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The Purpose Prize 2012

Posted Dec 14 2012 8:30am

The Purpose Prize has been around for half a dozen years. Its – ahem - purpose is to invest in people older than 60 who are changing the world for the greater good. The winners each receive $100,000.

The five 2012 winners were recently announced and without taking anything away from the other four, one leapt out at me - maybe because he is from Maine where I lived for four years or, more likely, because of his moral transformation. As The New York Times describes it [emphasis added]:

”In 1989, Tom Cox, a lawyer for a Maine bank at the time, wrote the book on mortgage foreclosures (Maine Real Estate Foreclosure Procedures for Lenders and Workout Officers), detailing the most effective legal methods for seizing people’s homes.

“After 30 years of that, he retired and in 2008, during the Great Recession, he experienced a crisis of conscience and switched sides to work pro bono for people whose homes were being foreclosed on by banks.”

Listen now to what Mr. Cox has to say about that and how he has used his time since 2008:

We know from the front pages nearly every day that Mr. Cox's is a rare path for bankers and there is a greater good beyond his individual accomplishment that is being honored: maybe some other bankers will notice.

About the other four winners:

Bhagwati (B.P.) Agrawal brings safe drinking water to the people of his native village in India.

Susan Burton , a felon herself, gives women parolees the tools, training and even homes to help them rebuild their lives.

Judy Cockerton is the founder and executive director of the Treehouse Foundation which helps people help foster children.

Lorraine Decker is co-founder and president of Skills for Living Inc. that provides free seminars teaching financial, career and life skills to low-income teens and adults.

You should go read their stories. Each has lived a transformative moment or event that set them on their paths to helping others.

What I like about The Purpose Prize is that the selected winners do local, hands-on work that improves in concrete, everyday ways the lives of people they know or meet.

Too often, we reward just big ideas that can take years and piles of bureaucracy to get anywhere. But I believe programs that start small and succeed like these become beacons of light encouraging other people to replicate them depending on what they see is needed in their communities.

And that is what The Purpose Prize rewards.

In the individual links above are the stories and videos with each of this year's winners. You can read more about The Purpose Prize here and beginning in January, you can even nominate someone you think should be honored in this way.

(Hat tip to the half dozen readers to emailed information about this year's Purpose Prize winners.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: What's for Dinner?

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