Five Americans 60 and Older Win the $100,000 Purpose Prize For Changing Lives in New and Creative Ways

2012 winners helping homeowners facing foreclosure, foster care children, low-income families, formerly incarcerated women, villagers in India
News Release - For Immediate Release -
For more information, contact:
Laura Deeb Kulkarni, (213) 236-3685

SAN FRANCISCO – announced today the five winners of the 2012 Purpose Prize, an investment in people 60 and older who are creating fresh solutions to old problems.

This year’s winners, who each receive $100,000, include:

  • A pro bono lawyer who exposed massive foreclosure fraud and is now teaching other lawyers how to protect homeowners from unfair lending practices.
  • A former toy store owner who has created innovative ways for people to help Massachusetts children in foster care, including surrogate grandparenting.
  • A financial planner who was inspired after 9/11 to offer free, inventive financial education workshops to low-income teens, adults and families in Houston.
  • A formerly incarcerated woman who opened her home to women recently released from jail and now leads five transitional residences in Los Angeles.
  • An engineer who helps villagers in India collect and store rain: a precious source of safe drinking water in the region.

“Purpose Prize winners are in the midst of solving society’s steepest challenges, from foster care to foreclosure,” said founder and CEO Marc Freedman, author of The Big Shift. “And they underscore that significant social innovation is by no means the exclusive province of the young.”

Now in its seventh year, The Purpose Prize is America’s only large-scale investment in social entrepreneurs and other creative problem solvers in the second half of life. The Prize program is funded by the John Templeton Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies. The Prize is awarded by (formerly Civic Ventures), a nonprofit that promotes encore careers – work that is both personally meaningful and serves the greater good. AARP sponsors The Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Innovation.

A panel of 23 judges – leaders in business, politics, journalism and the nonprofit sector – chose this year’s winners from more than 800 nominees. is also recognizing 35 finalists as Purpose Prize fellows for outstanding contributions in their communities.

Short summaries for the winners are below. Profiles, videos and photographs are at

The winners (in alphabetical order):

Bhagwati (B.P.) Agrawal, 68, Sustainable Innovations Inc., Fairfax, Va.
By using his engineering expertise, Agrawal is mitigating the water shortage in his native India. Through his nonprofit, Sustainable Innovations, he founded Aakash Ganga, or River from Sky, in 2003 to create a system for collecting rain – one of precious few sources of drinking water. Now, gutters, pipes and underground tanks gather the short-lived rains of monsoon season in six villages, home to 10,000 people.

Susan Burton, 61, A New Way of Life Reentry Project, Los Angeles
Burton knows how difficult it is to escape a cycle of incarceration. After breaking her own cycle by getting a job and quitting drugs, she started inviting women recently released from jail to stay with her. That informal shelter turned into A New Way of Life Reentry Project in 2000. Today the organization – which offers legal aid, job training and other services aimed at directing former inmates toward productive lives – runs five transitional residences that have served 600 women and their children.

Judy Cockerton, 61, Treehouse Foundation, Easthampton, Mass., winner of The Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Innovation, sponsored by AARP
Cockerton, a former teacher and toy store owner who adopted a child from foster care, recognizes that most families are unable to foster children. So she created other ways to help. Her Treehouse Foundation built a housing community in 2006 where families who have adopted or plan to adopt foster children live among people age 55 and older, who serve as “honorary grandparents.” Volunteers who visit the community can contribute by reading to the children, teaching a photography class, helping to plant a vegetable garden and more.

Thomas Cox, 68, Maine Attorneys Saving Homes, Portland, Maine
Cox helped start Maine Attorneys Saving Homes in 2008 as a way of giving back some of what he felt he took away during his long legal career, focused on representing banks. While volunteering to help a woman save her home from foreclosure, Cox revealed questionable foreclosure practices (known as the “robo-signing” scandal), leading to a $25 billion settlement to help people who had suffered foreclosure or who were on the brink. Now Cox is working to build a network of lawyers to do similar volunteer legal work.

Lorraine Decker, 64, Skills For Living Inc., Houston
On September 11, 2001, Decker was ready to embark on a routine trip to the Middle East to teach financial, tax and estate-planning workshops to corporate employees across the region. Grounded by the terrorist attacks that day, she felt a profound need to help recreate the future. The nonprofit that resulted in 2004, Skills For Living, has helped more than 2,000 low-income teens, adults and families with free financial, career and college-planning workshops – with a creative twist.


About ( is a nonprofit organization building a movement to make it easier for millions of people to pursue “encore careers” – second acts for the greater good. The Purpose Prize, funded by the John Templeton Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies, is a program of

About the John Templeton Foundation (
The John Templeton Foundation 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. The Foundation’s vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The Foundation's motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” exemplifies its support for open-minded inquiry and its hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

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 makes grants through its five programme areas: Ageing, Children & Youth, Population Health, Reconciliation & Human Rights, and Founding Chairman. Atlantic is active in Bermuda, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Viet Nam.