Ten boomers who set out to do something good are doing a little better themselves as a result. They've been named recipients of this year's Purpose Prize, which comes with a cash award of $50,000 to $100,000.
The prize is given annually to people over 60 who've worked to improve their communities by Civic Ventures, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that serves as a think-tank on problems related to boomers and encore careers. The organization receives over 1,000 applications a year.
In addition to the 10 cash winners, 46 other people over 60 were named Purpose Prize fellows in recognition of their projects. All 56 fellows and winners were invited to a three-day summit in Philadelphia to hear speakers and network among themselves.
Among the $100,000 winners were Margaret Gordon of Oakland, Calif., who has taken a late-life interest in improving the air quality around her neighborhood.
"I'm a housekeeper, and the family I worked for were environmentalists," she said. "I've lived in West Oakland for 18 years. I've had one neighbor a year die from some form of cancer. I did some research and found out that one in five children between the ages of zero and five end up in some form of emergency hospital for asthma treatment." That prompted her to work with neighbors.
"We started to get into the root cause of why people were sick? Why we had these numbers? Why was the air quality so bad?," she said. "West Oakland is between three freeways and we have a port that uses diesel. What I'm trying to do is reduce diesel emissions and protect the air quality of West Oakland."
Gordon has become the first West Oakland resident to serve on the port's board, and is also working with others to re-route truck traffic to bring down the level of pollution hurting children in West Oakland.
Mortgages to Education
The other $100,000 worked in areas ranging from the current mortgage crises to easing the burden of new families to helping impoverished children in Tansania. They include:
- Allan Barsema of Rockford, Ill., who creates innovative online networks of social service agencies to ensure that homeless people get the help they need quickly, efficiently and effectively.
- Barry Childs of Marylhurst, Ore., who improves the lives of vulnerable children and their families in Tanzania by creating farming cooperatives, building classrooms and opening clinics.
- Inez Killingsworth of Cleveland, who helps homeowners avoid foreclosure by negotiating with banks for more favorable terms on mortgages.
- Judith Van Ginkel of Cincinnati, who leads a program that provides in-home services for first-time, at-risk mothers – including parenting support – to improve the lives of young families.
The five $50,000 prize winners were:
- Barbara Allen of Lafayette Hills, Pa., who engages children as philanthropists to create artwork that brings in donations that pay for desperately needed art supplies for inner-city Philadelphia schools.
- Dana Freyer of New York City, who helps rural Afghans alleviate poverty, build sustainable livelihoods and restore their environment by revitalizing woodlots, vineyards and orchards.
- Hubert Jones of Boston, who brings children together to sing songs of hope, faith and promise, uniting young people across differences of race, religion and economic status.
- Donald Stedman of Raleigh, N.C., who counsels schools on the best ways to engage seriously disabled students, then helps assess technological and teacher training needs.
- Bo Webb of Whitesville, W. Va., a community organizer who is building a movement to stop mountaintop removal, an environmentally destructive method of mining for coal.