Obama Meets Purpose Prize Winners at the White House

Sharon Rohrbach, who founded the Nurses for Newborns Foundation, was among those invited to the White House today by President Obama.


The six Purpose Prize winners who attended the social innovation event at the White House with President Obama on June 30 were:

Robert Chambers, Etna, N.H. A former car salesman, he became frustrated with car dealerships taking advantage of the poor. He described Bonnie CLAC (Car Loans and Counseling), which he created in 2001 to provide car loans at low-interest rates to individuals who would otherwise have no change of getting a good car at a decent rate.

His nonprofit takes care of the dealership haggling that can saddle them with inadequate cars at inflated prices and teaches them basic financial management skills. "Most of the time people don't realize they can own a new car," Chambers says. "It changes their lives and their self-image."

Chambers received The Purpose Prize in 2007. He was featured recently on NPR’s Car Talk and in The Wall Street Journal.

Read more about Robert Chambers.
See his video.

Gary Maxworthy, San Francisco. During three decades in the food distribution business and a year as a VISTA volunteer, he knew that food banks typically avoided fresh produce because of its cost and rapid rate of spoilage, and he realized that food distributors were sending millions of pounds of fresh produce to landfills every year.

He created Farm to Family to connect fruit and vegetable growers directly to food banks and distribute fresh produce to the poor in California. The program now distributes more than 38 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to California food banks each year. He was honored with the Purpose Prize in 2007.

Read more about Gary Maxworthy.
See his video.

Martha Rollins, Richmond, Va. As an antique store owner, she became acutely aware of the racial and cultural divisions in her neighborhood. In 2001 she started Boaz & Ruth to meet the needs of some of the 200 prisoners released each week in the area.

"During my 30 years as an antiques dealer," Rollins says, "I saw the tremendous resources of Richmond's wealthy entering the front door of my shop and the severe need of the poor and often jobless folks living just outside the back door."

She was named a Purpose Prize winner in 2006.

Read more about Martha Rollins.
See her video.

Marilyn Gaston and Gayle Porter, Potomac, Md. These health professionals knew that African American women have greater health risks than any other group of women in the U.S. In 2003, they decided to do something about it and created Prime Time Sister Circles. African American women attending the meetings are empowered with information about how to improve their own health – and the health of their families – with information about exercise, nutrition, stress prevention and support from one another.

"It doesn't matter whether we are well educated or have money," say Gaston and Porter. "African American women suffer disproportionately from life-threatening diseases. They're twice as likely as American Caucasian women to suffer from cardiovascular disease, three times more likely to have diabetes, and at twice the risk for cancer. They are also more likely to experience stress and depressive symptoms."

They received The Purpose Prize in 2006.

Read more about Marilyn Gaston and Gayle Porter.
See their video.

Sharon Rohrbach, St. Louis, Mo. As a neonatal nurse for 16 years, she watched too many newborns leave the hospital, only to return with life-threatening medical conditions. She founded the Nurses for Newborns Foundation in 2006 to bring experienced nurses into the homes of mothers whose socioeconomic, personal or health status put their infants at high risk.

Nurses in the program provide a wide range of services, including medical care, parenting education, injury prevention strategies and emotional support to children under age 2. They remain on call 24/7 to handle crises, all with no charge to the families served.

Rohrbach, who received The Purpose Prize in 2007, launched the program out of a tiny hallway in her home in 1989. It is now a $4.3 million dollar organization that has served more than 50,000 families in four states.

Read more about Sharon Rohrbach.
See her video.

Also attending the event were Gara LaMarche, president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies, who gave a stirring “call to action” speech at the 2008 Encore Careers Summit and John Gomperts, president of Civic Ventures, which publishes Encore.org.

Read about LaMarche’s rousing speech at the Summit.
Read his “call to action” speech.

The Purpose Prize is awarded annually to social innovators over age 60. The 2009 Purpose Prize winners will be announced in October 2009. Applications are now being accepted for the 2010 Purpose Prize.