Purpose Prize

William Abrashkin , Springfield Housing Authority
Executive Director
Springfield Housing Authority
Purpose Prize Fellow 2014

I was a judge in a rough-and-tumble housing court in western Massachusetts for 22 years. Every week, hundreds of low-income, uneducated, unskilled young parents stood before my bench. I grew weary of seeing the damage caused by poverty and disadvantage over and over again.

One day in 2006, I had to evict a young woman and her kids. It hit me hard. “This person wasn’t even born when I started this job,” I thought. “There must be something I can do to keep people from getting into these situations in the first place.”

Marisa B. Ugarte , Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition
Founder and Executive Director
Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition
Purpose Prize Fellow 2014

In 2000, I was managing a program for homeless runaways in San Diego when I got a call from the sheriff’s department about a 15-year-old girl. She was being prostituted to migrant agricultural workers north of San Diego while her enslavers held her baby boy captive in Mexico. She was forced to have sex with 15 to 20 men a day for $20 each — $30 without a condom. Working with police on both sides of the border, we eventually rescued both the young mother and her son.

Mary  Wallace  and Linda  Lannon , PeopleTowels, LLC
PeopleTowels, LLC
Purpose Prize Fellow 2014

In 2006, Mary Wallace and Linda Lannon were high-level executives at McGraw Hill who struck up a cross-country friendship. Both worked remotely from their homes on opposite coasts — Wallace in Florida and Lannon in California—but collaboration regularly brought them together.

Former educators in their mid-50s with grandchildren, they often discussed their longing for work with a higher purpose. “We had a sense of urgency about climate change,” says Lannon. “We wanted to do something more meaningful that impacted the world positively for future generations.”

Irving C. Wishnow , Eye Care for Kids Foundation
Eye Care for Kids Foundation
Purpose Prize Fellow 2014

In 1998, I read a letter in The Houston Chronicle that said thousands of schoolchildren never get eye exams or glasses because their families can’t afford them. I’m an optometrist and I’ve long provided free eye care to many low-income kids. But clearly more help was needed.

Lily Yeh , Barefoot Artists
Founding Director
Barefoot Artists
Purpose Prize Fellow 2014

In 2004, I was unhappy as director of the Village of Arts and Humanities, the organization I co-founded in 1986 to transform North Philadelphia communities through art. I spent most of my time raising funds and managing staff. I yearned to be on the frontlines of action again, like I had been in 1994.

Jaime A. Yrastorza , Uplift Internationale
Uplift Internationale
Purpose Prize Fellow 2014

I’m originally from the Philippines but have lived in the U.S. since 1949, and I’ve practiced maxillofacial surgery for 35 years in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

In 1988, I was part of a team that went to Ecuador to correct the facial asymmetry of children born with a complex deformity. The immense gratitude I received from the children felt like a precious and satisfying gift to be treasured for a lifetime.

Purpose Prize Winners Make Headlines

Here are some of the highlights of the media coverage of this year’s Purpose Prize winners:

The Wall Street Journal's, a “‘Genius’ Awards for Retirees” features Ed Nicholson and Vicki Thomas' programs for veterans.

Next Avenue focuses on Ysabel Duron, Vicki Thomas and other winners of the 2013 Purpose Prize winners.

June  Barrett , The Crumley House Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center
The Crumley House Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center
Purpose Prize Fellow 2013

Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and 80% are released from the hospital. What happens once they leave?

As Tennessee real estate developer June Barrett discovered in 1981 when her then 14-year-old daughter Lori suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident that left her unable to walk, speak or eat, there were few rehabilitation or recovery treatments available. She met many families in the same situation.

Iray Nabatoff , Community Center of St. Bernard
Executive Director
Community Center of St. Bernard
Purpose Prize Fellow 2013

For two decades, Iray Nabatoff had volunteered at The Community Kitchen in Keene, NH, which provides emergency food assistance to more than 12,000 men, women and children a year. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005—and the world watched in horror as the official disaster response fell woefully short—he felt called to help.

Patricia B. Wolff , Meds & Food for Kids in Haiti
Founder and Executive Director
Meds & Food for Kids in Haiti
Purpose Prize Fellow 2013

St. Louis–area pediatrician Patricia Wolff first began volunteering on medical missions to poverty-stricken Haiti in 1988 with her two young children in tow. For 20 years she worked to alleviate sickness and hunger, which is especially brutal on Haiti’s children. “I lost count of the number of children I saw die,” she says.

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