize)
For additional information, visit http://www.encore.org                    

Contact: Encore.org media line (415-890-0142) or Marci Alboher, VP of Marketing and Communications, at malboher(at)encore(dot)org

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