Community Improvement & Organizing

Ruth E. Skovron , The Northwestern Connecticut Regional Planning Collaborative
The Northwestern Connecticut Regional Planning Collaborative
Purpose Prize Fellow 2011

When Ruth Skovron retired to rural Connecticut in 1995 after running a community newspaper in New Jersey, she floundered.

"Without the newspaper, and my children now far away, my moorings were gone,” she says. She threw herself into the local government of Falls Village, her 1,200-resident community, by joining committees.

She soon learned that wealthy weekend residents from New York were driving up property costs. As a result long-time villagers were struggling to keep up, and young adults and families were leaving in droves. The town needed a solution.

Henry Reese , City of Asylum/Pittsburgh
Co-Founder and President
City of Asylum/Pittsburgh
Purpose Prize Fellow 2011

Henry Reese has always been an avid reader. But more than 30 years ago, instead of pursuing a literary career he and his brother turned a $700 investment into what eventually became the largest private U.S. telemarketing and call center business. Yet Reese's love of books persisted. In 1997, when he learned at a talk by author Salman Rushdie about a European network that provides sanctuary to exiled writers, Reese vowed to one day focus on literary arts causes.

Jan Lepore-Jentleson , East End Community Services
Executive Director
East End Community Services
Purpose Prize Fellow 2011

One afternoon in 1997, Jan Lepore-Jentleson, then the building inspection superintendent for Dayton, Ohio, found herself utterly discouraged.

“I remember deciding that I was fed up wasting my time being a bureaucrat, pushing paper and accomplishing little of value for the people living in Dayton’s poorest neighborhoods,” she says.

It was at that moment that she decided to quit her job and launch a nonprofit community development organization spur change.

Mindy Thompson Fullilove , University of Orange
Founder and President
University of Orange
Purpose Prize Fellow 2011

Mindy Fullilove was born and raised in Orange, a working-class New Jersey city. As a child, Fullilove felt like she didn’t fit in, and college was her way out. As a teenager, she vowed never to return.

In February 2007, by then a well-established research psychiatrist at New York State Psychiatric Institute and a professor of clinical psychiatry and public health at Columbia University, Fullilove went home for a Black History Month celebration at a church she attended as a young girl. The city had become home to many immigrants struggling with a variety of urban ills.

Paul Chuk , Sustainable Schools International
Cambodia Program Director
Sustainable Schools International
Purpose Prize Fellow 2011

A native Cambodian who worked and raised a family in the U.S. for almost 30 years, Paul Chuk knew that educating children in rural areas had long been a problem in Cambodia, a country still recovering from the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. Because of teacher absenteeism or unaffordable fees, 80 percent of Cambodian children drop out of school between third and sixth grades. So when Chuk lost his job as an ATM technician in 2008, he returned to Cambodia to help.

Florence Catledge  and Joe Catledge , New Beginnings Resource Center
New Beginnings Resource Center
Purpose Prize Fellow 2011

When she retired after more than three decades in the Ohio public school system, Florence Catledge returned to her hometown of Montgomery, Ala., where she rekindled a romance with her high school sweetheart, Joe, who was also an educator. As happy as that circumstance was, Florence nevertheless became depressed by the idleness she found in retirement. “It was like Jeremiah. I had fire in my bones and could not stand to stay at home,” she remembers.

Sharon Adams , Walnut Way Conservation Corp.
Co-Founder and Program Director
Walnut Way Conservation Corp.
Purpose Prize Fellow 2011

After 30 years in New York, Sharon Adams moved back to Milwaukee in 1997 to find the once-vibrant Lindsay Heights neighborhood where she grew up lined with boarded-up houses and trash-filled lots. Gangs, prostitution and drugs on the streets spurred her to create a community revitalization plan.

Three years later, she organized her neighbors to form the Walnut Way Conservation Corp., a grassroots association committed to sustaining a diverse and neighborly community through civic engagement, economic development and environmental stewardship.

In his new book, The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, Civic Ventures founder and CEO Marc Freedman offers a road map for boomers as they venture into a new stage of life after middle age, but before old age. Americans are living longer – the average life expectancy is now 77.9 – and many people are working longer, too, either by choice or by necessity.

Tough new economic realities have transformed career reinvention from a virtue into a necessity for millions of older Americans who aren't ready to retire or simply can't afford to quit working. But hard times have not forced many boomers around traditional retirement age to give up dreams of meaningful second careers. Recognizing that trend, Civic Ventures has launched a movement around encore careers with two main themes: second careers with meaning and social entrepreneurship.

Engaging Our Age 50+ Community: Trends and Transitions

Join Whatcom Community College for a day of dialogue, focused breakout sessions and input from experts in trends and issues of the 50-plus community.

Start: 04/29/2011 - 11 a.m.
End: 04/29/2011 - 4:45 p.m.

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